27 cars have been vandalized. 27 dicks were spray-painted across them in a school parking lot. One boy was blamed for all of it. That is the premise of American Vandal.
Whoda thunk that a show about penis-graffiti could be this riveting? The documentary-style drama with lots of humor takes you on a ride of many twists and turns and gossip and shade all in the name of finding the truth.
The school has built a relatively solid case against Dylan Maxwell, resident fuck-up and singular suspect, that rests on witness accounts, character testimony and a practically absent alibi.
But one kid won’t believe it. Peter Maldonado, the school’s aspiring filmmaker, has made it his mission to uncover the truth. He and his best friend Sam believe that Dylan might have been framed. Starting point for their investigation: ball hairs.
Through a series of false leads and repeated unintended character defamation, Peter and Sam find substantial evidence to prove that Dylan was, in fact, not the culprit in this case and that this unfortunate event was not simply a silly prank with serious consequences – Dylan was expelled, after all – but that it was rooted far more deeply in personal vendettas (vendettae?) and cover-ups than previously believed.
Some of these kids have got acting chops, like you wouldn’t believe. No, they’re not dramatic like today’s Oscar-picks. No, it won’t make you question your entire existence on this dear planet. But I’ll be damned if it didn’t at first make me ugly-laugh like a hyperventilating chipmunk and then actually truly care for these characters. You can see how frightened Peter was when he talked to the principal. Or that Dylan was angry but also on the verge of defeat in his first interview. These two dudes actually make all 8 episodes a joy to watch. The rest of the cast was pretty decent as well, although I didn’t really buy Sam’s burst of anger at having his feelings revealed to the public. And I was kinda unimpressed by Miss Your-average-popular-blonde-bitchy-cheerleader-trope who yelled at Peter in the last episode. Other than that, none of the performances took me out of the story, so that is a definite plus in my book. Moreover, the characters gave the actors so much to work with without seeming over-packed with personality traits, quirks or descriptive background information. They did genuinely feel like typical high schoolers.
The style of filming was interesting as well. We have only a tiny hint of shaky-cam at certain points, which I appreciate. Instead the documentary ‘crew’, so Peter, Sam and their sometimes-camera man, do actually show some skill when it comes to operating their equipment. And I could not spot a single instance where it seemed like the audience wasn’t looking at the scene through one of their lenses. A big portion of the additional footage used for Peter’s ‘documentary’ consisted of what I guess to be vertically filmed (!) Snapchat videos (without affiliation to the actual app). Which was a smart integration of social media without the in tv shows usually so overbearing message of *old person voice* “Kids are too much on their phones these days, just look at the dire consequences of such unrestricted use of electronics. In my generation we had smoke signals and you just try to hack one of those. Tha tha.”
The voice over was great as well, in the sense that Peter posed numerous questions that he was trying to answer, went down different paths of potential story-lines and outcomes and I was wholeheartedly invested in this swamp of possibilities with all its complex avenues (that metaphor doesn’t even work a little bit, I’m aware, friends. I’m aware). But at the same time you can’t deny the comedy in some of his dead-pan statements.
Have you watched it? If so, did you pay attention to the title sequence? Cause it was one of my favorite parts of the show. Not only was it the title sequence for the Netflix show but also for Peter’s documentary (look at the names) and a quite well done one at that.
I know the story is over and resolved but, dear universe, please give us a second season to this genius piece of ridiculousness! I will definitely watch it again with as many people as I can get hooked on American Vandal. 8/10!!