Alright, alright, ladies and gentlemen. Welcome to the internet's favourite game show where you can win yet another movie about an influencer of some sorts (I got another one lined up after this) and all the highs or lows that life comes with. Director-writer Gia Coppola's high-strung, energetic drama Mainstream is one of those, as you might be able to tell from the title.
Frankie (Maya Hawke), a bartender and hustling content creator in Hollywood, one day runs into whimsical Link (Andrew Garfield) who performs an inspired rant in his mascot costume, which Frankie ends up filming and putting on her YouTube channel. It outperforms her other videos and she clearly senses that Link has something that excites people and excites her so much that triggers some feelings towards him. Two of them later recruit Frankie's co-worker Jake (Nat Wolff) to be a writer for Link's maniacal videos, Frankie directing them, which turn into a booming channel called No One Special. The trio finds it challenging to control the growth and content, mainly due to Link's growing delirium and strange antics.
Frustrating thing about the movie is that Coppola and her co-writer Tom Stuart clearly have ideas they want to bring to the big screen but most of them don't really go farther than that. Coppola's assets are more shown on the directing side than in the writing department—the cluster of emojis, increasingly sweatier Hollywood suits and raging soundtrack add the right amount of absurdity. Most of all, you'd almost wish to recommend the movie solely because of Garfield's ludicrous, balls-to-the-wall performance as Link. From the first scene alone you can tell that there is something eye-catching about the character and that feeling never left me for the rest of the film. Hawke and Wolff do an okay job too but their characters aren't nearly as interesting or entertaining as Link, which also makes you question why we are following it all from Frankie's perspective.
Since our main trio of actors are good, you have to ask whether real influencers (Charles Melton, Patrick Starrr, Juanpa Zurita etc.) in the cast add any value to the story which is already suffering from not having a conflict strong enough to justify the last 40 minutes. It's about something that goes wrong in No One Special's game show but it's just used very cheaply and it features clumsy writing all around for every character. Scenes dealing with that situation as well as one montage with Grimes' 'Kill V Maim' playing feel too long because the material isn't there.
The whole influencer and success aspect of Mainstream also isn't insightful enough to forgive some of the material, the channel's success just happens suddenly and you're left wondering why. It also bleeds into the movie's production design because when you write about $200K brand deals in your screenplay and then only show an unrealistic game show studio (you don't get that with 50K subscribers) while Link has no possession whatsoever and Frankie lives in the same, small apartment. That's the part where you'd normally tell your story visually, enhancing your main characters.
Smileys: Andrew Garfield
Frowneys: Screenplay, production design
Actually Garfield's performance might be more balls-to-the-Holl than anything else. He really put himself out there, even a table will remember a part of him.