Release Date: January 26, 2018
Director: Robert Mockler
MPAA Rating: NR
Runtime: 80 Minutes
[This is a repost from the 2017 Overlook Film Festival, Like Me opens today.]
Way back in March of 2013, we featured a plucky little short film on our Kickstart Sunday feature called Like Me, a thriller about a girl obsessed with gathering a social media following by perpetuating an ever-increasing series of crimes.
Now, writer/director/producer/editor Robert Mockler has finished the project, which has evolved into a feature film with Larry Fessenden’s Glass Eye Pix backing it. Its festival run has officially begun, with its premiere recently taking place at SXSW 2017 and also screening at the inaugural Overlook Film Festival.
Like Me tells the story of Kiya, a lost young woman who craves attention on the internet and begins her path to infamy by terrorizing a sloppy gas station attendant played by The Battery’s Jeremy Gardner. After getting millions of views, she decides to up her game by kidnapping a pervy motel manager, played by Fessenden, and torturing him before taking him on a road trip.
The most striking element of the film, and the thing that drew me to it back in 2013, was its out-of-control visual style. Drenched in neon and littered with surrealist nightmare imagery, the film looks like a version of Natural Born Killers remade for the digital age. Equals parts alluring and disturbing, the music video style lends itself perfectly to the narrative: a girl so consumed with YouTube fame that she completely loses her grip on reality.
Although this is a topic that already feels worn out and while we don’t need fiction to see YouTube stars crashing and burning on a daily basis, Like Me’s presentation makes up for its lack of originality. The banality of the plot could be excused if we had a strong lead to grab onto, but Kiya feels underdeveloped, and though we get subtle clues to her complexity as a person, the script treads very lightly on what makes her tick besides her surface-level narcissism.
As she revels over the comments section of her videos, she becomes distracted by the reaction videos of another YouTuber by the name of Burt, who condemns the content she’s posting, naming her as a plague on society. Burt himself has become a bit of a viral sensation and continues reacting to Kiya, effectively feeding the beast, which results in a fitting conclusion for the film.
While lacking in much substance, Like Me acts as a visually arresting social commentary, which is not about a hypothetical dystopian future but instead about a future we’re already living in that, for better or worse, is something we need to accept.