CLICKBAIT ** USA 2019 Dir: Sophia Cacciola, Michael J Epstein. 80 mins
Over-indulged running gags and heavy-handed attempts at satire mar this attempt to puncture an all-too easy target. The impressive opening deep focus shot sets up our central character, Bailey (Colby Stewart), a college student renowned for her “flashes” (videos) on Str33ker and, after five weeks as the Str33ker number one, now eagerly awaits her main rival to die of cancer so she can top the rankings again. Her vacuous Hollywood-set series of videos have fell out of favour in a world where clicks are everything and every waking moment seems to pivot around the need to get five “bolts”. Now, the guy she fancies has lost interest, friends have drifted away and some weirdo in a Trump mask and black gloves is posting flashes of himself in her home, sniffing her underwear. The film has fun with slasher-style p.o.v. shots and the kind of political gags (note the Trump / Pence Halloween costumes) that will be dated within the decade, but too often the story of a horribly shallow young woman’s existence is interrupted by unfunny, overlong skits : including fake-promos for “Toot Strudels” – radioactive toast pastries with Urani-Yum a key flavour. Colby Stewart is well cast though some of the supporting actors (including Brandi Aguilar’s shrill teacher) stop just short of winking at the camera. Incidental indulgences, like a PSYCHO-spoofing fantasy sequence – pad out the thin material. For genuinely witty, perceptive and unsettling insight into characters consumed by their internet presence, viewers should instead check out the superb CAM and Bo Burnham’s harrowing / hilarious EIGHTH GRADE.
Review by Steven West