One might find Meghan Weinstein’s feature film, The Influencer, annoying, but only because the subject matter is annoying. This light comedy/thriller poses the question, “what would happen if millennial media influencers started turning one another?”
Already on the top of the social media hill, Abbie Rose (Kasia Szarek) is about to score a lucrative deal with a popular cosmetics company, Nutricon, for the exclusive use of their products in her social posts. Feeling confident that she’s worth more than their offer, Rose asks for more money only to get pushback because… she’s getting older…like twenty-nine years old older and there’s a large gaggle of competition coming up right behind her. So Abbie accepts the deal.
Meanwhile, something sinister is afoot. A small band of masked activists (Shantelle Yasmine Abeydeera, Victoria D. Well, Janeva Zentz, and Ian Jones) stages a home invasion. They plan to not only smear Abbie’s reputation by posting gross old photos of her but irreparably destroy her big cosmetics deal. So what else can Abbie do but comply and sit there until morning as the activists systematically destroy her brand.
The Influencer is almost too good for its own good. Yes, the film is annoying, and that’s the point. The film features an elaborate scam designed to take down and expose the corporate money that runs and influences social media influencers. But it’s also an elaborate scam against millennial social influencers, both planned and executed by millennial social influences, in a way that only millennial social influencers could pull off. It’s also a prime example of first-world problems.
“…an elaborate scam designed to take down and expose the corporate money that runs and influences social media influencers.”
Surreal is an excellent way to describe The Influencer as the film’s overall tone is a light comedy set against a dark thriller backdrop. Kasia is almost too perfect as Abbie. She plays Abbie as shallow as a petri dish and laser-focused on her brand to maintain her millions of followers. Any threat to her social media status is a fate worse than death and makes her easy to manipulate—mental and emotional anguish versus physical pain.
Our band of home invaders is a rag-tag group of untrained mercenaries (except one) who agreed to the job for various reasons ranging from online jealousy to social justice. One of the baddies can list every social and environmental sin of Abbie’s sponsor like it was a mental reflex triggered by the mere mention of a corporation’s name.
The real problem of The Influencer is that it’s too spot on with its over-the-top characters. It’s a little too real, and as an outsider looking in, it’s hard not to understand why precisely these players are going after one another.
Overall, writer/director Meghan Weinstein has created a surreal world born from the rapid growth of social media and the length influencers will build their brands. She gets this world right (in low-budget Terry Gilliam ways) with images, chats, and texts thrown at us in rapid succession, bright neons, pounding musical beats, and the annoying speech patterns and narcissistic pleas for attention from its characters. I hope you can handle it.
"…a surreal world born from the rapid growth of social media..."