Goats (film)

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Goats film poster
Directed by Christopher Neil
Screenplay by Mark Poirier
Based on Goats by Mark Poirier
Music by
Cinematography Wyatt Troll
Edited by Jeremiah O'Driscoll
Red Crown Productions
Distributed by Image Entertainment
Release dates
  • January 24, 2012 (2012-01-24) (Sundance)
  • August 10, 2012 (2012-08-10) (United States)
Running time
94 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $5 million

Goats is a 2012 comedy-drama film directed by Christopher Neil and written by Mark Poirier based on his novel, Goats. The film stars David Duchovny, Vera Farmiga, Graham Phillips, and Ty Burrell. The film premiered at the Sundance Film Festival on January 24, 2012, and was given a limited release in the United States on August 10, 2012.


Fifteen-year-old Ellis Whitman is leaving his home in Tucson, Arizona for his freshman year at Gates Academy, an East Coast prep school. He leaves behind Wendy, his flaky, New Age mother, and Goat Man, a weed-smoking goat trekker and botanist. Goat Man is the only real father that Ellis has ever known in his life since his biological father, Frank Whitman, left when he was a baby.

Upon arriving Gates Academy, Ellis befriends his roommate Barney, a cross country runner who often criticizes Goat man, and another student at the academy, Rosenberg, who usually doesn't get anything higher in a C in his classes but is smart enough to sneak in marijuana. Ellis also takes in an interest to Minnie (Dakota Johnson), a local girl who works in the school dining room who his friends often frame her as a prostitute according to rumors. Meanwhile, Goat Man and Wendy have been incommunicado, which Barney points out often. On a phone call, Ellis discovers that his mother has a new boyfriend named Bennet, who is often rude and disrespectful.

One day, Ellis receives in the mail a letter from his long estranged father from Washington DC, requesting for Ellis to spend Thanksgiving dinner with him. Ellis decides to fly to Washington DC with Barney, who is also having Thanksgiving with his mother there. Ellis finally meets his father and also his pregnant and kind-hearted wife, Judy. One night, Ellis gets a call from Barney telling him that he was in possession of marijuana. Ellis sneaks out for the night, but Frank finds out that he left. On the way back from his flight from DC, Barney and Ellis get drunk and fight with each other in their dorm room, resulting in a dent in the wall which cost Wendy $700 and Ellis in the school hospital. After that, Ellis begins to get closer to Minnie and learns more about her.

Over Christmas break, Ellis returns to Tucson but feels betrayed by Goat Man when he discovers that Goat Man slept with their young but malicious neighbor, Aubrey. His relationship with adults he grew up with is now challenged.




In May 2010, it was reported that Ty Burrell had signed on to star in the film.[1] In January 2011, it was announced that David Duchovny and Vera Farmiga had been cast in leading roles for the film.[2] That same month, Keri Russell, Minnie Driver and Will Arnett were cast in supporting roles.[3] Arnett later dropped out of the cast before filming began. Producer Daniela Taplin Lundberg commented on the casting: "Goats is that wonderful combination of hilarious and poignant, and we're so thrilled that actors as distinguished as this ensemble have responded to the script with such passion."[4]


Principal photography for the film took place in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Tucson, Arizona, and Watertown, Connecticut in February 2011.


The film had its world premiere at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival on January 24, 2012.[5] Shortly after, on February 7, 2012, the film was acquired by Image Entertainment for U.S. distribution.[6] The film was released in a limited release in the United States on August 10, 2012.[7]


The film received generally negative reviews from film critics. It currently holds a 20% "rotten" rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 25 reviews.[8] Robert Abele from The Los Angeles Times wrote: "A coming-of-age story featuring Vera Farmiga as a narcissistic New Age mom, David Duchovny as her pot-smoking Jesus-bearded goat herder/poolman and Ty Burrell as the divorced dad with the new wife, would appear to have all sorts of behavioral flavors to chew on. Alas, Goats – to borrow from the traits of its titular ruminants – nibbles on a lot of stuff it never gets around to digesting."[9] Sara Stewart of The New York Post wrote: "There's a particularly irritating type of rich-boy coming-of-age movie in which any emotional growth is reflected in only the slightest tweak on the handsome protagonist's stony visage. If I were Holden Caulfield, I might call it lousy. It's the type of strummy-guitar-scored indie that's flypaper for quirky actors like Farmiga and Duchovny, who are given too much time to indulge their characters' back stories and to show off, respectively, their primal scream and goat imitation."[10]

Lisa Schwarzbaum of Entertainment Weekly wrote: "Mark Jude Poirier adapted the screenplay from his own lively 2001 coming-of-age novel. As directed by Christopher Neil, Goats reports the same events but loses the flavor of the journey."[11] The New York Times‍ '​ Stephen Holden wrote: "If the aimless characters in Goats didn't feel so uncomfortably lifelike, it would be tempting to heap scorn on this wispy screen adaptation of Mark Jude Poirier's 2001 novel, directed by Christopher Neil from a screenplay by Mr. Poirier. Ms. Farmiga gives a bravely unsympathetic performance as the hysterical, self-pitying Wendy, who is filled with rage at her ex-husband, Frank. For all its verisimilitude, Goats doesn't add up to much."[12]

However, not all reviews were negative. Shannon M. Houston of Paste gave the film a positive review, writing: "Sweet and simple, almost to a fault, Goats tells a familiar story of a child at the center of a bitter feud between his long-since divorced parents. Still, there's something about Goats that makes the clichéd narrative almost forgivable. For one, each cast member delivers a solid performance, although it would have been nice to see someone go over the top a bit... Duchovny, Phillips, Farmiga, and Burrell stay true to their roles, but few risks are taken and even the lovely visage of Anthony Anderson is under-utilized in a film that could have used a few more laughs. If anyone takes it there, it's Farmiga, who represents a generation of mothers so afraid of being prototypical they lose their children."[13]


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