Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Review: "Like Me" is...like...really lame.

Like Me Review

The trailers for this movie were really haunting, and really cool. That's my only explanation for giving this film a chance. The trailers featured imagery that we rarely see in movies, if at all, and I was totally drawn in. That's my best excuse. I like to champion independent cinema whenever I can, simply because it doesn't get a fair shake compared to the blockbusters, which we don't get too many good ones anyway. I like experimental cinema when its done right, I never mind exposing a piece of myself to a movie, I don't mind discussing and thinking about what images and scenes meant, that's part of the fun. I also like to see what chops new filmmakers have, because with the rate Hollywood has been going, we are going to be mightily dependent on the new blood.

With all that said, "Like Me," written and directed by newcomer Robert Mockler is a pretentious mixed bag. An experimental movie which gives its audience very few emotions. A movie that wipes your face in self-loathing and darkness just for the sake of wiping your in self-loathing and darkness. A meditation in millennial narcissism but without anything confident or intelligent to say. Don't get me wrong, Mockler can conjure up a startling image, that I am certain. I think after some tweaking, he can be a profound and perplexing filmmaker for all the right reasons. If we look at this first feature though, there is nothing much to it.

And before the debate starts, yes I understood the film just fine. There are several arty hippsters that will attach themselves to a film like this just to have a pet cause, just because they know its supposed to appeal to them. In every case, they will pick a fight with a "hater" and come to the simple conclusion that they just didn't get it. I understood the film just fine. I can say with confidence that there isn't much to get. Kiya (Addison Timlin) throws herself at this role, and relishes every moment. She's playing a girl who essentially goes a media-driven crime spree because she's tired of being a loner. Even in a world that is rich in social media, how easy is it to become isolated and alone? Very easy, the film suggests and Kiya goes out into the night, doing very disturbing things, posting her videos on the internet just get that connection. Just to be noticed. She is mocked by a harping YouTube personality (Ian Nelson), which only makes her videos more visceral, leveling the stakes. The first video she makes is one of the best moments in the film, when she sticks up a convenience store clerk with a toy gun until he wets himself. Its shot with such a raw, subtle power that I couldn't look away from the screen.

Had the rest of the film fired on those same cylinders, I would be agast right now, on the verge of insanity as I sang the praises of Mockler. The movie really goes out of its way to continue being twisted and dark, but it fails as a genuine experience. It fails as entertainment. What could turn terribly haunting when Kiya kidnaps a motel clerk, forcing him to do disgusting things with junk food. Taking a homeless man to a diner, and going on a road trip to get some revenge should all add up to some horrifying, and at the very least memorable imagery. But nothing is haunting in a good way, its all haunting in a repulsive way. There are just too many scenes of close-up vomiting and close-up of fast-forwarding mouths chewing junk food that gets old very fast. And no, there is no hidden message, there is no profound discovery. I mean, is it really Mocker's point to prove that millennials can be lonely in this digital-driven, modern world? Wow, such insight Mr. Mockler! You mean to tell me that millennials can't get so depressed and lonely that they snap? I would have never known.

The actors do what they can, and they try hard to make them count. Heck, I am sure I could cut some scenes from this movie and randomly edit them to a disc, send it to somebody, and cause nightmares for a month. I guess in that regard, "Like Me" is worth at least a look. There are some camera games Mockler plays that make you think this movie has a pulse. I hope that Mockler does grow as an artist and I do wish him well. I just hope he remembers that when he's making points that have already been made countless times in movies, that he does it in an insightful, fresh way. I also hope that his future movies will have a point, I don't mind doing the digging, but I want something to be on the other end of my work. Experimental movies can have a beginning, middle and end and they can certainly mean something, but you got to get us there as the director.


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