'Like Me': Film Review

A noteworthy debut whose stylishly jarring effects match the protagonist's drug- and web-created alternate reality.
1/26/2018

In Robert Mockler's debut, Addison Timlin plays a woman who goes much too far trying to attract social-media attention for her homemade videos.

We've already seen a fair number of films, most of them lousy, about the strange damage social-media addiction can do to the human psyche. Robert Mockler's Like Me, while hardly for every taste, rises above the pack in a few ways — ranging from its ambitious style to the out-of-whack humanity of its two lead performances. Though very unlikely to set the box office on fire, it may well benefit from word of mouth on streaming platforms, generating interest in Mockler's future work.

Addison Timlin plays Kiya, seen in the opening sequence as she stages a puzzling convenience store holdup. The clerk sees her filming him and understands she just wants a meme-ready reaction. He admirably refuses to play along, until the scenario changes and he falls apart. The internet goes crazy for the result — both pro and con, which in general is the same thing, as far as Kiya's concerned. The only takedown that seems to bug her is a response video by Burt (Ian Nelson), a youth who calls out her soullessness while sounding like a high-schooler's version of a Bond villain.

Scenes of Kiya at home employ DMT-evoking editing tricks (and a 1960s-comicbook color palette) to show just how messed-up her solitary, sugar- and drug-fueled existence is, but scenes of other interactions point at a deeper story. In a foiled attempt to make another scare-the-rando video, a chance encounter reveals that, when forced into it, Kiya might be capable of IRL human connection. It's just that she feels the need to control the terms of the conversation, boosting her agency by limiting her partner's.

That hypothesis is tested in the film's main event, an extended encounter with motel owner Marshall (cult actor/director Larry Fessenden, in a greasy but very engaging performance). After luring him with the promise of sex (the strangeness of the seduction feeling like a low-rent version of Under the Skin's vampirism), Kiya humiliates Marshall in a fashion conducive to GIFs. She puts the video up, but doesn't abandon this victim: She kidnaps him, in fact, likely hoping to make sequel snuff vids for her online followers.

Naturally, the two hit it off, after a fashion. Their conversations on the road force Kiya to see Marshall as something other than a jailbait-loving oldster, though this (unacknowledged) realization doesn't keep her from causing him more physical and psychic harm. Even so, this is certainly the most interesting thing that has ever happened to Marshall, and, up to a point, he's kind of grateful.

The story's violent, somewhat twisty resolution feels authentic in most ways, if one overlooks the unlikely detective work that makes it possible. It leaves Kiya appearing to confront the hollowness of her life, but unsure if there's a next step to take. One lesson she seems to learn: It's never a good idea to fight online trolls — even if you're one yourself.

Production companies: Dogfish Pictures, Glass Eye Pix
Distributor: Kino Lorber
Cast: Addison Timlin, Larry Fessenden, Ian Nelson, Jeremy Gardner
Director-screenwriter: Robert Mockler
Producers: Jessalyn Abbott, James Belfer, Robert Mockler, Jenn Wexler
Executive producers: Larry Fessenden, Anthony Gentile, John Gentile, Anya Joseph, Leo Joseph, Peter Phok
Director of photography: James Siewert
Production designer: Colin O'Brien
Costume designer: Samantha Hawkins
Editors: Jessalyn Abbott, Robert Mockler
Composer: Giona Ostinelli
Casting directors: Sig De Miguel, Stephen Vincent

83 minutes

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