Like Me

Studio: Kino Lorber

Apr 25, 2018 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share

Why is it that movies about the internet, particularly of the alarmist sort (in genre skin or otherwise), have their credibility disappear so quickly? I suppose it’s the same reason why fils about digital technology date rapidly as well; digital technology evolves and changes (our lives) at such a rate that it’s hard to keep up. The tech folks are always several steps ahead of us. How directors and writers conceive of what role digital technology and the internet plays in the lives of younger people and how it shapes those lives has a leg time, and often feels rudimentary, or at least limiting.

Glimpsing into the art of alienated loner Kiya (Addison Timlin), who spends a lot of time looking at YouTube stats and white noise on television screens, we see glitched and giffed art of her chewing and tearing apart neon colored treats and liquids, recalling a souped up digitized Marilyn Minter: mixing the gross and erotic. It’s aggressive and repetitive, the brightness of its colors juxtaposed against the jarring and dangerous quality of its execution.

The most compelling part on paper is that the experience of women on the internet is fundamentally different than (straight white cisgender) men. The attacks against Kiya are pointedly gendered in their cruelty, as we bound back and forth between videos of reactions to her first non-hest. And if they don’t use specifically gendered language, the implication nonetheless is there, even in her second video, of a man vomiting, whom she’s kidnapped.

While Kiya looks like some loner side character who would be in deleted scenes of Daria, with her ever changing hair color and consistent little hat, the man she’s kidnapped, Marshall (Larry Fessenden) looks so much like a lonely schlub -- his face resembling a potato and his hair oily in a calculated manner -- that it’s almost a practical joke. And Burt (Ian Nelson), the implied King of the Internet who responds to Kiya’s videos with impassioned low-fi-ness (it’s never made clear if he’s “real”), has a flatness to him where one isn’t entirely sure how he’s supposed to function from scene to scene.

Social media is supposed to be the framework for getting Kiya and Marshall together, two lonely, broken people searching for connection. But just because you’re lonely, drug addled, and social media addicted doesn’t mean you’re very interesting, and Robert Mockler’s hyper stylized approach leaves Like Me lost between the two worlds of okay installation piece and not very interesting narrative film. Kiya is just misunderstood, right? The conversations she has with Marshall come out of a playbook and have a superficiality to them that continues to force the characters into archetypes.

It’s not uninteresting watching what amounts to a female Travis Bickle, and forgive me for being reductive; the way in which she uses her gender skates around the femme fatale cliches, but there’s a slight indication of more agency here. The brutality she enacts, for art or for clicks, ends up only being of interest on a surface level and for a few moments, its intentions -- emotionally or viscerally -- never crystallizing.

The film is expressionistic to fault, for, even if it has confidence in what it wants to say about a youth transmogrified by social media obsession and the damning of all of our souls, so what? Perhaps Like Me fails to ascend into being the millennial answer to American Psycho because, ultimately, Kiya’s world isn’t particularly textured. They’re very art directed, but that’s not really the same thing; even if she’s a shell of a person, there’s no indication of maybe who she once was, or anything incidental outside of her own perspective. And we only get glimpses of her art in the context of the platforms she uses once.

You can catch little references to other films, even general ideas, throughout Like Me, but Mockler and Timlin spend a little too much time creating an affect for themselves and the world around them that it never comes together cohesively. Its critique of distortions and identity, reactions of reactions of reactions don’t fit within the narrative neatly, and everything ends up being rather arch in a disorienting way. It’s a shame, because Mockler has a lot of potential, but the complexity of the execution of his images fail to compensate for the lack of nuance for the overall project. As far as films that give nuanced insight, ironically or otherwise, into young people and the way they use social media destructively, there’s always Scream 4 and Ingrid Goes West.


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