‘Mainstream’: Watch the trailer for Andrew Garfield’s film leaving critics bewildered
Movies that are so bad, film festival audiences walk out of them is stuff you only hear about in the movies . . . or is it? This Andrew Garfield movie was reportedly so horrible, people stormed out of the theater in droves.
But what made it so bad? The Mainstream film’s trailer depicts a simple, if not overdone story about fame & fortune going awry set against the backdrop of our digital age. But critics have called the film “grotesque”, prompting us to wonder what made this ho-hum premise of a film offend everyone and their cousin at the Venice Film Festival this year?
Without further ado, let’s dive into the apparent trainwreck that is Andrew Garfield’s Mainstream film.
What’s it about?
Andrew Garfield’s newest film looks more like a dark deconstruction of A Star Is Born for the digital age. In Mainstream, Garfield’s character is shown discovering a young woman’s potential and raising her – and more importantly himself – to unimaginable levels of internet stardom.
The film follows Frankie (Maya Hawke), who films Link (Garfield), who works at a mall in a mouse suit selling cheese. Link’s hijinks quickly make him a viral sensation and after he forms an alliance with aspiring filmmaker Frankie, they blast off to viral stardom with dark secrets waiting to be exposed in tow.
Seemingly modeled after other well-known, dysfunctional internet collectives (cough, Vlog Squad), Mainstream promises viewers a narrative peering behind the curtain of viral stardom, putting a twist on the older-than-dirt cautionary fable about getting what you wish for and the hidden cost of being famous.
“Grotesque & horrendous”
Directed by Gia Coppola, Mainstream promised to be a deconstruction of YouTuber culture. However, Andrew Garfield’s character was reportedly “the most obnoxious ever” per Indiewire, who further dubbed his performance in the film: “the grotesque lovechild of Val Kilmer’s Jim Morrison in The Doors and Joaquin Phoenix’s Joker.”
While annoying vloggers are true to life, Indiewire wondered how intentional the over-the-top performance was, further calling the film’s portrayal of internet culture “vapid”. “What’s scary is the degree to which this excruciating film endorses his obnoxiousness. Surely we’re not supposed to like this poser, are we?”
Other critics were even less kind, with Variety calling Mainstream “a messy, childish scrawl of a film.” Lambasting Coppola’s sophomore film, Variety didn’t hold back when discussing Mainstream’s lower points:
“A brittle, exasperated satire on social media celebrity, her sophomore film, like the tacky messiah it creates in Andrew Garfield’s YouTube sensation, soon becomes the very thing it sets out to expose: a glittery, jangly image machine that manufactures little of actual substance, except the conclusion that social media = bad.”
What it says on the tin
So yeah, the trailer lets us know exactly what’s going down in Mainstream: another film, another curmudgeonly take on how social media is bad 4 u – how it will destroy us all and rot our brains. Booooo!
Variety further noted Mainstream’s similarities to the 1950s classic A Face in the Crowd, cautioning viewers about the dangers of the newly emergent TV. However, they pointed out that Coppola’s film may have been groundbreaking if Mainstream had emerged half a decade ago – also the fault of how today’s headlines can become “yesterday’s meme” in the blink of an eye.
Variety further elaborated that current events complicate Mainstream’s message. In a world of reported election interference and the net’s ever-present “socio-political discourse” often turning toxic, the film’s projected “idea that the worst damage social media can do is to exploit the insecurities of vulnerable individuals or heroize the ravings of the occasional mentally unstable loner, seems a little old-hat.”
Old tropes, new world
Indiewire further criticized Mainstream for having a predictable plot & themes. Giving the film a D, they also elaborated on a “liar revealed” part of the plot which would definitely fall flat in 2021. Hinting at Andrew Garfield’s character’s dark past in the film, they noted:
“Theirs (Coppola & Tom Stuart’s script) relies on the notion that someone can be an internet sensation, and yet not a single person would recognize them or find out about their past — even if that past was front-page news.” Tongue-in-cheek, Indiewire concluded their review by asking whether the protagonist will “find out if her horrible boyfriend is horrible? Click “like” and we’ll tell you.”