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Mainstream

Review by Rich Cline | 3/5

Mainstream
dir Gia Coppola
scr Tom Stuart, Gia Coppola
prd Fred Berger, Gia Coppola, Lauren Bratman, Andrew Garfield, Siena Oberman, Jack Heller
with Andrew Garfield, Maya Hawke, Nat Wolff, Jason Schwartzman, Johnny Knoxville, Alexa Demie, Colleen Camp, Nathalie Love, Casey Frey, Juanpa Zurita, Charles Melton, Jake Paul
release US 7.May.21
20/US 1h34

wolff schwartzman knoxville
VENICE FILM FEST



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garfield and hawke
An observant exploration of art in the social media age, this scrappy comedy has a defiantly quirky vibe. Filmmaker Gia Coppola has a terrific eye for offhanded interaction, while a knowing flurry of visual tweaks embellishes the energy. This adds resonant angles to a relatively simple story about the perils of success. Some twists feel predictable, and the message is a bit muddled, but the provocation is necessary.
In Hollywood, Frankie (Hawke) works in a bar while she tries to figure out who she is. Then she spots Link (Garfield), a cheeky street performer dressed as a rat with a meta-message about consumerism. Frankie's film of this goes viral, and she becomes intrigued by his anarchic approach to life, shooting ever more popular clips. They recruit Frankie's bar colleague Jake (Wolff) to write material for their popular YouTube channel. Soon they're hanging with influencers (like Zurita and Melton) and getting offers from branding experts (like Schwartzman), which significantly bumps up their production values.
Initially annoyed that Frankie only sees him through her phone camera, Link quickly goes all-in, embracing hashtags and feeding on the applause like Jim Carrey in manic mode. Of course, things begin to get darker with success, as this team must keep feeding the beast, going bigger and better to increase their viewer numbers. Crises of conscience come along right on cue, as each character is forced to examine the limits of their morality, which makes the movie more preachy than shocking.

Performances are loose-limbed and bursting with youthful energy. Much of the dialog feels improvised, as these gifted actors create vivid characters who are likeable and messy. Tearing up the screen, Garfield has huge presence as Link, a born entertainer. He's a magnetic blur of performance artist and unhinged nutcase. And his connection with Hawke's never-naive Frankie has an intriguing openness, propelling her creativity as she comes up with more ideas. Meanwhile, Wolff has the slightly thankless role as a soulful guy who hates watching Frankie fall for another guy.

Of course the film's central idea aims to cut through the artificial surfaces of social media, and the plot continually switches things up, challenging peoples' connections to both their phones and their carefully cultivated images. The romantic triangle plot never quite gets going, nor does the somewhat obvious fact that success is turning them into monsters. But Coppola has some terrific tricks up her sleeve. And the on-fire cast makes it compulsively watchable.

cert 15 themes, language, violence 13.May.21

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© 2021 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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