John Cho will leave you breathless in this intense, claustrophobic postmodern thriller.
FOLLOWERS has things to say.
But does it manage to say them well enough?
Netflix’s Black Mirror
Season 3, Episode 1: “Nosedive”
Directed by Joe Wright
Written by Rashida Jones & Michael Schur
* For a review of Episode 2, “Playtest” – click here
“Nosedive” opens on an idyllic neighbourhood. Lacie Pound (Bryce Dallas Howard) goes for a run, though she can’t stop looking at her phone at all. Neither can anybody else. Lacie runs, stretches, all while peering into the screen, taking selfies, mindlessly flipping through social media. At home in the mirror, she practices faces and various laughs. In the living room, Ryan (James Norton), her brother, plays a reality game and doesn’t do much other than that.
Everybody’s rated, every interaction has a value. You meet somebody and you give them a rating. Not far off from where we are in social media, but the way this episode brings that to life is terribly sad. From how Lacie doesn’t even really enjoy her cookie or her drink, though she makes sure to post a picture. Her only real happiness is being rated approvingly by others. People only know things about each other through the social media site they’re linked to constantly. Lacie has an awkward conversation with a woman in the elevator which illustrates that so awkwardly, yet perfect.
Then Lacie starts to see a woman named Naomi Blestow (Alice Eve), whose life looks so beautiful. Her rating is high. She entrances Lacie. A strange and awful thing happens when a guy named Chester comes around her office with smoothies. He’s only rated 3.1. Everybody’s shunning him because of a recent breakup. Nobody’s on his side. Regular people have become how fandoms hang off the relationships of their celebrities; regular, everyday citizens at work are treated like celebrities, how people seem to take those sides against one or the other person during a divorce (kind of like right now with Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie + many more examples). It’s an eerie though, which already happens on a tiny level already in social dynamics. Social media takes all these types of things and amplifies them horrifically. At least in Black Mirror it does.
So there are other nasty things, like when Lacie wants to move into a nice place. Her hopes and dreams are literally broadcast in front of her there via hologram. But they need her to be “around a 4.5” to get a good discount on the place. Off Lacie goes, home to eat and fawn of Naomi Blestow and her seemingly perfect existence.
I’ve only started to review this series now on the premiere of its 3rd season, but I’ve been following the creation of Charlie Brooker since its horrifying first episode. Needless to say, I feel like the writing in this episode – courtesy of Rashida Jones and Michael Schur – is following suit nicely with the rest of the body of work.
Lacie needs a “boost” from “quality people” giving her likes, and so on. This begins her quest to try getting the right people to rate her. The whole episode is so pristine-looking, hyperreal, and underneath the sadness is crushing, to the point of being uncomfortable. That’s a strength. Black Mirror‘s always been uncomfortable, to varying degrees from one episode to another. This one is high up there. Because the closer these episodes get to the truth, the harder it is to bear. Watching Lacie desperately try and connect with others simply to get that boost is strikingly tragic. Brings me back to the ICQ days when everybody would try to post their witty status, myself included, to make people feel interested. When Naomi finally likes a picture Lacie posts, it’s the happiest moment she’s experienced in awhile.
And all of a sudden Naomi calls her. They knew each other long ago, they were very close. She remembered Mr. Rags from back in the day. Naomi’s engaged now to Paul M (Alan Ritchson) and they’re having an outlandish wedding; Laci gets an invite. Better yet, she’s the maid of honour. A huge wedding, lots of high “4.7s” and above.
Or is it all too good to be true? The way Ryan remembers things, Naomi tormented Lacie, did terrible things to her. Oh, it all seems like teetering over the edge of something deliciously precarious.
Things are on the up and up, I guess. For now. Lacie takes that new place she wanted, she gets started on her maid of honour speech and trying to practice reciting it for Ryan. “You fucking sociopath,” he scolds over the pathetically forced speech (and the rest of her sad nonsense): “There‘s sugary, and then there‘s diabetes.” She ends up walking out after calling him “Mr. Three point Fuck” and having a rating war. Afterwards she bangs into a 4.8 woman on the street, knocking coffee on her, which gets Lacie another bad rating. Even the cab driver knocks her down a notch. A hilarious though shitty moment for her. And once she gets to the airport things only get worse. A cancelled flight, no more available. One’s available, but only to 4.2s and higher, and with the recent ratings she’s been put down under slightly. Everybody in the line rates her down. Security gets called. For 24 hours, she’s a 3.1 and any ratings are “double damage.” Good christ, she can’t catch a break. When you ranking is that low things get damn tough. Now, without all the privilege of a good ranking, Lacie’s life isn’t as squeaky clean and pretty like before. She’s also walking on eggshells, so as not to get any nasty ratings. After Naomi calls, even though she isn’t happy, Lacie gets a 5 star rating. Things are okay for the time being.
On the drive in her rental car Lacie has to stop and charge. At the station she gets a bad rating from the douche attendant. Worse is the fact the station doesn’t have a fixture that fits her car, nobody there has an adaptor. Being in the 3s ain’t easy, girl.
She starts walking her way now. One Anonymous user even rates her down simply driving by, not even meeting her. When a 1.4 lady driving an eighteen-wheeler stops, Lacie gets a ride at least. She finds the other half are nicer than the higher numbers. Right now she’s sitting at 2.8, shockingly low. What she gains from knowing this sweet truck driver is that it’s all an addiction to a lifestyle, shackles to something idiotic and fake, and when you start living real life again it’s freedom: “Sheddin‘ those fuckers, it was like takin‘ off tight shoes.”
The inevitable happens as Lacie ends up hitching another ride with a group of sci-fi lovers – Naomi calls and doesn’t want her there anymore. She’s down in the 2s now. Despite it only being temporary Naomi doesn’t care. Still, in a sad last ditch effort Lacie says she’s going anyway.
She gets there, after being thrown from the sci-fi bus. In an absolute mess. And she gets up to make that speech, to the terror of everyone in attendance. Lacie starts dropping f-bombs galore, 1 ratings all over the place, as she tells everybody about Naomi helping her overcome and eating disorder and gets crazy real on the crowd.
Until her arrest. They take her in, process her. A little chip is implanted in her eye, and she’s put in a cell. But funny that, how she’s imprisoned, literally boxed in, yet still she is free. In her mind. She gestures to a man in the cell opposite to her with a motion of rating. Just with no phone. Then they really engage, for the first time. No ratings. They use speech. They talk and interact and the only thing they hide behind is their force confinement. More than that, they only say negative things. They pour out all the anger from the fake positive manners screaming at one another: “Fuck you!”
Loved this episode. A great return with some spectacular writing and an amazing Bryce Dallas Howard performance. How did you feel about it? Too close to home?
Leslie Jones and I had beef. Now it's squashed.
UPDATE: I received a wonderful message via Twitter from Leslie Jones. After you’ve read this post, please go see the follow-up.
I’d like to take a time out from my regular format. Usually it’s film, film, film reviews.
But something happened this evening on Twitter, it really pissed me off. To no end. Now, I gave up social media until the middle of last year, I’d given it up almost 2 years. Reason being because I’m an emotional, invested man. Though I am sensible, I tend to let things just hound me until they run me ragged. Often it’s mainly for a good cause – these things latch onto me mostly due to people being ignorant, the hateful things you can see over the internet and how nobody seems to want to just be friends, be friendly, to talk and discuss and even debate things in a sensible and friendly manner.
Today, however, something different went down.
I consider myself a happy supporter of equal rights. I’ve always been that way because my parents raised me to be respectful of others, the differences between us, and all that. So naturally, when the new Ghostbusters film directed by Paul Feig was announced, and the cast happened to be all female, I thought it was great. Not to mention the fact Kate McKinnon, Leslie Jones, Melissa McCarthy, and Kristen Wiig were then announced as the actual Ghostbusters themselves. I love all these ladies, especially McKinnon and Wiig. Recently I caught Leslie Jones’ stand-up show on Netflix, Problem Child, and it was downright fucking hilarious; she has tons of charisma, she’s funny, and has a lot of presence onstage. Then I went back to watch some SNL bits I missed, or didn’t pay enough attention to originally, and realized not only was Leslie Jones great at stand-up, she is even better with improv and live comedy.
Then came all the backlash. Continually, all you see now are fanboys whining and crying about their latest franchises being ruined. Worst part is half of the time they’re not even waiting for a trailer, barely even pictures from the set, yet still they trash it and try to blast their biased opinions all over the internet. And sure, we all have the right to an opinion, just some opinions aren’t worth shit when it comes down to the bottom line.
With the new Ghostbusters, it’s a little different. When I said fanboys are ruining things on the internet before films are even out with a trailer, film critic Scott Weinberg made the intelligent point of noting these aren’t fanboys – these people don’t like women.
And he’s right.
He made another point on his Twitter feed around the same time, or afterwards, and basically said if you don’t know anything about a film other than a cast is female and you still hate it then there may be important questions you need to ask yourself. Or rather, they probably know.
Some men just don’t want to accept the fact they’re misogynists, or they know and they don’t care what anyone else thinks of that.
Make no mistake – the people out ragging on this movie, making extremely bold and idiotic statements such as the preemptive “this movie will bomb trust me” and other foolishness, these people are misogynistic and they are the same types of people who fall in with Disney douchebag Michael Eisner with his assertion that there aren’t many funny, good-looking women.
It just doesn’t matter – if you’re talking about being funny, or acting, or whatever – if someone is a woman or not.
If you can’t relate to films or enjoy them just because the characters in them are female, then you have problems. Yes, that’s right, you’ve got problems, and you need to reevaluate your way of thinking because that’s total madness.
However, I digress. To the point.
I was on Twitter earlier today, and I was reading all the hatefulness users were tweeting out to/about the cast of the new Ghostbusters movie. I nearly boiled over with anger, most of it was absolute stupidity. That didn’t surprise, but as I said – I’m a little emotional, even if it’s only Twitter.
So I decided to tweet out a little support. Only a pebble in the digital sea, but whatever. I’ve had contact with people like Justin Benson & Aaron Moorehead (directors of the fantastic horror-romance Spring), and even director William Friedkin who graciously followed my account/retweeted a retrospective review I did on his movie The Hunted. So I figured, why not? Even if no one involved with the movie sees it, who cares? I just wanted to put my positive two cents in and be a supporter. I couldn’t wait to see these ladies in action as the Ghostbusters team! Plus, Paul Feig created Freaks and Geeks, so I’m always up to see what he’s doing.
To my surprise, Leslie Jones saw what I’d tweeted. In fact, she saw it, and hated it, and proceeded to insult me (insinuating I do nothing except probably flip burgers), then block me on Twitter.
What did I say? Well, why don’t you have a read, along with Leslie’s “appropriate” response.
Notice, if you actually take the time to read unlike Ms. Jones, that I was supportive. What I essentially said (if you can’t read it for some unknown reason – just like Ms. Jones) is that I think they’re hilarious, all four of them – and notice I didn’t even say funny women? I said funny people. Because I don’t care if you’re a woman, I don’t care if you’re a man, or transgendered, I don’t care if you’re old, or young – if you’re funny, you are a funny person.
So, I got other tweets back saying “give her a break – she’s seeing a lot of negative things lately”, and I understand that. Totally, I get she and the other ladies cast in Ghostbusters are seeing a wave of negativity from the internet. However, there are plenty of positive people.
And furthermore, is really that confusing what I said? If I said, “Kristen Wii is not funny. Melissa McCarthy is not funny. Neither are Leslie Jones or Kate McKinnon. Whatever the fuck ever” then I could understand her thinking I was being negative; it would be obvious. But it’s painfully clear what I was saying is in no way bashing them. Yet Ms. Jones proceeds to not just block me – her “Order up” implies that I’m just doing nothing except working at a fast food joint or something (because I guess they aren’t real jobs? Hmmm maybe tell that to the people who serve you next time you’re out for a burger…). Regardless, I’m at the tail end of my B.A.H, currently getting ready to write an Honours Thesis essay in the winter, as well as writing a novel, and also editing the novel of a well-known Canadian author Earl Pilgrim. So, yeah, Leslie Jones – I’m not doing ANYTHING worthwhile over here.
In the end, I just want to thank Ms. Jones.
Thanks for making me not want to watch Ghostbusters. Not because its cast is all female – I don’t want to see it now because you were rude, as well as ignorant, you were presumptuous about my life and who I am because you thought I was being negative when I was trying to dispel the idea you aren’t funny by saying YOU ARE INDEED HILARIOUS, and you jumped the gun, treating me like some asshole who is hateful. I don’t get on the internet and spew hatred. Despite all the reviews I do and the time I spend online, I have a life – a great one. I’m a film lover/reviewer, a writer, an editor, and I’m also a proud man who doesn’t take shit from people when I don’t deserve it.
So I’m not trying to shame anybody here, but I’m pissed off.
I know it’s not like Leslie Jones will see this, nor do I really intend her to either. But I had to get this off my chest.
There’s tons of negativity on the internet, but why don’t we all take the time to read? Don’t get hot under the collar without reading something carefully, make sure you know what it’s saying and what you’re meant to get out of it – don’t jump all over people immediately without understanding what it is they are saying to you.
Because Leslie Jones lost a fan today, and I couldn’t be bothered to ever watch anything she’s in again. Too bad – super funny, lots of talent. Hopefully she won’t drive too many people away like this, I’m sure she won’t. In the long run I make no difference as an individual. I just think it’s sad and disappointing to see someone whose talent you admire act like a complete knobhead.
Not to mention, I was trying to support the idea of the female version of this film. I could care less about their being female, but if people are trying to act like that’s the only reason this movie will do bad then this movie needs support from all the fans out there! I don’t expect a medal, but I don’t expect to be treated like some idiot who is out trolling on the internet about a female remake of an older movie. I don’t expect to be insulted by anybody for not “doing anything with my life” when that person doesn’t even know me, and I wasn’t even trying to bash on anybody. I mean – do I need to keep repeating that part?
Ghostbusters will, no doubt, make a great profit. Even if people don’t think it now, it will, and most of the naysayers will still go to the theatres just to see it – regardless if they like it – and contribute to its success.
But, even if I am just one dude, they’ll have to make their money without me. I don’t care if it gets the best reviews and it breaks box-office records, or any of that, because one actor’s nonsense can really sour things. I couldn’t care any less now who hates this and who doesn’t – fuck the Ghostbusters.