Director Gia Coppola’s second feature length film Mainstream is an intentional send-up of internet culture, viral celebrity, and the depths to which people plunge in pursuit of likes and subscribers. Between the silent film–style interstitials and emoji-laden visual style, its merits appear to have confused critics as to what exactly Coppola is trying to say.
Mainstream stars Andrew Garfield as Link, a provocative performance artist who captures the eye of Frankie (Maya Hawke), a wannabe YouTube celebrity looking for inspiration. When Frankie and Link team up to create viral content, Mainstream‘s satirical outlook chronicles their trending rise and inevitable downfall.
Here’s what critics are saying:
Andrew Garfield’s character is mesmerizingly hateable
Screendaily, Jonathan Romney
Mainstream’s commercial chances will ride mainly on its central performance by Andrew Garfield, a turn that’s hard to like –knowingly so – but which certainly demands respect for its take-no-prisoners abrasiveness.
The Hollywood Reporter, Deborah Young
And yet, no matter how much you may hate the character’s exhibitionist antics and self-serving choices, it has to be admitted Garfield can be funny as hell. He is that rare actor who forces you to laugh against your will — maybe not all the time, but sometimes.
Mainstream’s observations about social media are behind the times
Indiewire, Nicholas Barber
There are a handful of sharp asides about YouTube, such as a Christian makeover specialist who teaches girls how to “look fresh for Jesus,” but most of the insights into social media’s appeal are banal to the point of feeling a decade out of date. People try to make themselves look like celebrities, you say? And they take photos rather than engaging with the real world? That’s such a mind-blowing revelation that I might have to delete my MySpace account.
The Playlist, Guy Lodge
“Mainstream,” on the other hand, stumbles gauchely into every pitfall of this particular subgenre: it’s a big, blunt, sanctimonious satire of YouTuber idolatry that, for all its bug-eyed, pin-balling energy, never feels remotely ahead of the curve.
The movie doesn’t know what point it’s trying to make
The Telegraph, Robbie Collin
Getting ahead in this field is synonymous with racing to the bottom. But the three’s fall makes you squirm rather than shiver, and the point at which things are decisively taken too far doesn’t land with the appalling force it should
Variety, Jessica Kiang
It’s hard to make out if Coppola’s point is how very different — and worse — the era of influencer monetization, unboxing videos and makeup tutorials is from any kind of celebrity that has happened before, or how much it is the same. It becomes instead an attempt to plug 21st-century observations into a 1950s circuit board. Perhaps it’s no wonder the fuses blow.