Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Spree Review: A Wild Ride In This Brilliant Social Media Satire


Release date: August 14, 2020
Running time: 93 minutes
Starring: Joe Keery, Sasheer Zamata, David Arquette, Mischa Barton

Meet Kurt (Joe Keery), a 23-year-old rideshare driver for Spree, who is so desperate for social media attention that he'll stop at nothing to go viral. He comes up with a plan to livestream a rampage as a shortcut to infamy - coining his evil scheme "#thelesson", he installs a set of cameras in his car and begins streaming his rides. Wildly miscalculating the popularity that would come from his lethal scheme, Kurt’s desperation grows as he tries to find a way to overcome the plan's flaws. In the middle of all this madness, a stand-up comedian (Sasheer Zamata) with her own viral agenda crosses Kurt's path and becomes the only hope to put a stop to his misguided carnage.

Spree has a fantastic style that is evident from the start of the movie.  The film follows a would be influencer through a reconstruction of the livestream that made him viral.  It starts with his early attempts and does an amazing job of establishing Kurt as a sad kid that is hoping for viral fame above everything else.  The movie is filmed from various online streams, GoPro cameras installed in Kurt's car, and his past attempts at viral fame.  Everything is filmed through a device, either a recreation of a phone screen or app, a posted video, or a GoPro camera, which does a great job of framing this world.  The world that Kurt exists in and that we are being offered a window into is all through the lens of a device.  Kurt is always "on", trying to speak to his followers and trying to keep gaining more and more fame.  We don't ever get to see Kurt off camera, and it makes you wonder what his life is like outside of his pursuit.  

Joe Keery does an amazing job as Kurt with a believable and slightly awkward performance.  Kurt's online videos, especially his early ones, have a fantastic organic quality to them with just enough stiffness to his movement and speech to portray Kurt as an awkward, amateur influencer.  It is good that Keery's portrayal is so believable as you spend the majority of the movie with him.  And like any trainwreck or social media disaster, you just can't look away the entire time.  And despite Keery being an amazing draw, the rest of the cast are fantastic with characters that fit perfectly in this world.  Sasheer Zamata as a comedian and influencer who has it all and who Kurt is desperately trying to learn from / piggyback off of was a great choice.  She is funny, fierce, and emotional at times.  And shoutout to Joshua Ovalle as Bobby, an influencer who Kurt babysat and who Kurt is trying to emulate.  Bobby's character was the perfect portrayal of a toxic influencer and his foil to Kurt was a perfect choice.  And this film also lets us see David Arquette (as Kurt's father trying to stay young) and Mischa Barton (as a clubber who called the wrong rideshare car) back on the big screen, in some really fun roles.  I was really struck by the parallels between Arquette--who is trying desperately to stay young--and Kurt--who is trying desperately to go viral.  

Like any good rideshare, the story of Spree was paced just right, not too fast or too slow.  It builds Kurt as a complete character, then begins introducing many others as Kurt picks up people for #thelesson, his quest for internet fame.  
And this is all accentuated by a great soundtrack.  Kurt has his own mix that he plays in his car but the whole audio of the film fits the style, a kind of hypermodern style with social media queues.  I really liked the time spent with Kurt as he develops and explains his plan because when the movie does pick up, seeing Kurt change as he tries to get more internet fame really affects you.  And the story itself has a ton of great social media aspects.  It really highlights the viral culture and fame obsession that seems to be the new norm.  There are comments and interactions during Kurt's stream that feel natural and realistic.  I only wish there was a way to slow the movie down so I could read through them all as there are some amazing ones.  And Kurt's social app has a function where people can donate to send a message directly to him.  This both highlights what people think of him, but it also shows how much of a hold social media has on him.  Often times Kurt would just sit there unsure what to do until one of the viewers told him.  This film really feels like an hour and a half Black Mirror episode, except one that is more grounded in what is happening today.  And in looking at this, it highlights the danger of online personas, of social media, and of fame at all costs.  Spree has even caused me to think about how I use social media and what is important.  

And if you want to learn more about that, make sure to follow me on all my social platforms (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Youtube, like for like, follow for follow, #watchorpass)!

SPREE is available in select theaters, drive-ins, on demand and digital August 14th.  

Watch it.

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