What if David Cronenberg started out on YouTube?To say that we have grown attached to social media is an understatement. In addition, many current celebrities have become famous thanks to the things they share through social media, and it gives the impression that anyone can become famous this way. This doesn’t work for everyone, though, and as a result, not only do we occasionally forget about the physical world around us, but we also lose a grasp on the idea of relationships. That is the issue surrounding Robert Mockler’s directorial debut Like Me, which was given a special screening Thursday night at the IFC Center.
The main character of the film is Kiya, a lonely young woman who is obsessed with becoming famous. Her attempts at achieving fame involve her filming the people she chooses to harass. When she gets the kind of reaction she wants, she leaves the scene, goes home and uploads an edited version to her site. As far as her life goes, we do not see her do much else except watch the amount of views her videos get, as well as the responses her viewers post. Among these responses is a rather ruthless young man named Burt, who calls her out on her desperation for attention and suggests that she is worthless. His constant trolling doesn’t thwart Kiya, though, as she decides to move forward with her spree and finds another victim in the form of the motel owner, Marshall (Larry Fessenden). After getting his reaction on camera, she finds herself starting to bond with him. When she decides to have him tag along with her journey, we get a glimpse of how she views the world, and where she could possibly go from there.
One can see that this film was inspired by David Cronenberg’s Videodrome, not only its theme of excess in tastelessness but also in its visual style. There are many moments in the film that stand out just by how surreal and colorful they look. The opening sequence, for example, consists of a montage of random shots of Kiya laying on her bed, with some close-ups of movement. This is shot astoundingly, with a dizzying camera movement going through the floor, around, and through the floor again, as if the audience is spinning in a circle. Shots like these are so mesmerizing, that even after the film is over, I myself still wonder how they were able to film that. On the other hand, though, some rather grotesque extreme-close-up shots of mouths filled with food, distract from the visual style a bit and feels like watching an actual YouTube video. Could this be an intentional decision on Robert Mockler’s part?
Something else to appreciate with this film is how Mockler manages to blur the lines between reality and the Internet, at least in terms of how we perceive behavior. This opening scene, for example, shows a character being filmed by Kiya, who decides to throw straws around while making funny noises just to appease her. Mockler cuts back and forth to the film and the phone footage. Subtle edits like that dare you to examine human behavior and how it looks in different formats. While I can’t say that this is the first film to do this, it feels fresh here because of the bleak atmosphere that Mockler applies to the scene.
Like Me also reminded me of 2017’s Ingrid Goes West, which stars Aubrey Plaza as a mentally unstable woman who uses social media to get up close to a celebrity. Both Ingrid and Like Me display the dangers of social media obsession and how misguided their respective characters’ views on relationships are. Like Me, however, takes it to an unusual level, because of the excessive and aimless lengths Kiya would go to make the slightest connection. This act is executed well, mostly thanks to Addison Timlon’s performance as Kiya. This would be a daring role for any actress, considering that the character is socially separated from the rest of the world, but Timlon has great on-screen charisma and makes her characters disturbingly interesting.
‘Like Me’ is a nauseating, yet somewhat fascinating look at the way we obsess over social media. With all of this said, I am not sure whether or not this film works as a whole, because the conclusion doesn’t exactly wrap things up, which is interesting because the film is less than 90 minutes. However, despite the somewhat incomplete story, the visual style is great, and the references to Cronenberg’s work in the film’s favor. So as an experimental film, however, it works fine. To “Like Me,” I say “I do, but that is as far as I will go.”