More than ever, many directors want to tackle the aspect of social media and its impact on today’s culture. Most that try to deliver a message on this subject fail to entertain or engage, and unfortunately, Gia Coppola’s new film, Mainstream, does the same.
A woman in her early 20s, Frankie (Maya Hawke), lives just above the famous Hollywood Boulevard. She still does not know what to do with her life; she wants to do something meaningful, but the current state of life is obsessed with content and unending narcissism where people often compare each other. She is stuck working as a bartender with her best friend, Jake (Nat Wolff), and questions what people value. After a couple of run-ins with the mysterious figure Link (Andrew Garfield), she becomes inspired to film him and upload his rants onto the internet. As time passes, a romance develops between Frankie and Link as the film tackles the theme of a rising social media culture.
On a positive note, there are some things to like about Mainstream. Maya Hawke is a likable screen presence, and although he plays a despicable, annoying, and flamboyant character, Andrew Garfield is moderately enjoyable. You are meant to hate and despise Link with all your guts, and the film reaches that perfectly. Furthermore, the film has a compelling and ambitious method to deliver criticism of today’s age of phones and social media.
When the film tries to tackle its core theme, it does so in a weak and non-credible way before changing to a bland romantic piece. Some may say it becomes too exaggerated, but that comes with the territory for a satire. The problem is that the film is too out of touch. The film is so self-satisfied that it becomes emetic and annoying, signifying nothing.
After Gia Coppola’s debut film, Palo Alto (2013), a well-crafted piece of desolation and longing during the adolescent years through three different stories, her new film leaves a sour taste of disappointment. You see her talents flourish in her first film, but in her latest, it feels like she did not put enough effort into the script and narrative. Mainstream feels like a modern-day version of Elia Kazan’s A Face in the Crowd (1957), but it doesn’t help that there is a lack of creativity in this satire.
There are moments of self-importance about social media in the film, but it is primarily out-of-touch and late to the party. It is tiresome seeing movies like these fail again and again, but they keep coming back as social media gets bigger in modern culture. There is a world in which Mainstream could have been an impactful and essential take on today’s age of technology; instead, the final product is a head-aching, annoying, and forgettable derision.
Director Gia Coppola is the granddaughter of director Francis Ford Coppola. This is her second feature.