Thursday, 13 September 2012

How far should you go for Mr. Viral?

It goes without saying that I see a lot of films, except for the fact that I just finished saying it. I’ve seen some really good films, some really bad films, and films that fall somewhere in between. Being a filmmaker I have seen films that have started from scratch and had trouble getting traction with an audience, I have seen films go from concept to production and then disappear into oblivion. I’ve even had occasions where films have      gone on to do really well. It’s hard to tell what audiences will react to, whether positive or negative, but there are certain fundamental things which we all generally react positively to.
Mr. Viral understands this quite well. After all, it’s a film about marketing. More specifically it’s about viral marketing and the effectiveness of promoting things on the internet. It’s also written and directed by a man who spent years of his life in the marketing industry, the great Alex Boothby. I would be disappointed if he didn’t understand the basics of impulse control and how to manipulate it. What’s interesting is that as much as the film is about that side of ourselves and the potential dangers that giving in to such impulses, for profit or otherwise, the filmmakers clearly attempt to prey upon some of those basic desires within its audience as well.
For all the sex and violence and exploitation that a lot of the characters go through or have done to them, the film itself is not gratuitous. So much of what goes on that would turn the film from an R rated film to an NC-17 rating is off screen or implied more than anything. The characters get more and more depraved as the story moves forward, yet we as the audience are never entirely given a full view into just how far things have gone. Which is exactly what most filmmakers should do, particularly a former marketing guy turned filmmaker.
The story moves along quickly enough that you’re always wondering what’s going to happen next and yet you spend more than enough time with each character that you actually care and kind of worry about what will happen to them. Even as some of the characters become less and less likeable, you still care enough about them to worry about what they have gotten themselves into. This is great as well because, having read one of the earlier scripts, I wasn’t sure that they were going to achieve that. After seeing the finished product though I can see that they clearly had a vision and a focus that I didn’t really plug into at the time.
What’s interesting to me as well is that I can actually see this film being a much bigger movie if it couldn’t be done. And this is not said to detract or to be critical the film or the people involved, the actors and filmmakers did a fantastic job and I really do hope that this launches their careers, but in numerous places I could see characters being played by Phillip Seymour Hoffman, or Mary Steenburgen or Wallace Shawn. I hope that the people involved take that as a compliment, because it’s intended to be. This isn’t a film that comes off like a bunch of guys with a video camera trying to make it in the industry. It comes off like a group of filmmakers with the potential to handle a big Hollywood project. I have no doubt that when it goes to the Calgary film festival and beyond it will be enjoyed by all.
How far should you go for Mr. Viral? As far as you can take it. This film is going to turn some heads, and most of the heads are going to turn to the filmmakers and ask... what’s next?

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