Gia Coppola’s second feature is the perfect Polo mint movie. It’s pretty to look at, but is quite empty at its core. Ironically, this is the very thing Coppola wishes to criticise in Mainstream – a searing broadside on the vapidity of social media and influencer culture; a space where every zany expression is an attempt to either capture the zeitgeist or pre-empt it. And where infamy is indistinguishable from fame.
The film follows Frankie (Maya Hawke), a bartender looking for love and purpose in her life. She finds both when she meets Andrew Garfield’s Link, a preening street philosopher who despises the digital vices of the modern world. Link beguiles Frankie at the shopping mall when he is seen berating strangers about their consumerism while wearing a mouse costume and holding aloft a painting. She films him doing so and uploads her footage to YouTube where it goes modestly viral. A chance second encounter with the pound shop prophet entwines their destinies. He inspires her to quit her job and, through Frankie’s encouragement, Link enters the YouTube realm under the pseudonym ‘No One Special’.
Link’s transition to accomplished vlogger is seamless. He stops at nothing to attract attention, even if it requires pacing through the bustling streets of LA with a prosthetic penis flapping in the wind. He is a grade-A, 24-carat jackass, but that doesn’t stop PR guru Mark Schwarz (Jason Schwartzman) approaching them with a money-making proposition. Under his wing, Link, Frankie and Jake (Frankie’s co-writing partner, played by Nat Wolff) move to the next level. By now, Frankie’s desire to create art has been reduced to an online game show called ‘Your Phone or Your Dignity’ in which Link races around a studio while a series of Snapchat filters, retro 8-bit graphics and cash register sounds stimulate and disorientate the viewer into submission. A star, and monster, is born.
Mainstream strains for a profundity the film never quite manages, mainly because it has little new to say. Throwing shade on influencer culture in a rather predictable way, Coppola seems to believe that, righty or wrongly, the more obnoxious and vapid you are the more likely the fame. She might well be right, but the conclusion provides little alarm and absolutely no surprises.
Garfield’s performance, however, crackles with more energy than a Duracell bunny – though he may well induce a migraine too. Greater things will come from Coppola, there’s no doubt. But Mainstream does feel like a missed opportunity.
- Director: Gia Coppola
- Starring: Andrew Garfield, Maya Hawke, Alexa Demie
- Release date: November 8 (Digital Download)