Whether we like it or not, let’s face it, social media is pretty much an omnipresent fact of everyone’s life at this point. Most people have at least one of the “holy trinity” of Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter. Then there’s SnapChat, and God knows what else. Some people continue to avoid having social media. Some wear their avoidance of the phenomenon as a badge of honor, like the same people who say “I don’t own a tv” with a smug look on their face. Others are obsessed, and waste large parts of their day on social media doing absolutely nothing of substance. Then there are people who seemingly do that but somehow get paid for it? These people are known as “Influencers.”
I’m going to be one hundred percent honest with you and say that I find influencer culture a little vapid and ridiculous. I will also admit that I’m fascinated and a little jealous of people who somehow make a living off Instagram. So, Haley Finnegan’s directorial debut Westfalia was a pleasure for me to watch.
“They are jealous yet also simultaneously in awe of a more famous influencer couple, Nick and Laura…”
Emelia (Haley Finnegan) and Brody (Brian Flynn) are an influencer couple who are almost constantly glued to their cellphones, seeing how many likes and follows they’re getting on the ‘gram. They are jealous yet also simultaneously in awe of a more famous influencer couple, Nick and Laura Lawson Visconti. Brody and Emelia decide that they will up the ante on their ‘gram game by going on a camping trip in the Lake Tahoe area. They embark on the journey in…you guessed it…a bright red Volkswagen Westfalia.
The couple doesn’t entirely seem to be enjoying what they’re actually doing, instead of obsessing over whether or not their posts are getting enough likes, which is a visual gag in and of itself considering how beautiful the scenery is on their trip. Eventually, Emelia and Brody decide to “run into” the Viscontis at the campsite where they’re staying, and in order to get into their good graces and more importantly–on their feeds, Brody and Emelia pull out all the stops.
Westfalia is a cute, clever send-up of influencer culture. It lets us know that the concept of the influencer is a little silly, but that it’s still a valid choice for some people who can magically get into the world. A lot of the dialogue is improvised, which is only fitting, considering Finnegan worked with Christopher Guest on Mascots. I look forward to seeing the next steps that she takes in her career as a writer/director. This was a great start! Stay tuned for my interview with Finnegan, coming soon.
Westfalia (2019) Written and Directed by Haley Finnegan. Starring Haley Finnegan, Brian Flynn, Nick Visconti, Laura Lawson Visconti.
8 out of 10