There’s nothing wrong in wanting to be liked, it’s only human nature after all, but social media has taken it to a whole new level. Now being ‘liked’ is the latest form of currency, so much so that posting content can prove to be highly lucrative.
But for those lucky few it comes easy to, there are those who, try as they might, struggle to get a big following.
Spree is certainly a film of its time, as it shows the measures one social media user will go to gain popularity.
For over ten years Kurt Kunkle (Joe Keery) has been posting stuff under the username of KurtsWorld96. Despite the lengthy period he’s been posting videos, live streaming etc, he’s still yet to have a big following, very rarely breaking double digits for his content. Things are made worse by the fact that someone he used to babysit is now a bit of a name, with a huge following.
Then it comes to him that he will have to do something pretty extreme, streaming it live, to give a big boost to his audience figures. So he sets up his car with various cameras streaming live from the off, as he starts his shift as a Spree cab driver, picking up passengers for a day that he hopes the internet will never forget.
Spree is a feature that desperately wants to tap into the zeitgeist of social media popularity. Its protagonist is a young man who feels he is doing everything right, and yet his channel still lacks traction. The main gimmick it hangs everything on is that everything that takes place is filmed on a smartphone, and we the audience are part of the group following Kurt’s day live. This allows for text feed, supplied by those watching, to also appear on the screen, reacting to what’s happening on screen. This feed can be a little distracting, particularly if you’re the type who either reads this type of feed normally, or even contributes to it. It may be more distracting to those who are completely unaware of the concept in general. You will become more attune to it however, as the film progresses.
Not content in using streaming live as a form of narrative, the film also includes the recent phenomenon of strangers using their vehicles as cabs, with the app ‘Spree’ an obvious rip-off of Uber. Although it ticks all the boxes of what the story wants to do in terms of getting the protagonist to interact with as many people as possible, it does feel a bit like cultural referencing overload.
It’s clear what director Eugene Kotlyarenko’s vision for the film was, in being a black comedy reflecting society’s increasing appetite for broadcasting their lives to as many people as possible. Sadly, his message isn’t as nuanced as it could be.
He certainly gets the sense of chaos from the way the film’s shot, it’s just a shame the story is slightly underwhelming. It also doesn’t help that it’s a tad far-fetched, with Kurt sharing a number of major crimes live on the internet, and not one of his audience thinking it might be a good idea to call the police.
As a satire on current social media trends, it just doesn’t do enough. Certainly films like 1992’s Man Bites Dog, the blackest of comedies having a documentary crew following a serial killer, although pre social media, gives a smarter indication of our fascination with being on the spotlight, or even 2016’s Nerve that has its stars play a dangerous app version of truth or dare, streaming to a live audience.
Ultimately it’s simply a gimmicky, one-trick pony, with shallow shock humour and highly unoriginal content that’s difficult to subscribe to.