The Riot Club, film review: Vicious social satire is an education in moneyed amorality

(15) Dir. Lone Scherfig; Starring Natalie Dormer, Max Irons, 107mins
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The Independent Culture

The Riot Club is an elite Oxford University dining society for young male poshos previously educated at Eton, St Paul's or Westminster. Or, if they are desperate to reach a quorum, Harrow.

Membership virtually guarantees a position in a future Tory Cabinet or as a captain of industry, and also confers the right, its members would seem to think, to behave appallingly.

It doesn't really exist – it is the invention of the screenwriter Laura Wade, adapting and expanding her own 2010 play Posh, which was set over the course of a single increasingly debauched and Buñuelian meal.

But it's a mark of the success of her vicious social satire that we can believe the Riot Club is only a lightly fictionalised version of the Bullingdon Club to which David Cameron, George Osborne and Boris Johnson belonged.

In fact, the ensemble of handsome young British actors donning the requisite tailcoats and arrogant airs are all too seductively believable, and it is the film's few representatives of the lumpen bourgeoisie – the people the Riot Club blithely trample over, figuratively and literally – who can make the film seem just a touch unsubtle or schematic.

 

But then, it isn't really about us. It puts us on the inside looking out, from where the working and middle classes appear as sheep might look to a farmer. And in the end, Wade makes plain, whatever moral superiority we might think we have is cold comfort, and counts for nothing.

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