This is ultimately the issue that underlines the film. Using “Social Media” as a theme by which to comment on contemporary culture feels, even in 2020, like an overdone subject begging for more trenchant deconstruction, even if through broad comedy. The film attempts this by peppering in talking-head interviews with self-serious “experts,” like the middle-aged social media theory professor explaining the ABCs of the internet to college students, or the therapist treating the influencers for “social media anxiety disorder.”
This was clever at first, particularly because their sincerity belies the irony inherent in social media culture. But the gimmick of a didactic old-guard being so out-of-touch quickly came to feel repetitive because they were driving home the same joke over and over. I don’t disagree with the central conceit that the value placed on social media and the celebrity status born out of it is idiotic and corrosive to society. It just feels like a truism that did not need to be hammered in so hard. We get it.
“…it feels like the screenplay is settling for the easy joke…”
Another issue I had, which feels like a somewhat unfair criticism, is that you can feel the effort that went into the film. Typically, this is a positive quality, but this style of comedy should feel effortless and naturalistic. The Social Ones feels worked and rehearsed to a tee. I think this impression is more the result of the social media theme being under-explored rather than the writing or performing falling short.
Despite its topical nature and the fertile ground for satire, the subject of the humor was working against the film’s strengths. Perhaps more free-form improvisation would have allowed for some deeper, underlying truths about social media to come out. As it stands, it feels like Kosann retrofitted an entire film onto a somewhat shallow conceit. The Social Ones, despite the best efforts of the cast and a few funny gags, goes down as easy as a deep-fried pizza donut.