Director: Glenn Gers
Writer: Glenn Gers
Producer: Adam Hendricks, John H. Lang, Greg Gilreath
Stars: Keiynan Lonsdale, Ema Horvath, Abraham Benrubi, Michael Boatman, Nate Hartley, Amy Pham, Remy Nozik
A young YouTube celebrity’s life takes a dramatic turn when he becomes the target of an obsessive fan.
“I used to be ‘with it.’ But then they changed what ‘it’ was. Now what I’m ‘with’ isn’t ‘it.’ And what’s ‘it’ seems weird and scary to me. It’ll happen to you!” I laughed when Grandpa Simpson said these classic lines in 1996. I wasn’t even able to legally buy beer yet, still completely incapable of conceiving any scenario where popular culture could possibly seem alien to me.
20+ years later, I now see that scene from Grandpa’s prophetic perspective instead of young Homer’s dismissal of a dad who doesn’t understand. Nothing has made me feel more out of touch with contemporary entertainment evolution than the rise in popularity of YouTube celebrities, which is a concept I cannot wrap my 80s-raised head around.
I’ve watched PewDiePie shriek at his PlayStation only to wonder, “why don’t viewers just play these games for themselves?” While looking into online personality Kian Lawley for his acting turn in “The Chosen” (review here), I could only stand a few seconds of an impromptu rap about drinking his urine before asking, “wait, how many millions of viewers subscribe to this kid’s channels?”
Another review remarked that “Like.Share.Follow” lead Keiynan Lonsdale and his character Garrett, a YouTube star, are unconvincingly flat and his videos are insipidly annoying. I counter that I’ve found the same holds true of actual online personalities. Lonsdale is charming enough, I think. Then again, I don’t understand what makes a social media personality appealing in the first place, so take my opinion as that of an uninformed man. As my experience goes, “Like.Share.Follow” feels right on target in its take on that wacky world.
A young YouTube celebrity dealing with the pressures of fawning fans isn’t the most relatable protagonist for a cautionary tale about online stranger danger in escapist entertainment form. Nevertheless, the underlying concept of an obsessive stalker taking infatuation to homicidal extremes, as well as the notion that intimate details of anyone’s personal life are at constant risk of electronic exposure, drives “Like.Share.Follow” into timely terrain that is uncomfortably scary for anyone.
That’s the new pressure facing Garrett when an anonymous admirer takes physical form as Shell, short for Michelle. Shell used subterfuge to work her way around Garrett’s rule about no personal relationships with fans. After tricking him into a date and then having sex, Shell tells the truth, prompting Garrett to rightly give her the heave ho. Now she won’t leave him alone. A bad situation becomes worse when, well, you can see where it’s going from here.
“Like.Share.Follow” doesn’t have any real layers. One scene leads directly into the next. Yet for this kind of movie, uncomplicated is okay, even preferred.
While watching “Like.Share.Follow,” I felt as though the film had a Blumhouse teen thriller aesthetic only to find out after the fact that Blumhouse indeed had a hand in its production. That’s either a good or a not so good thing depending on how you feel about fare such as “Unfriended” (review here) or “The Gallows” (review here) where photogenic people take precedence over mold-breaking fiction.
Writer/director Glenn Gers cops to the obvious, which is that “Like.Share.Follow” essentially remakes “Fatal Attraction” for millennials. Gers is much closer in age to myself than either of us are to the characters. Perhaps that’s why his take on social media culture, adapted from what his son introduced him to, seems straight to me when I can’t speak with certainty to how it hits the demographic depicted onscreen.
Dialogue doesn’t shoot for Diablo Cody levels of perfectly worded witticisms, though it still reads as real conversations amongst 21st-century teens. The film stuffs in things like one girl in a plush stuffed animal head hat and another in a necklace that spells ‘dork’ with Scrabble tiles for a slight touch of obnoxious New Age hipsterness. It’s the right amount to appear authentic without trying too hard only to look like what fiftysomethings think 2017 looks like for twentysomethings.
“Like.Share.Follow” is formulaic, yes. But its personalities push it through pedestrian bits. Complementing Keiynan Lonsdale’s even-keeled charisma is Ema Horvath as Shell. Horvath fills a routine role, yet still works in wedges of seductive siren, girl-next-door cuteness, and dangerously unhinged sociopath as required. Shell, Garrett, and his friends are all characters we’ve seen many times over, though an engaging cast freshens their faces.
Aside from one over-the-top booby trap, “Like.Share.Follow” remains relatively grounded in “this could actually happen” territory. At least until it arrives at a laughably impossible ending. The guilty pleasure truth about the final scene however is that the serendipitous staging is so sinisterly silly, it peaks right past preposterousness to become wickedly snicker-worthy in a highly satisfying way.
If I wanted to add a clichéd backhand compliment, I’d cynically say that “Like.Share.Follow” is more entertaining that its recycled premise has any right to be. Three out of four stars might be a “for what it is” rating, but for the PG-13 thriller with straightforward style that it is, “Like.Share.Follow” knows how to sharply stick to a tried-and-true plan.
Review Score: 75