First off, I am stoked to be the second person on IMDB reviewing a film that is sure to blow up! Judging by the date, I probably saw this film at the same Sundance screening as the previous reviewer.
With its $10 million sale at Sundance three days ago, this movie is sure to get a theatrical release this year, and deservedly so. It may even win the Dramatic jury prize at Sundance in a few days. My mind is dizzy right now with thoughts I want to express about this film - so I will only stick to the essentials. Let me start with this: this "little" film (cheekily dubbed as a "true story") about the breakdown of the small town of Salem, Massachusetts, will stir up national debates about internet transparency, morality in the digital age, toxic male egos, gun culture, and teenage online delinquency.
And that is just scratching the surface.
This is a film that can be assaulting on the senses with plenty of teenage sex, gun violence, and excessive blood. This shit is not for everyone, especially viewers over 45.
Really, I am a bit overwhelmed. I will say that the story hits a home run. In our heroine, Lily, we find a character arch that begins with strength, then vulnerability, fear, despair, and then finally renewed strength. It is classically Aristotelian in that way. The technical execution is something to behold, with one breathless technocrane/steadicam (step-off) shot - showing with heart-pounding grace how thugs ambush Lily and her friends in a house. The price of admission is worth this scene alone.
My biggest critique of the film is that the last one-third of the film differs in form or genre than the rest. Though I am sure this was a deliberate choice which helps the film be entertaining to its targeted youthful viewership, I also feel that this tactic may keep the film from making any lists of great cinematic achievement.
The first two-thirds of the film is a gripping tapestry which includes music-video aesthetics, split-screens, driving dance beats and youthful energy - rife with empathetic sensibility. The second half is completely devoid of any empathy in a balls-to-the wall grindhouse or revenge story featuring babes with shiny red jackets enshrouded by guns and seemingly impervious to bullets. Also, enough blood and killings to make you think you are seeing grindhouse B-film from the 70's.
What this film does startlingly well is that the audience is willing to let itself be immersed by the lack of empathy and incredulous violence in the last act because by this point the director has earned its trust with the gripping story and the sympathatic plight of the main characters. That Sam Levinson the writer/driector made us make this jump with him is a stroke of --I will say the word-- genius.