Mainstream

Movie review by Tara McNamara, Common Sense Media
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Common Sense says

age 17+

Nudity, drinking, profanity in loud influencer satire.

R 2021 94 minutes

Parents say

age 17+

Based on 1 review

Kids say

age 16+

Based on 2 reviews

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Community Reviews

age 17+

Toward Apocalypse Never

The main question of this movie is whether or not people “can live here (on social media) anymore,” if the “intrusive eye” and “engulfing mind” of someone like a “pyromaniac” Mary Trump can warn people about the destructiveness and inhumanity of someone like her uncle (as well as how he might reframe her interventions). An uncle who, among other things, projected these same qualities onto other groups (not unlike the German and Rwandan governments did in their propaganda campaigns referencing “rats” and “cockroaches” respectively). This post great recession, post-Trumpian US may in fact be going through a little bit of what post-industrial 1920’s UK, post-bubble 1930’s Germany, and 1990’s Japan went through (with some of it on social media). The aftermath may entail a contagion of palpable anxiety and ideas of reference to conscience that Mainstream captures perfectly. An answer to this question is explored through Frankie’s triangular relationships with Link, Jake, and Isabell Roberts. Presumably Frankie grew up in a love triangle with her parents. She is a bit distant from her nagging mother. She is preoccupied with getting “love and approval” from her father. Her father dies in a car accident when they hit a “tree” on her way to a party to meet boys and she gets a facial scar. Frankie feels a “secret guilt” about being angry about having to “perform” for her “intrusive” and unmodulated father who routinely went back to “cheating” on her with her mother anyway. Later the childhood love triangle is gender role-reversed in her relationships with Jake as the stereotypical committed nice guy and Link as the stereotypical philandering bad boy. The themes of help rejecting complaining to role-reverse the performer role onto the father and the importance of limited reparenting are left implicit. Palo Alto explores similar themes. Link is immediately and tenderly supportive of Frankie’s scar in private. With Isabell, who also has a facial mark, things go differently. Link “exposes” Isabell’s facial mark on social media for even more fame, likes, and ad revenue. Frankie initially colludes with Link to cover up the moment of “exposure” to make it look like Isabell was requesting support on social media. Symbolically, this looks like a projection of Frankie’s own beauty “issues” onto Isabell and a repetition of Frankie’s less than nurturant rivalry with her mother for her father’s “love and approval.” An understanding of such things for the purposes of providing support would traditionally be titled “Isabell R” to protect Isabell’s privacy. Since, unlike Mary Trump’s uncle, Isabell is neither destructive nor inhumane, the obvious implication here is that neither people on social media, big tech, nor any other “unempathetic Link” should disclose nor help to disclose what the “R” in “Isabell R” stands for – even if it means fewer views, likes, short term ad revenue, or other “go with the flow” solutions. Nor should they tell “big lies” that push people’s buttons, vindictively incite hysterical mobs, use this to reframe being held to account as revenge, smokescreen, “project their own issues” onto Isabell (as mentioned above), interpersonally exploit her as a human shield (like Trump tried to do with the entire US after the capital riot), etc, etc. All of this results in Isabell’s suicide – and the world is devastated beyond what even this movie can portray. But it is also Frankie’s “secret guilt” over her competition with her mother in transference to Isabell and the triggering of her paternal schema that gets her to listen to her own “gut,” “take that next step,” “frankly” set boundaries with an “unempathetic Link,” and commit to the committed Jake (on “Jacob’s” ladder from earthly ways toward the heavenly). Link, whose real name is Alex (meaning guardian), also agrees that we should all be digital emigrants to some extent, that social standards (of beauty) should in fact be social, that cuts should be bandaged, that Isabell “should not have to prove that she is worthy,” that “gutless trolls” with rivalrous Electra complexes should not be so mean to “Isabella Cinderella” (or the Jenner-Kardashians for that matter…), that people pressured onto stages by manipulative “infantilizing” bullies should be rescued (perhaps a timely reference to the world’s projection of self-love toward George Floyd?), and that Isabell should otherwise still be alive and well. At the end of the movie, Frankie strides off into the world with her head held high, hair back, and with full acceptance of her scar: She walked gently into the forest within the forest And let the moon bathe in her soft light Finally knowing the stillness That had always been there This necessarily enigmatic film is another great period piece from the Coppolas as the US transitions from Machiavellian Trumpism toward conscientiously staying in the Paris Climate Accord and nuclear peace treaties: policies of Apocalypse Never for a world that should very much be saved for Isabell.

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