Sunday, February 2, 2020

Sundance with Abe: Beast Beast

I’m thrilled to be attending and covering the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah for the seventh time. I’m seeing as many movies as I can each day and will post reviews of each as I can, as well as video reviews uploaded to YouTube.

Beast Beast
Directed by Danny Madden

Social media has expanded the world considerably for a lot of people. It’s a way that teenagers and young adults can be connected to their friends at all times, even when they’re physically in the same place, and it can also serve to foster communication between those who live in faraway places or are from radically different age or socioeconomic groups. Becoming an Internet star is a dream of many, and anyone who tries hard enough is likelier to experience harsh backlash from those who aren’t interested in what they have to say than to actually succeed.

In a southern town in the United States, Krista (Shirley Chen) focuses most of her energy on theater at her high school. She is intrigued by the arrival of Nito (Jose Angeles), a new kid in town whose skateboarding videos showcase true talent. As Nito spends more time with friends who appreciate his ability to get in and out of places undetected, he and Krista begin to develop a close relationship. Krista’s neighbor, Adam (Will Madden) is now twenty-four and still living with his parents, spending all of his time filming gun videos and refreshing his stats to see how many people have viewed them.

This film is reminiscent of the 2014 Sundance entry “Hits,” which follows a man looking for a platform and his daughter pining desperately for Internet stardom. This film, though full of laughs, is more serious, particularly as it follows its narrative beyond the events summarized above. Adam is someone whose appreciation for good weaponry isn’t rooted in a desire to kill or rid the world of those he believes are inferior, but those are absolutely the people who comment on his videos, and his worldview definitely leans that direction when he expresses a surprising concern about defending his family, to which his parents respond dismissively that they live in an incredibly safe area.

As an expression of social commentary, this film serves a purpose. Crafting three compelling characters who are all very different and convincingly portrayed by three talented young actors is also a success. But there’s still something off-kilter and unfocused about this film, which chooses a strange title that feels only tangentially appropriate and is prone to some more experimental flourishes. It’s absolutely a perfect fit for Sundance’s NEXT section, probing new ways of thinking about what an era dominated by social media can really mean for society.


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