by George Wolf
It’s taken awhile, but it seems more filmmakers have gotten a grip on how to handle this social media thing. Just last year, B.J. Novak’s Vengeance and Quinn Shephard’s Not Okay found smart and savvy new angles to explore, and now director/co-writer Kurtis David Harder does the same with Influencer.
Harder’s approach leans more Neo-noir thriller, as the cold and calculating CW (Cassandra Naud – outstanding) spins a dangerous web for an unsuspecting social butterfly.
Madison (Emily Tennant) is a media maven who is making sure her followers see nothing but an amazing trip to Thailand. But the real real is lonely and boring, thanks to a boyfriend who bailed on her and no friends in sight. So, Madison is only too happy to chat up fellow traveler CW, and to accept her offer for a tour of the most IG-ready spots around.
But there will be no friend requests, and Madison will be the only one posing. CW has no online presence at all, and in fact seems very insistent on avoiding photographs. Weird, right?
Maybe. Or maybe creepy. Suspicious, even.
Harder and cinematographer David Schuurman create an absolutely gorgeous pot for boiling this mystery. From atop deserted island beaches to below crystal clear waters and inside lavish vacation homes, Harder’s nimble camera and visual aesthetics reinforce the notion that pretty pictures don’t always tell the whole story.
And once Madison’s friend Jessica (Sara Canning) slides into these DMs, events take even more deliciously twisty turns, with CW scrambling to juggle her many different versions of just what Madison is doing and just why she is suddenly such a big part of it.
Naud sells it completely, evolving CW into a compelling combination of chameleon and parasite. She’s an absolutely in-the-moment creature, and Naud crafts the perfect vessel for Harder and co-writer Tesh Guttikonda to upend conventions while they pull at our cultural strands of misinformation, envy and objectification.
You won’t find the satirical humor that both Novak and Shephard wielded so effectively, but Harder’s approach is no less effective. With sharp dialogue, skillful plotting and simmering dread, Influencer is plenty worthy of that “Like” button.