From Laura Wade’s play Posh based on the Oxford University Bullingdon Club of which Cameron and Osborne were members. Miles (Max Irons) is initiated into this club. He’s supposed to be the “decent” one and is in love with Lauren (Holliday Grainger) from a state school. There is a dinner party in which things get a bit nasty. Will there be consequences?
Wade’s play has embarrassed those establishment figures connected to this sort of club. Their behaviour oozes the smarm of social class entitlement, their intellects and egos feed at the trough where they can disdainfully whisk away the temptations of “noblesse oblige”. It’s like watching Tom Brown’s Schooldays and the horrid Flashman, only here the bullying is more simple class snobbery. We despise their oafishly spoilt behaviour. They trash the grubby pub room where they are not served with the requisite finesse and they become poisonous oik baiters, loathing the poor and the low paid. This disdainful attitude to the poor is only slightly exaggerated in the film, it is prevalent enough in the UK at the present time. We know Miles is the decent one because he’s allowed the condescension of being nice to a northern working class girl who is, of course, decent and humane. The Riot Club louts beat up the Scottish landlord of the pub and, guess what, the film was released in the week when the Scottish referendum took place. Great timing!
Peel away all this obviousness, and for me, The Riot Club becomes a satire on our own double standards. The Scottish landlord is servile to the club, are we supposed to sympathise with him in spite of this? Then there is the club’s ploy of the intellect, before their tutors the boys adopt adversarial attitudes that serve to stimulate the intellect. Riot shows that when the same intellectual play is translated into the outside world we’re supposed to condemn it, because the less educated can’t take the critical intellect? Just because this critical thinking comes from spoilt brats? Surely equality requires intellectual reciprocity. Is being stolidly serious in the face of this critical mind supposed to be morally superior? Riot satirizes our vicarious acceptance of such behaviour as entertaining, just as it’s a hard eyed look at middle England’s complacent compliance in greed and snobbery. Riot Club is the latest in a long line of films in which the banquet or meal is the centre of the drama. Entertaining.