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Like Me (Movie Review)

Like Me (Movie Review)
5 10

PLOT: A teenage girl films herself committing bizarre crimes in an effort to increase her social media following.

REVIEW: Writer/director Robert Mockler's social satire psychedelic thriller LIKE ME is an incredible feature debut for cinematographer/visual effects artist James Siewert. If you like eye candy, this is a film that throws open the doors of the candy store so you can gorge yourself until you get sick... which is appropriate, since the visuals Siewert helped Mockler bring to the screen include a scene in which a man is force fed various types of junk food and then made to vomit, all for the entertainment of viewers on the internet.

The color-soaked cinematography is the greatest thing the movie has going for it, but if you're like me you'll also enjoy the fact that it gives Larry Fessenden a good amount of screen time. His character isn't great, a paint-huffing pedophile who is tied up and knocked out with a horse tranquilizer (after the force feeding incident), but I always like to see Fessenden on the screen regardless of who he's playing, and too often his roles are only cameos.

Fessenden's Marshall shares his scenes with Addison Timlin as a teenage girl named Kiya, who is part of the reason why I didn't enjoy sitting through LIKE ME very much, despite Fessenden and the dazzling visuals. Although Timlin has an intriguing screen presence, her character is completely empty. There is nothing to Kiya beyond her empty-headed pursuit for likes and views online. She does some appalling things to draw online attention to herself, torturing Marshall with little sign of emotional depth or morals. It seems like she would have no trouble killing someone to get more popular, and when Marshall says that he likes girls when they're "ripe", regardless of what age they might be, this actually makes her like him more.

Kiya is not a character I want to go on any sort of journey with, and I write her off as soon as the film starts with a scene in which she torments an innocent cashier, pulling a gun on him and making him piss himself just for lulz. The closest she gets to being a worthwhile character is when she picks up a homeless man and serves him a diner feast... and she likely would have ruined this scenario if the night would have continued going in her favor.

The only time Kiya really gets stirred up is when she sees reactions to her videos posted by a kid named Burt, and it's understandable - Ian Nelson does a perfect job in the Burt videos, playing just the sort of pretentious, hateful, opinionated, whiny commenter you see all over the internet. He has a point that Kiya's videos are reprehensible garbage, but he's quite irritating himself.

As we follow Kiya on her quest to do very bad things, LIKE ME drags itself along with meandering scenes shot and cut together in an experimental manner. It's all pretty to look at (aside from the shots that are purposely disgusting), but a nice visual can only take you so far. I need other things to hold my attention, I need to be drawn into the story, I need there to be some substance to hold on to. When your lead character is only a shell of a human being, it's tough for there to be any substance. The film has style to spare, and the appeal of its style will be enough for it to gain a following, but that wasn't enough for me.

While LIKE ME is an accomplishment for Siewert and for Mockler as a director, the script was a problem. If this pair had used their visual skills to bring to life a more interesting story, they might have made a film that I really could like.

Extra Tidbit: Kino Lorber gave LIKE ME a theatrical release on January 26th, with a VOD release following on February 20th.

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