Like Me

Robert Mockler (2017 80 min)

A reckless loner, desperate for human connection, sets out on a crime spree that she broadcasts on social media. Her reality quickly splinters into a surreal nightmare that escalates out of control and all in time for Christmas.


We Got This Covered

3/17/2017

Like Me Review [SXSW 2017]

by Matt Donato

Like Me is more than a movie title. It’s a plea made to an entire generation of social media users. Filmmaker Robert Mockler dives into murky online waters of constant approval, fame and millennial obsessions with a like-based culture, all prevalent in society’s 21st-century screen fixation. As a junkie tweaks for their next hit, social media users also calculate their next play at attention. Yesterday’s shocks are forgotten overnight, as audiences awake with a new craving daily. Please the masses, and watch the hits roll in. But even then, when will the hunger subside?

Addison Timlin stars as Kiya, a young woman searching for her next YouTube masterpiece. Kiya’s photographic artwork only garners so much attention from internet fans (food chewing videos/yoga poses), which means the ante must be raised. It’s a “harmless” stunt, where she holds a convenience store clerk at *fake* gunpoint – but the man (Jeremy Gardner) still pisses himself without knowing the difference. Kiya uploads the video, and it goes viral overnight to the tune of 2 million hits. The internet is buzzing about her stunt, some praising the humor, while others – like Burt (Ian Nelson) – condemn her sick social disease. Either way, Kiya realizes what the people want, and she aims to please. Even if it means kidnapping a motel owner named Marshall (Larry Fessenden).

Mockler’s style will challenge some viewers since it’s comparable to a luminescent art installation. From the film’s first shot – a glowing drive-thru mart – to its last beachy view, visuals are of a psychotropic nature. Characters ingest drugs and sniff paint, unlocking hallucinogenic highs like a neon-green eel slithering out of someone’s open wound. As Kiya plays arcade shooter games or gazes upon the ocean (between scenic palm trees), cinematography frames these neo-Vegas portraits with arresting beauty. It might be a bit too “freaky” for some during fast-paced montages that flash animated wolves and blinking eyes, but Mockler’s introspective vision-quest is a wild visual feast nonetheless.

Even more sickening (in a positive way) are Mockler’s metaphors, since Kiya is obsessed with (over)consumption. More than one scene features a zoom-in on her chewing, mouth wide open. It’s always junk food. Cheese balls. Pizza. Gummies. A comment on the sugary, toxic digital garbage we shovel into our souls. Hateful online communities, money-sapping “games” and pictures so heavily filtered you wouldn’t even recognize the subject in public. We idolize the unknown, only to have it be someone like Kiya – a product of pressures coming from voices behind a monitor. Audiences push because we want to see someone break (the new-age Roman gladiator arena). That’s what gets views these days, isn’t it? It’s nauseating because it should be. Mashed cereal between teeth is no less disgusting than children who re-post Instagram pictures until they achieve the most likes, because self-worth is now measured in cartoon hearts.

Timlin turns in a provocative, wounded performance as Kiya, so caught up in her journey for stardom. She’s a loner who lives out of her car and struggles with human interaction. Larry Fessenden’s “prisoner” Marshall represents Kiya’s only real friend, but even that’s because he just doesn’t want to die (his own food scene is a testament Fessenden’s legendary genre status). As Timlin swings on a hammock, wearing a white wig and shredded stocking mask, her confidence is nothing but a cover for vulnerability. Follower numbers and commenter discourse spike her dopamine levels. Ian Nelson’s scathing hypocrisy as a master troll should reduce Timlin to tears (another oh-so-nasty, meaty performance), but instead, she views each take-down as a challenge. “Some dumb bitch with an iPhone,” proclaims Nelson’s basement dweller, as he notes that Timlin’s just trying to find fame before she “shits out a kid and dies of cancer.” It’s a triangle of intertwined souls who mirror the internet’s darkest reaches: the fame slut, the vile ogre and the victim. All real, and all brilliantly realized.

Mockler’s aesthetic is strong and performances are powerful, but there’s a lesser through-line for Timlin’s fiery arc. One of the YouTube commenters jokes about Kiya’s ability to get away with these “pranks,” which raises a fair point as police intervention is never an issue. Although, that can be laughed off – unlike sequences that are visual-heavy and thinly scripted. Like Me benefits from style, glamor and pinkish coloring, but needs a bit stronger narrative to break the next level. Needless to say, few films actually DO reach the next level I’m referencing, and for a feature debut, Mockler asserts himself as a creatively-driven madman whose vision blisters with illuminated curiosity. He’s going to try things, and that’s an exciting feeling. Please, do no leash this man.

The internet can be a lonely placed filled with temptation, and Like Me is just one warning scenario. A movie like Tragedy Girls plays a bit more on the nose, but writer/director Robert Mockler goes the more fever-dreamy route. Consequence echoes as loudly as actions, tracing back intent to typed words that some random username didn’t think twice about posting. Addison Timlin plays a systemic product, born from human desires that are warped into a crippling addiction. Feast on Nightmare On Elm Street inspired rooms and car rides through a jelly-floating vortex (very Willy Wonka-ish), but don’t lose focus. This is a cry for reassessment that needs to be heard. You know, before we’re electing presidential candidates based on their Twitter followers…

indiewire

March 16, 2017

‘Like Me’ Review: Addison Timlin is a Psychopath for the Viral Media Age — SXSW 2017 Review

Rob Mockler’s debut is an unsettling vision of a young woman obsessed with internet fame.

by Eric Kohn

There may be no idea more contemporary than a demented character using the internet in the reckless pursuit of fame. Writer-director Rob Mockler’s debut, “Like Me,” distills that motif to a ferocious young woman so compelled to create online sensations that they drive her insane. It’s an obvious conceit and doesn’t offer new insights, but Mockler transforms the material into a solid thriller with an edgy vision of millennial lunacy, sketching out a psychopath unique to the viral video age.

That would be Kiya (Addison Timlin), a mysterious prankster first seen recording a convenience store clerk late at night as she puts a gun to his head and he begs for his life. The video instantly takes off, generating heated debates across the web and Mockler’s stylish montage captures the overlapping conversations with a knack for featuring the disorienting chaos of modern discourse.

Meanwhile, Kiya watches the mayhem and plots her next move. With no precise backstory, she’s a symbol of youth rebellion — decked out in torn jeans and dark jackets with shadowy black hair atop a piercing gaze, she’s Lisbeth Salander with a YouTube fetish.

“Like Me” falls in line with contemporary tech-thrillers like “King Kelly” and “Nerve,” in which young people exploit digital tools to fixate on the dangerous extremes of exhibitionism. Kiya’s a fascinating entry in part because she has no purpose other than her relentless quest to capture bizarre events and share them with the world. Taking a homeless man to a diner, she toys with her food to a grotesque degree, and it’s unclear what will happen next.

While her peculiar behavior is a reasonable embodiment of a mind reared on random online antics, “Like Me” initially seems like a high concept in search of a movie. Kiya’s intriguing but not particularly substantial. We learn nothing about what compelled her to these extremes, only that they’ve already consumed her. Timlin has a certain uneasiness during these early scenes, even as Mockler’s screenplay is hobbled by overstating the bigger picture. In the aftermath of her first video, Kiva finds herself in the crosshairs of an internet critic whose heavy-handed vitriol takes the material in a blunt direction.

Fortunately, he’s not the focus. “Like Me” settles into an off-kilter kidnapping saga when Kiya comes across paint-huffing artist Marshall (horror maven Larry Fessenden, in the latest role that finds him suffering for the camera) and forces him to guzzle down unthinkably disgusting layers of junk food while tied to a bed. Then they hit the road and things get really weird. Bullets fly, a rat escapes, and drug-fueled binges lead to some next-level hallucinations as “Like Me” goes down the rabbit hole of mental instability with unfettered energy.

Mockler’s imagery is a bit all over the place, but his reference points are clear. Equal parts “Spring Breakers” and “Requiem for a Dream,” the neon-soaked palette could exist in the same unhinged universes. At times the imagery suggests an eagerness to funnel existing avant-garde traditions into a fresh narrative context. At one point, Kiya playfully attempts to seduce Marshall by dangling from the ceiling in a hammock, her face obscured, like some anthropomorphized version of the human reproductive system out of Matthew Barney’s “Cremaster” cycle; later, she sits outside by the fire next to a stack of television monitors broadcasting static that resemble the deconstructive media installation art of Nam June Paik.

All of these bits unfold alongside the same discordant editing style, which includes rapid-fire cutaways to animation, closeups of chewing mouths, and other visual non sequiturs that endow the film with punk-rock attitude, contextualizing online fame seekers as the ultimate outlaws. The self-serious atmosphere gets a bit tedious, but not before an expertly realized moment of suspense — one that’s built around the construction of a tourniquet and a psychedelic vision involving horse tranquilizers.

Ultimately, “Like Me” delivers a wonderfully twisted antihero only possible in the 21st century, but falls short of giving her much to do. However, the story arrives at a grim finale as two characters keen on murdering each other crack up. It’s hard to tell whether they mean it — but that’s the tantalizing focus of “Like Me,” which drives home the notion that there’s a fine line between a mean-spirited joke and something far more hideous.

Grade: B

cutprintfilm

March 17, 2017

“What If There’s More To Tell?”

by Patrick Phillips

Film synopses are often misleading. To the point that I try not to read them. But when you’re sorting through festival screenings, synopses are usually ground zero. I gave the blurb for Robert Mockler’s Like Me little more than a casual glance and wrote it off as a tween ‘social media obsessed’ drama. Then I found a different movie to see in that time slot. But serendipity is beautiful thing. That other film’s screening was completely booked up. I was stuck in line with no plan. Like Me was next up on the docket. So I bought the ticket. I took the ride. I found out that Like Me‘s synopsis was very misleading. And that’s a good thing.

That was apparent a couple of minutes into the film. Mockler opens the action at a drive thru grocery store in the middle of nowhere. It’s night. Christmas music is playing. A burly, bearded gentlemen is minding the shop when a shabby little Oldsmobile drives up. After a tense silence, a woman’s voice simply says, ‘I want some milk.’ The woman makes her way into the store. She wears a mask. She points her camera phone at the burly man like a gun. She says not a word. It almost feels like a bad joke … until it doesn’t. When that shift comes, the scene escalates in wildly unpredictable ways.

Wildly unpredictable is the only way to describe the story that follows. That heist video winds up on YouTube. It makes an overnight sensation of Kiya (Addison Timlin) the young woman that executed the ordeal. Viewer comments drive Kiya to escalate her antics in increasingly dangerous fashion. So yes, for simplicity’s sake you could say that Like Me is a drama about social media obsession. But that’s not at all what Like Me is. There’s no ‘unfriending’ high school drama. There’s no annoying little texting bubbles or Tweeting graphics. No, Mockler takes that setup and spins an arresting tale of modern isolation from it.

 

Much of that tale unfolds on a days-long ‘crime spree’ leading Kiya on an uncomfortable late-night diner binge, to a themed ocean-side motel, and on a doomed road trip with a complete stranger. All the while her camera is rolling (minus the one precarious/hilarious moment it isn’t). And all the while her viewers fuel the fire. But Kiya never seems to get any real pleasure out of the online attention. Every escalating adventure leaves her less engaged with the real world. As Kiya’s journey descends into a surrealist nightmare, it becomes a delicate balancing act between hyper-stylized visuals and stark, melancholic realism.

Mockler proves himself more than up to the task. The first-time feature director guides Like Me through its myriad of tonal shifts and stylistic flourishes with the grace of a seasoned filmmaker. His story is erratic and prone to flights of fancy, but the finished product is fluid and focused. And his unruly story unfolds – even in its fantastical moments – with a captivating level of naturalism. The naturalism proves a stark counterpoint to the expressionistic flourishes that Director of Photography James Siewert brings to the table. Siewert and Mockler use vibrant coloring, disorienting camerawork, expressive animation and dazzlingly simple effects to bring Kiya’s nightmare to life. But they always seem to know when to reign things in. Like Me often plays like a farce, but it never feels that way.

In fact, the film is most alive in the quiet moments in between. The moments when Giona Ostinelli’s score builds a dreamy sense of doom under the stillness. The moments when Mockler lets his camera linger on the face of Addison Timlin in all of its fragile instability. The face that effortlessly projects the innocence and menace and loneliness and dismay that form the twisted inner world of Kiya.

If you’re not familiar with Timlin, now’s the time to take notice. Zach Clark used her fragile features to striking effect in last year’s Little Sister. But nothing can prepare you for what Timlin brings to Like Me. She commands every single moment of this film. She imbues Kiya with a real-world complexity that lends the story a credibility that the narrative doesn’t quite earn. And she finds a welcome partner in the ever-adventurous Larry Fessenden, who gives the performance of his career as a paint-huffing loner named Marshall (Larry Fessenden). That’s no joke, by the way. Fessenden really is great in this film. It’s the sort of performance that makes you wish he’d stop letting people poke objects through his head … or stomach … or other body parts in movies and just be an actor.

And Like Me is the sort of film that will make you wish more directors would take big chances. Much like his story, Mockler’s film plays like an escalating game of risk. Every twist and turn and unorthodox decision could’ve led the first-timer’s film to ruin. But he pushed limits. He took chances. He made a devastating little film that’s not like anything else you’ve seen before. It’s far from perfect. But it’s likely to be the most exciting debut you’ll see this year. Or maybe any.

9/10

The Iris

3/16/2017

SXSW FILM REVIEW: LIKE ME (USA, 2017) IS DISORIENTATING AND BEAUTIFUL

by Jake Tired

When I was nineteen I spent three straight days without sleeping. I had just moved to Tokyo and couldn’t cope with the light pollution or the sounds from the trains that ran behind my flat. I would spend the nights listening to relaxing music and watch films during the day. On the third morning at around 4AM I made an instant coffee and decided to put on Enter the Void.

The first thing I heard after listening to a recording of Enya’s Paint The Sky With Stars on repeat for some three hours, and not having slept through two slow nights, was the Thomas Bangalter scored opening credits. I’d never again feel as disorientated as I was in those two and a half minutes; but watching Robert Mockler’s Like Me, I came close.

Like Me marks the first time Robert Mockler has been credited as a director and writer of a feature length film. The film, which premiered at this year’s SXSW Film Festival in Austin Texas, is eighty minutes of visual portraits pieced together by tactile transitions, lucid VFX and a millennial journey.

Addison Timlin plays Kiya, a young girl who amasses a huge social following after posting a video of herself holding up a convenience store with a replica weapon. She takes her newfound popularity on the road and begins to film her encounters with a string of unusual characters, eventually taking a paedophile, ‘Marshall’ (Larry Fessenden), hostage, to mixed reactions from the online community. An antagonistic vlogger, Burt (Ian Nelson), begins to take Kiya’s videos apart, and her journey becomes visceral as Burt begins to impact both her content and her psyche.

Kiya guides us through her journey. She tests the humanity of the characters she meets, finding that a vagabond doesn’t want much more than pancakes from a diner, or that a painter who believes there is no age of consent had lost his own daughter at a young age. Kiya studies these characters and presents them to us; but often she seems to be neither a part of the film nor the viewership. She’s more like the kid holding a magnifying glass over an anthill.

Addison Timlin is perfect as Kiya, even if the character is not a strictly formed one with laborious dialogue. She has again shown her ability to completely comprehend the characters she’s becoming. Like her performance in Little Sister, she brings a sense of palpability to the role and becomes so natural as Kiya that the film, in moments, feels kind of like an Addison Timlin vlog, like she’s simply playing herself (with exception of the scenes where she’s forcing food into Marshall’s throat and telling him, “you’re going to eat or you’re going to bleed”).

What makes Like Me so mystifying to the senses is the intense cinematography and editing. Every shot is beautiful. Every background, shadow and light setting progresses the film like a series of paintings, ushering the narrative from frame to frame as if it were an exhibition across a gallery wall. The lighting and colours filter the film in two schemes, the afternoon pink skies and radiant neon signs to moments of moonlight blue and shadow. Both ethereal and at every shot, meticulously thought out.

The experimentation behind the lens continues through to the cutting room floor with disorientating and innovative shots that mess with the audience and remove any limits to the camera’s function. Shots will revolve around rooms and bury through the floor, while actors become stuck in a glitch-like trance, moving in two-second motions, back and forth on loop.

It’s these scenes that make Like Me feel like one long hallucinogenic journey. Although not directing the film, drugs play a part in Kiya’s internal narrative and are managed in a tacitly accurate sense. Ketamine is blue and calm, and doesn’t make a lot of sense, MDMA is sense-altering and intense, where mushrooms give the film its ‘baby on the ceiling’ moment, as a snake slides from Marshall’s bullet wound and into the alternate dimension that has surrounded Kiya.

At times the film does get lost in its own eccentricity, sacrificing the plot beneath the layers of art. The balance between progressing the narrative while constantly combing it to assure its uniform in style throughout, tips slightly through the second half of the film. Scenes like Kiya chasing Burt through the streets of a sunny city before inexplicably arriving at a foggy beachfront leave viewers with a decision to make about the symbolism of each moment, and what’s been done just because it looked good.

The film is still one of the most refreshing indie debuts in a long time. It is an experiment in style and as well shot as any box office film released this decade. While the plot at times fades into its own aestheticism, the acting and the unique style excel the film into rare territory for contemporary cinema.

Review Score: FOUR STARS (OUT OF FIVE)

Nightmarish Conjurings

3/14/2017

SXSW FILM FESTIVAL MOVIE REVIEW: LIKE ME

by The Creeping Craig

Writer/Director Robert Mockler’s feature LIKE ME calls for a bit of a different review.  After all, this film is all about a girl who buys into social media so much that she completely forgets how to connect with people.  Given that this causes her to kidnap someone and go on a weird spree, I think anyone watching this would agree that a traditional review just will not do this justice.

As such, let us go a different route.  First of all, do me one favor, DO NOT CLICK LIKE ON THIS REVIEW.  Let’s not perpetuate this reliance on social media.  I will very quickly know who actually bothered to read this just by whether or not they clicked like (ooh, social experiment!).

I know, this is weird, but it is very much in the spirit of this movie.

How, one might ask?

Well, you see, this piece is all about obsessing over social media.  The thrust of our action is an artist who posts a video online and suddenly has a lot of people reacting to the footage.  When someone calls her out, in a way that hits too close to home, she decides she must somehow connect with an actual person.

While this may seem like the stuff of a cerebral, introspective drama, they never quite take events in that direction.  Instead, we are offered a kidnap movie where she slowly befriends the older man she has ensnared.  Their time together is a highlight of this piece as their relationship is constantly switching from touching to combative.  The performance given by Larry Fessenden is one of the best I have ever seen him give and fans of his should run to check this out.

Addison Timlin is no slouch herself as she perfectly embodies a young, obsessive woman who is trying to figure out her place in life.  The first portion of the feature has her trying to listen more than talk, making her facial expressions our only window into her thought process.  As she begins to come out of her shell more, her range reveals itself through her vulnerability and uncertainty with human connection.

All the while, she continues her artistic and online endeavors which allows for some truly stunning visuals.  In all honesty, the look of this alone makes it worth a watch as there are so many amazing lighting features, camera shots, and color schemes at work that it really feels like a moving work of art in and of itself.  From the crazy paintings in the room to the psychedelic drugged up sequences later in the film, this is a visual feast for the eyes that is sure to captivate.

In a few recent reviews I have commented upon music, so I feel I must give just a moment’s notice to the score.  This was an odd and engrossing soundtrack that drew me in right from the get-go.  Like walking through an art museum, the score tried on many different styles to varying degrees of success.  Some I am still hearing one day later, others, though, I don’t recall as clearly, but either way I respect the approach taken as doing something wholly different is in short supply these days.

Listen, this is a movie that has a little something for everyone so I recommend all to give it a view. It is beautiful and heartbreaking at the same time with equal measures given to style and character development.  The performers are also at the top of their game bringing a lot of weight to this visually stunning journey of self-discovery.

Once again, I want to stress, please DO NOT CLICK LIKE.  Instead see this movie and talk with someone about what it meant to you.  Create a connection, get out there, be with people and experience art at the same time.

Nighty Nightmares,
The Creeping Craig

Boomhowdy

3/17/2017

SXSW Review: Like Me

by Eric Havens

There will be much discussion and dissent when conversations about ‘Like Me’, the debut feature film by Robert Mockler, break out. There will be those who adore it, there will be those who despise it, but there is no debate about one thing; this film is exactly what it wants to be. Rarely is there such an impressive example of a singular visual attack within a film, let alone a film by a first-time feature director. The film opens in a standard thriller style, there is an ominous person with a mask threatening someone.

Then something happens, the film shifts into a visual, abstract attack of colors and images. It is the closest thing on film that captures what browsing social media feels like. It is discomforting, strange, and undeniably compelling. Within the first ten minutes, Like Me captures why social media is both incredibly addictive and incredibly destructive. It eats away at us with the rapid fire images and sensations we’ve all become accustomed to. The movie, much like the internet, flashes images and sequences that tap into our pleasure center, releasing all kinds of unintended endorphins.

Then it stops.

We return to our protagonist in her red and blue world, everything reduced to primary colors. After the visual onslaught, this world seems dreary, boring, and lonely. This is the world of our protagonist. She records herself antagonizing people and uploads it to the internet. This is her drug, this is her endorphin release. But when it’s over, when the high lessens, when commenters start criticizing her, she crashes and hits her lonely world once again.

If this narrative doesn’t properly capture our post-social media world I’m not sure what would. Film, as an art form, is powerful in the sense that it can capture uncommunicable emotion and perceptions with images and colors. Mockler and his film makes full use of these tools. While Like Me isn’t a traditional narrative the sequence of events, more experiential than tangible, manage to propel ideas and characters forward with an effectiveness that is shocking. Rarely can an “abstract” film feel so relatable and measurable. In a sense, how else would you capture the essence of social media in any other way? In a world when images, videos, and updates flash by us at an unsustainable pace, how else would you capture the result on our brains than with a film that emulates the same sensation?

Then there is the exploration of the generational divide. This film is broken into three generations. The older generation, the generation of our protagonist, and the younger generation. Her interactions with the older generation is always tangible, in the real world, and confrontational. Her interactions with her own generation are exclusively online and equally confrontational. She has some supporters, many detractors, and one notable antagonist. Her interactions with the younger generation is brief, but it is inarguably her most successful communication. One wonders what statement that is making about our communal future.

So, while Like Me may not be a film everyone will be able to engage with, it is a film that accomplishes exactly what it sets out to do. It captures, analyzes, and questions our current online social paradigm with a stylized fervor that is both impressive and effective.

The Verge

3/20/2017

A surreal film explores loneliness through YouTube culture

by Megan Farokhmanesh

It’s easy to read Like Me as a fatalistic commentary on social media. Kiya, the film’s star, is a teenage YouTuber who makes the antics of personalities like PewDiePie seem quaint. In the film’s first 15 minutes, she holds a convenience store clerk at gunpoint just for the pleasure of recording his meltdown and posting it online.

But Kiya — who seems to have an obsession with older men, and a dark need for validation — is speaking to an audience. As her videos hit the internet, they spawn a web of reactions ranging from disgusting to delighted that feel right at home on the internet today.

Kiya’s driving force could be boiled down to one audience member in particular. With each outrageous new stunt she pulls, this sneering viewer has a cutting commentary on her weak “attention whore” stunts. Through online videos, he taunts Kiya, dictating new lines of one-upmanship, and pushing her to cross them. As the film progresses, so do Kiya’s ambitions; she ups her game to include kidnapping, assault, and even snuff films before she confronts her rival.

Rob Mockler, the film’s writer, directer, and editor, describes the film’s conception as part of a knee-jerk reaction to social media. “I thought it was a real absurd step for humanity, and I thought it was kind of scary in some ways,” he says. It made him seek validation in something as simple as posting a photo online — and then doubt himself if people didn’t like it. “[Social media] changed how I feel we look at ourselves. We’re now sort of crafting, we’re curating memories, we’re crafting our identities like never before. There’s this real-time sort of authorship of who we are as people.”

 Like Me pushes this idea in a fantastical, over-the-top way. The film, clocking in around 80 minutes, leans heavily into high-concept directing. It’s a strange tale told through neon colors, uncomfortable close-ups, and looped moments that Mockler says were inspired by GIFs. Kiya pursues her guaranteed self-destruction like a dog chasing a car, but she never feels like a fully realized character. She’s a living metaphor for loneliness and attention-seeking, but the film never addresses why she is this way. Her choices are erratic: she kidnaps a man, then treats him as a sort of pet, then doles out more abuse.

Kiya would be a modern-day femme fatale — seducing a man twice her age, then enacting punishment — if she weren’t so young. There’s something uncomfortable about the way the film walks this tightrope. One scene paints Kiya as a wide-eyed wild child quietly asking for stories; in another, she wears a bobbed wig and swings from a high-mounted hotel room hammock while encouraging a man to strip. Her beauty and inherent darkness is fetishized, with one character describing her looks as “wicked.” But the film is forgiving about her behavior, possibly because of her appearance: at one point a character tells her she still hasn’t committed a crime she couldn’t get away with, as a pretty girl.

Asked what the film means, or what Kiya’s motives are, Mockler was cryptic in a way even he admits is cliché. After the film, I spoke to one viewer who said it felt like a love story; to me, it felt more like modern horror. When I asked the director how he felt about both interpretations, he was vague, reiterating only that Like Me is deeply rooted in loneliness. “I think they’re all trying to connect in some sort of strange way,” he said of the film’s characters. “These are all the sort of flawed people who are kind of outliers, who are just trying to connect to other people.” He pushed back against the idea that he holds a pessimistic view of social media, saying instead that there’s simply a strange slice of it that we should question.

 “For me, [Like Me] started as this universal story about loneliness and how we try to connect with people, and how that sometimes manifests in strange, scary, and violent ways,” he says. “It’s this feeling of being lost and vulnerable and scared and feeling like you’re judged, and wanting to reach out in some way to someone else to see if they feel that, too.”

Like Me’s vision isn’t cynical, then, but tragic. Kiya has no clear goal. She’s desperate for connection, but hasn’t had to face consequences yet for what she’s done. The rush of attention she receives for each new stunt ebbs and flows like the waves of the beach the film ends on, but it’s hard to feel pity for her. She’s almost literally getting away with murder, but the weight of her actions doesn’t feel real. Like any good photo or video, Like Me aims to show only the juiciest bits. How the mess gets cleaned up isn’t for us to see.

Daily Dead

3/17/2017

SXSW 2017 Interview: Writer / Director Robert Mockler Discusses LIKE ME

by Heather Wixson

A haunting, neon-soaked fever dream that tackles the dangers of viral media and loneliness, first-time director Robert Mockler’s drama, Like Me, was unlike anything else I saw during the 2017 SXSW Film Festival, and features brilliant performances from Addison Timlin as Kiya and indie filmmaking icon Larry Fessenden as a man she kidnaps on her crime-fueled journey.

While in Austin, Daily Dead spoke with Mockler about his approach to the story of Like Me, his experiences collaborating with Timlin, how Fessenden became a mentor to him throughout the process of making his debut feature, and more.

Really great job, Robert. I would love to hear about where the genesis of this idea for the film came from. Clearly, there are a lot of issues that you tackle in this that are very relevant to what’s going on, especially with online culture these days. You took an unusual route here, and it’s incredibly fascinating.

Robert Mockler: That’s so good to hear. A fear of mine was that I know this story goes to a dark place, and I know there are moments where I’m like, Whoa, that’s kind of a walk-out moment type of situation. So this film became this whole scenario of, “Can we delicately straddle that line and not get gratuitous, but make the experience real and palpable enough to really touch a nerve without being exploitative or going overboard?”

But as far as the genesis of the idea, that came from this place where I always wanted to make a movie about loneliness. I wanted to be a filmmaker ever since I saw Star Wars, but then there were those movies that made me realize, Oh, movies can be something else, too. I saw Taxi Driver and Requiem for a Dream. That’s what really launched me on a path starting to write and doing those sorts of projects, and how I got into these “lonely man” movies, which includes Taxi Driver, The Conversation, and The Tenant.

I just saw this project as an opportunity, with this strange paradigm shift of social media, to put a magnifying glass on loneliness and filling a void. I felt that it was a great opportunity to try to do that sort of idea that I’d been thinking about for a while.

So much of this movie revolves around Addison’s performance, and she’s fantastic. She has a lot of really subtle character moments, and I was curious if those were all in the script, or did you guys workshop those together?

Robert Mockler: Most of it was in the script, but Addison also brought a lot of it just on the day, and then through conversations we would have and even through the editing process, too. I talked to her a lot because I felt like this was her character, and I wanted her to have authorship over it. The thing about Addison is that she gives you so many options that in the edit, your problem is that you have too many good takes. And it was a great problem to have, really.

She made Kiya three-dimensional, and it would have been very easy for this material, in the wrong hands, to not work at all. Addison is so delightful to watch work. It’s magical and it was a joy to watch her on set every day.

Another thing I wanted to commend you on was the casting of Larry as Marshall. He’s been a fixture in indie filmmaking for decades now, and it’s always fun when he has these cameos and smaller roles, but you give him such great material to work with here. For a big chunk of this movie, he’s just as front and center as Addison is, and I loved that.

Robert Mockler: He really is. Originally, he was just on as a producer, but I was struggling to find Marshall. And his Blu-ray box set [Scream Factory’s The Larry Fessenden Collection] had just came out, and I hadn’t seen Habit in a little while, so I watched it again. I just fell in love with his performance in that film all over again. I missed this version of Larry and I wanted to see if he was interested in going back to that. And, at first, he was reluctant. But then, when he embraced it, not only did he deliver such a sensitive and delicate performance, but he made the character all his own. Again, Marshall was a character that could have gone really wrong in the wrong hands.

But Larry was a real mentor to me throughout the entire process of making Like Me, because I’m new to this entire thing. He was someone that I could always rely on, and he was very generous with his time. If I was ever in a pinch, or was feeling insecure or I was just lost, I could talk it through with him. I love his movies, I love his ability as an actor, and he’s a great friend and a mentor.

Can you discuss how you approached the visuals in Like Me, because generally when you think of movies about loneliness, you always think of drab, cold colors. And yet, so much of this movie is very vibrant and really bold.

Robert Mockler: The idea was to reflect Kiya’s inner headspace, which is not so drab. Color is really important to me, and when I’m editing, I have to apply some sort of preliminary color grade before I can start editing, because for whatever reason, I feel like that helps me tap into the tonality of the scene. That’s a little unconventional and at times I think my producers were like, “Just find the narrative already.” I would just say to them, “But I’ve got to get the color right, first.” For whatever reason, it’s my window into the feeling of the film, and going that route helped me a lot on this.

Being an independent movie, a lot of times directors have to create these stories that take place in one location because of their budget. With this, you have multiple locations and you’re on the road for part of it, too. Was that one of the biggest challenges in terms of getting this film made, just making sure you could find these locations and be able to take the show on the road?

Robert Mockler: Absolutely. So many people would read this script and say, “Too many locations. No, you can’t do it.” And then, when I met Glass Eye Pix and I met Jenn Wexler, she thought we could do it. She helped put together a schedule that I thought was aggressive, but she was like, “I think you can do this.” And she was right. It was nerve-racking, but she figured it out. And Jessalyn [Abbott], the other producer on the project, she had this incredible ability to find amazing locations. She just found so many beautiful places, all within a close proximity, in such a short period of time. We were very, very lucky to have her.

This is your first film, which blows my mind after seeing it. And now you’re here at SXSW with Glass Eye Pix behind it, and you’ve got an amazing cast and crew all behind you. How surreal has this whole experience been for you being a first-timer and really putting yourself out there like this?

Robert Mockler: Honestly, it’s like an out-of-body experience. I don’t think I’m going to digest it until it’s over, really. SXSW is the festival we wanted to premiere at, so it’s just all been a mind-blowing experience. I came here seven years ago, and I watched the Indiana Jones trilogy on 35mm, sitting next to Robert Rodriguez. It was one of those things where I just felt connected to the fabric of filmmaking, and, as geeky as that sounds, it was so profound for me. So to be back here, with my own movie, is so cool.

Slant

1/21/2018

LIKE ME

Robert Mockler’s Like Me is an unconventional fusion of horror film, road movie, and sadomasochistic sex drama, updated for a 21st century that’s dominated by the parlance and aesthetics of online culture. Fusing stock footage, differing film speeds, and neon-hued cinematography, Mocker fashions a shifting, hallucinatory realm that’s informed by the random memes and videos that one finds online. Like Me brings to mind Natural Born Killers, which similarly suggested, per the specificities of its own time, that social culture was being overtaken by tabloid news and music videos.

In the film’s opening scene, an aspiring online personality, Kiya (Addison Timlin), pulls her car along the drive-thru of a convenience store in the middle of the night and orders milk from the clerk, Freddie (Jeremy Gardner). The actors invest the arbitrariness of ordering milk with dry comedy, but the levity of the scene curdles into something more potent when Kiya runs along the back of the building, getting the jump on Freddie in the store while he looks for her milk. Wearing a sculpted white mask, Kiya silently films Freddie, waiting for him to do something that’s presumably worthy of the internet.

This sequence has a fascinating multitude of tones and textures. Mockler cuts between the footage that’s meant to have been captured by Kiya’s camera and that representing the outer omniscient reality of the film. Kiya’s footage is dimmer, while the omniscient footage is hotter and more surreal, with vivid blasts of color. The conceit, then, is that Kiya’s inadvertently blocking out elements of life in her myopic quest for celebrity. Yet, the unreality—the movieness—of Mockler’s omniscient images underlines his own shaping of reality, rendering himself complicit with his anti-heroine. Mockler also evinces an unusual degree of empathy for the victim of this scene. Freddie has an exhausted dignity, eating pretzels and enjoying an illicit beer while ridiculing Kiya’s vanity, until she produces a gun and humiliates him.

Mockler doesn’t provide an explicit psychological profile of Kiya, and the audience learns nothing of her past and little of her present. Beautiful and wraith-like, she exists as an implicit reaction to online male fury as evinced by controversies such as Gamergate. Kiya posts her disgusting videos online and men are primarily concerned with asserting their dominance over her in the hierarchy of what they perceive to be their world, particularly Burt (Ian Nelson), a schmuck who fancies himself a master of online cruelty. Seeking Burt’s validation, Kiya ups the ante on her stunts, kidnapping a motel proprietor, Marshall (Larry Fessenden).

Marshall is quite a bit older than Kiya and can remember an age not governed by clicks and “likes.” He isn’t a modern guy, yet Marshall uses his motel as an avenue for world-building in a fashion that parallels how many of us use the internet to assert our own form of personal and social control. Marshall’s private bedroom has a ceiling that he’s painted to resemble a sky swirling into a great vortex with the overhead light suggesting a sun. Kiya’s rented room—stark white and punctuated by blasts of red—would be a perfect setting for a burlesque inspired by the films of Dario Argento. Kiya invites Marshall to come to her room and fuck her, telling him that she’s 17, seeing if he’s willing to violate a social and legal taboo. He most certainly is, and she comes on to him in a black mesh mask, straps him to her bed, force feeds him junk food, and punches him in the stomach, causing him to throw up while she films everything. Kiya’s torture is disturbing and consciously literal-minded, as she’s throwing Marshall’s piggishness back in his face.

Yet Mockler doesn’t share Kiya’s penchant for preachiness. Marshall has more dignity than Freddie, as he refuses to buckle under Kiya’s torments. Once she’s imprisoned him in her car, Kiya asks Marshall why he’d fuck a person he believes to be an under-aged girl, and he says that he savors ripeness, which can’t be reduced to a number. Marshall’s willingness to honor himself—to arguably adhere to his piggishness at the risk of peril—entices Kiya. Perversely, Marshall is a man who shoots straight with her. A scene of Kiya and Marshall driving through a fantasy-scape that suggests the inside of a blood vessel is almost romantic, as they’re entering a realm of shared subjectivity.

Throughout their scenes together, Timlin and Fessenden toe a supple line between honoring behavioral specificity and proffering an outward stylization that complements Mockler’s bold aesthetic. Timlin informs Kiya with a cruelty that’s puckish and understood to stem from loneliness without defanging the character. Timlin’s line readings have a deadpan poetry, and her swift and certain physicality parodies the notion of millennials believing themselves to know more than they actually do. By contrast, Fessenden radiates experience and exhaustion with disappointment. Over the years, Fessenden has evolved into a rock star of character actors, his rumbled, sexualized charisma suggesting a Jack Nicholson of contemporary American independent cinema. And Mockler gives Fessenden one of the best scenes of his career as an actor: Kiya dopes Marshall up on horse tranquilizers, inspiring him to stage a wounded soliloquy of angry and searching facial gestures. Fessenden physicalizes this man’s alienation as qualified grace.

Like Me is exhilarating because of Mockler’s willingness to deviate from his satire so as to surprise himself with seemingly spontaneous emotional textures and tangents. The film blossoms into a debauched fantasia of longing, potentially announcing the arrival of a significant new artist.

Cryptic Rock

1/22/2018

LIKE ME (Movie Review)

Is it enough to have people like you, or do they have to literally “Like” you and your selfies and videos? Is there life beyond internet popularity anymore? These debates are at the center of Like Me, an intriguing new Horror/Thriller from the good folks at Dogfish Pictures and Glass Eye Pix, which arrives to select theatres on Friday, January 26, 2018 via Kino Lorber.

Like Me is the story of petite pixie Kiya (Addison Timlin: Odd Thomas 2013Fallen 2016), a curious loner and self-proclaimed good listener who is traveling from motel to motel in her old-school, disheveled Cutlass Salon in search of adventure. In fact, the particular brand of mayhem that she seeks is that which she can broadcast to the world via social media. Donning a geometric face mask worthy of the next Hollywood Undead video, she begins her bizarre travels in a random convenience store where she terrorizes a random clerk (Jeremy Gardner: The Battery 2012Tex Montana Will Survive! 2015) with a gun, then uploads an iPhone-shot video for the world to imbibe.

As her “Likes” increase and the vlog-o-sphere goes wild, Kiya develops a bit of an archnemesis in the emphatically-opinionated vlogger Burt Walden (Ian Nelson: The Hunger Games 2012The Boy Next Door 2015). As if to raise a loving middle finger to her followers, Kiya befriends a bum named Henry (Stuart Rudin: The Silence of the Lambs 1991Little Nicky 2000), and the pair go for pancakes. While the meeting is bizarre, it ends rather uneventfully and Kiya moves on to her next motel hell where she tangoes with the middle-aged and seemingly meek Marshall (Larry Fessenden: Habit 1995Stake Land 2010). Their encounter will lead to video gold for Kiya, and a strange friendship that provides the bulk of the film’s material.

Clocking in at 84 minutes in-length, Like Me is a debut for Writer/Director Robert Mockler. While the film is billed as a “psychedelic Horror Thriller,” it leans more heavily on the Thriller genre than anything Horror. Which is not to say that there is nothing dark or haunting here because the content of the film is peppered with drug use and violence, and should, therefore, be considered a TV-MA/R offering.

The cast here is a small group that measures just five key individuals, and each actor does a superb job in their complex roles. As the perplexing young Kiya, Timlin is superb at moving the plot along without ever stammering or stumbling in her figurative big boots. She beautifully depicts the contradictory nature of so many of today’s youth: wanting to, at once, heal the wounds of the disenfranchised while holding a gun to the head of others; tender with her pet rat, but flippant over another human-being’s welfare.

Though their roles are fairly incidental, both Gardner and Rudin are excellent in their abilities to portray their unique characters and lend a believability to the entire production. Fessenden, as Marshall, is just as brilliant as Timlin, offering up a stunning performance of an oddly-conflicted, middle-aged motel owner who is, at times, candid and sincere and, in other moments, somewhat disturbed. Similarly, Nelson, as the infuriating and yet oddly insightful Walden, is wonderful, giving life to a polarizing vlogger who you will love to hate.

Like Me is a tale deeply embedded in our modern age and, while the subject matter is mature, this is a film that is aimed at the generation who communicate in GIFs and aspire to be nothing more than YouTube vloggers. The overall vibe here is that of a cerebral stoner art flick, if you will: a kind of delicious blend of fine art film and film school project. In fact, Like Me is even visually bizarre and awkward at times, with colors processed in such a way as to create a hyper-reality that could exist only in the online world. Furthermore, the scene transitions are oft overlaid, creating a real-life double-exposure that moves the plot from place-to-place in visual metaphors. In short, Like Me is shot like a music video with psychedelic lighting and vibrant colors that pop, creating an arresting visual presence that demands attention.

If a fine art student met a film school student and they dropped acid while fornicating, they would likely birth something along the lines of Like Me. A vibrant, technicolor blend of lust and gluttony, this is a film that explores the idea of chasing a life without regrets, despite living for the attention of others. The fake vlog response videos are spot-on throughout, perfectly embodying the contradictory and ridiculous nature of online life and the utter impossibility of living for yourself while being controlled by others.

Above all else, Like Me is a social commentary aimed at the vapid and narcissistic individuals who seem to chase a dopamine rush online while meticulously documenting the crumbling of our society like apes with cameras. Understanding that there is vast irony in naming the wannabe philosopher Walden, CrypticRock give Like Me 4 of 5 stars.

Halloween Every Night

1/22/2018

REVIEW: ‘Like Me’ Is More Than Teenage Angst

Like Me presents us a beautifully twisted villain that’s only possible in 2018. Directed and written by Robert Mockler, this psychedelic thriller follows the journey of a teenage killer who broadcasts her crime spree on social media.

She amasses a huge following after releasing a video of herself robbing a convenience store at gunpoint. After the authenticity of her videos are questioned by an Internet troll, she drifts deeper into a chaotic spiral of drugs, torture and gluttony.

The aesthetic of the film is strong, and imageries unforgettable. Like Me benefits from the pinkish, neon-soaked palette, emphasizing the lucidity of this unhinged, absurd universe. Our main character, Kiya, manifests her inner void with binge eating and her continuous hunting for the next victim.

Like the bold imageries, the editing style is similarly jarring with many cutaways as well as close-ups of greasy, chewing mouths. It gives the film a rebellious attitude, putting our social-media-obsessed protagonist in the body of a psychopathic outlaw.

Variety

1/22/2018

Film Review: ‘Like Me’

A disaffected girl uploads videos of her crimes, including those involving a prisoner, in Robert Mockler’s stylistically far-out indie.

Online media provides no cure for disaffection in “Like Me,” a formally eclectic journey into the dark heart of a twentysomething girl who uploads videos of her criminal activity. Debut filmmaker Robert Mockler uses this premise for an impressionistic portrait of modern estrangement, using all manner of stylistic devices to capture his protagonist’s tumultuous psyche. The film’s lack of a traditional narrative will no doubt alienate many, but for the more adventurous, it offers a uniquely weird take on loneliness and lunacy.

That unconventionality isn’t immediately apparent, as the action opens with a masked girl in a hoodie arriving at a drive-through convenience store. Barging inside, she uses her cell phone to record the increasingly agitated employee (Jeremy Gardner) — then pulls a gun on him, causing him to wet himself. Escaping in her car, the assailant, Kiya (Addison Timlin), returns home. And then, out of nowhere, the action bursts into a bewildering spasm of montage: Kiya’s head shaking blearily; her mouth chewing candy and pizza; a hand on a TV broadcasting static; spinning shots around her as she does push-ups on the floor. The shots freeze, stutter and meld together to Giona Ostinelli’s fuzzy, thudding, looping electro-classical soundtrack of feedback noise.

After this audio-video assault, replete with a garishly overblown color palette courtesy of cinematographer James Siewert, Kiya checks the number of hits on what now appears to have been her prankish attempt to make a viral video — and the comments and user response vids that have greeted its debut. Her initial euphoria turns to misery due to a scathing review from a guy named Burt (Ian Nelson), who profanely lambastes her as a “nobody” who should “do us all a favor and slit your wrists.” The rejection hits Kiya hard, and sends her back out onto the streets, where she picks up a scraggly homeless man and takes him out for a feast at a nearby diner. Alas, upon returning from the bathroom (where she stares at herself in the mirror, pulling at her eye as if to see what’s beneath her skin), she discovers that even this stranger has abandoned her.

Not ready to give up on her quest to forge some kind of relationship with someone, Kiya checks into a motel where she faux-seduces the manager, Marshall (Larry Fessenden), then ties him up for a bit of unappetizing sadomasochism that creates another million-hit YouTube sensation. Their ensuing, deviant-Stockholm Syndrome-ish dynamic is dramatized with little exposition, but many more collage-like aesthetic seizures. Campfires transform into stacks of televisions, glowing eels swim out of gunshot wounds as cars navigate trippy bubble landscapes and swirling-sky vortexes (painted on ceilings and spied in reality) hover overhead — all images that speak to Kiya’s crushing dislocation and isolation.

The avant-garde barrage grows wearisome, but Mocker’s film remains, throughout, laser-focused on his subject’s schizoid condition, which is exacerbated, rather than alleviated, by contemporary technology. Moreover, alongside Fessenden’s typically scraggly-yet-assured turn, the performance of Timlin (2016’s “Little Sister”) brings some equilibrium to the topsy-turvy proceedings, potently conveying the ways in which Kiya employs various guises — tough stick-up woman, generous altruist, nubile temptress, avenging angel — to mask her little-girl hurt and longing for compassion and validation.

The Village Voice

1/23/2018

Click “Like” All Over the Gonzo Social-Media Video-Art Feature Like Me

by April Wolfe

I once read a treatment for a music video proposed by some experimental filmmakers. Their work seemed to defy words, so in the description, they simply wrote: “Never boring! Always interesting!” This is how I might partially sum up Robert Mockler’s directorial debut, Like Me, a vomit of color, sound, strobes and milk — milk? Yes, milk — centered on a young woman, Kiya (Addison Timlin), who becomes addicted to the thrill of recording people humiliating themselves and then uploading the videos to her website.

Mockler seems to be striving for profound revelations about human connection (or lack thereof) in the digital age, but in fiction that kind of meaning best comes from character rather than circumstance. (See: Ingrid Goes West). Still, Timlin so fully embodies the role of the sociopathic Kiya that this often-gruesome buffet of wild imagery bathed in hot pink impresses even with a thin, nearly nonexistent story. And Mockler’s and Jessalyn Abbott’s artfully chaotic editing style, full of ultra-slow dissolves, double exposures and scrubbed footage playing forward and backward in time as if the image is possessed, elevates Like Me to video art.

Timlin showed up on-screen like a fresh breath of air in Zach Clark’s Little Sister, one of the highlights of 2016. There she played a meek nun; here, she vibrates with anxiety. In the opening scene, Kiya dons a mask and holds up a drive-through convenience store — not to steal money or goods but to bring the cashier to his emotional breaking point on camera. Imagine a Winona Ryder–circa-1994 type huffing with excitement as she peels out in the parking lot, the look of shock crossing her face blossoming into a tenuous smile.

Of course, within hours that video draws more than 2 million views and a horde of response videos — that’s how the internet works in movies. Mockler cuts these unnervingly realistic videos into the narrative in quick succession, so it feels like random people are commenting on and critiquing the metanarrative of the film as it unfolds. Most say inane things like, “This dude pissed himself!” and “Kudos to that girl” or “She should be ashamed of herself” with detached amusement. But one king of YouTube, aka Burt Walden (Ian Nelson), pops up with multiple videos instructing Kiya, the “attention-starved whorebag,” to slit her wrists, using the exact hyper-vocabulary that real-life MRA trolls adopt to feign intellectual superiority.

Cruelty begets worse cruelty. Kiya kidnaps an equally despicable motel owner, Marshall (Larry Fessenden), and records an assault of her forcing cereal and milk — there it is! — down his throat. Burt goads her into tormenting the man to even more violent extremes to prove herself worthy of her newfound internet stardom.

If this film succeeds in revealing anything about modern life, it’s that the ubiquitous dudes of the internet who message women death threats more often than they brush their teeth are cowards who will forever demand more and worse — and then move the goalposts again and again to keep women barred from their fabricated worlds.

Kiya is a formidable opponent for Burt, leaning into a maniacal nihilism that Timlin sells with terrifying zeal. It’s a wonder she hasn’t been snatched up for a big-budget drama somewhere, because it’s a rare talent who can play a whimsical nun and a terrifying, Lair of the White Worm–weird villain with equal believability.

Slash Film

1/22/2018

Like Me (January 26, 2018)

Robert Mockler’s Like Me may only represent a single cinematic example of social media’s toxic stranglehold, but it’s a damn fine one. This artsy fever-dream of abstract neons and foodplay is fueled by an obsession with floaty heart-shaped “likes.” Addison Timlin stars as an artistically ambitious outcast who’ll do whatever it takes to achieve viral fame, while poor Larry Fessenden finds himself caught in the middle, among others on the outskirts of Timlin’s circling storm. Performances are strong and direction is full of curiosity, as Like Me strikes the core of our society’s current obsession with measuring value in digital clicks.

The Los Angeles Times

1/25/2018

‘Like Me’ peers into dark corners of anti-social media

Bust

1/26/2018

In “Like Me,” A Young Woman Goes On A Crime Spree For The “Likes”: BUST Review

A neon-drenched thriller, Like Me follows Kaya (Addison Timlin), a loner and YouTube vlogger on a crime spree. Egged on by her followers, she broadcasts her cross-country rampage on social media, hoping to amass “likes.” Fueled by drugs and junkfood, Kaya’s erratic junket spirals into ever increasing violence, Written and directed by Robert Mockler, Like Me is a horror film that explores isolation in the age of digital connectivity. Kaya’s character exists in a virtual reality of her own making. Like a Vine or YouTube sensation, she lacks development, and her motive—internet fame—seems disproportionate to the severity of her actions.  Yet, it’s the possibility that anyone can be pushed to the edge in pursuit of viral success and the belonging it brings that drives the film. Kaya’s gender also complicates the audience’s response to her often sexual, violent crimes, allowing us to let out a disgusted, but satisfied gasp when she preys only on (mostly terrible) men.

At times nausea inducing, Like Me, is not for the faint of eyes and stomachs. But, like watching a car crash, it’s hard to look away from the film’s psychedelic, tilt-a-whirl visuals. 3/5

Film-Forward

1/26/2018

LIKE ME

Comparable to It Follows, A Ghost Story, and It Comes at Night—to name a few films dubbed by The Guardian as “post-horror’”—Robert Mockler’s feature debut Like Me can be similarly placed in such a category. However, unlike those films, which deconstruct the tropes and stereotypes of horror, Like Me offers a highly kaleidoscopic twist in the well-worn genre.

Mockler imbues his lead character Kiya (Addison Timlin) with an addiction to social media, as well as psychotic tendencies, resulting in an autonomous female lead. After filming herself on her smartphone robbing a convenience store cashier at gunpoint, Kiya proceeds to go on a junk-food crazed criminal and viral spree. The movie rejects the premise of ‘the final girl’ in slasher films and speaks to a society constantly consumed with technology and its disturbing repercussions.

The sensory and evocative, experimental images are filled with consumptive sequences of Kiya’s mouth grotesquely eating pizza, sweets, and other such junk food (as well as vomiting), all of which place viewers into her peculiar psyche and her eccentric online profile. As the consequence of the holdup video going viral—it is an Internet sensation—the footage fuels her cravings for more notoriety, and she becomes consumed by adoring fans and the online attention of the public outcry, particularly from vlogger Burt Walden (Ian Nelson), who punitively condemns her footage. Kiya’s video is a modern extension of fast food: quick and easily digested, underlying the gratification and constant consumption that thrives on the darker side of the web

In the present moment, it is hard not to see the themes that are fundamental to the film as echoing those on Netflix’s Black Mirror. The wonder which initially greeted technology in the 1990s and early 2000s has slowly seeped toward a tangible tension that is being constantly discussed in all forms of art. Such feelings go back to images of Big Brother in the novel Nineteen Eighty-Four. On the other hand, the film channels the movie A Clockwork Orange through cinematographer James Siewert’s work. Mockler and Siewert are not afraid to express their central character through the vice of vivid colors and wide lenses to accentuate these Kubrickian and Orwellian scenes. In a low-angle shot of Kiya swinging on a hammock under a blood red ceiling, the masterful filmmaker is evoked.

As Kiya, Addison Timlin offers a riveting take on a media-obsessed, manipulative, and deceitful millennial. The character channels David Cronenberg’s Videodrome in fulfilling her deepest sexual fantasies through technology, chiefly in luring a hotel manager (Larry Fessenden) with sex, only to tie him to a bed and force feed him junk food while filming him. Again, Mockler is swift to place emphasis on the parallels that run between both forms of consumption; one tangible, the other metaphysical. Furthermore, similarities run between Like Me and the criminally underrated Ingrid Goes West. Akin to Audrey Plaza’s performance—one of the best of 2017—Timlin portrays Kiya’s narcissism to a degree that heightens her sociopathic qualities.

At times, Like Me’ milieu feels more style than substance, but that style is undeniably unique. Though it falls a little short on bestowing Kiya with any true pathos, Like Me still offers a refreshing and innovative perspective in a genre that is as old as film itself.

Punch Drunk Critics

1/26/2018

Review: “Like Me” Is A Fascinating Visual Thriller About The Perils Of Internet Culture

In this day and age of a movie industry that is more focused on ROI and creating franchises more than they are worried about creating something with artistic quality that is meaningful and worthwhile, the thriller Like Me; written, directed, and edited by Robert Mockler; starring Addison Timlin, Ian Nelson, and Larry Fessenden; is a breath of fresh air to say the least. Watching this movie is akin to an outer body experience; it’s like nothing you’ve ever seen before and for that reason alone I think that everyone should give this movie a watch if the opportunity ever presents itself.

This is one of those movies where one simple viewing does not suffice. Your first viewing is so much of a mindfuck that I guarantee that most of your time will be spent on trying to understand what it is that you’re taking in and I don’t mean that in a negative way at all. It’s that kind of positive confusion that’s due to the abrasive, sometimes disturbing, and even uncomfortable images matched with the overall absurdity of the situation at hand that draws people in and keeps them engaged to the very end. However, don’t get me wrong, this movie still requires that kind of active participatory viewing on the part of the viewer because there are those scenes that are not heavily reliant on the “What am I watching right now?” kind of reaction.

Once you get past the overall shock of it all and do ultimately decide to give the film that much needed 2nd watch that is when you are able to then get into the story and its reason for creation. This movie is a social commentary on the perils of isolation that has been caused by this new, millennial, internet culture.

The main character is a 17 year old named Kiya (Timlin), whose mission it is to go out of her way to commit these heinous and outlandish acts, risking her own freedom and life in the process, all in the name of internet fame; this film truly exemplifies the idea that “any publicity, is good publicity.” However, one of the things that we are meant to understand is that through this search for notoriety from people that you don’t personally know it in turn, creates this immense sense of isolation and emptiness because that striving for that sense of connection is, at its core, based on these false pretenses that if you have people that are giving you attention, it can then fill that void of loneliness, when in reality it can’t.

In my attempt at trying to find out more about the man behind one of the films that I know will continue to have an impact on me for years to come, I was surprised to find that this was Robert Mockler’s first film. Visually, this movie was everything for me. I love coming across filmmakers that remember that film, at its core, is a visual medium and then attempt to experiment with it in a way that I’ve never seen before. I also wanted to quickly add in that Mockler’s use of color is amazing. I’m someone that pays quite a bit of attention to the use of color in film and his choices filled my heart with immense amounts of joy.

Getting into the actual meat of the plot I know that it’s something that I’ll have to watch and sit with quite a few more times to be able to really unpack everything that I know is there. Any film that requires that kind of activity on my part is something that I can appreciate, truly.

Robert Mockler, if you ever get the chance to read this, I just wanted to personally thank you for creating a piece of art that has reminded me why it is that I love film and why it is that I know that I have chosen the right passion to pursue. This movie was incredible and it’s something that everyone should put on their “must watch” list.

Rating: 5 out of 5 

Birth Movies Death

1/26/2018

LIKE ME Review: NATURAL BORN KILLERS For The YouTube Age

Logan Paul caused quite the scandal lately. For those who forgot, he’s the YouTube star who uploaded a video from his sojourn in Japan, detailing a trek through the infamous Aokigahara “suicide woods” near Mount Fuji. Amongst the trees, Paul stumbled upon the corpse of a victim – a man who’d recently hung himself. The vlogger showed the body, and then laughed off the entire event, later apologizing and saying that he deals with trauma “through humor”. Many mocked the kid; while others wondered aloud if this wasn’t an opportunity to study vlogger culture, devoting some serious time and thought to the forms of social media that millions upon millions not only derive entertainment, but legitimate self-help from. Everything from makeup tutorials to depression aids are available for those looking for a voice to guide them, while others log on just to skewer these self-produced pieces of micro-expression in the comments section. Analyzing media that’s engaged with on such a widespread level cannot be a bad thing.

Writer/director Robert Mockler’s Like Me decides to skip the critiquing entirely, jumping headfirst into confronting those who’ve built a space in this digital arena that acts as their stage, a plug into the public consciousness for whatever fucked up desires have consumed their brains. From its opening scene – where the papier-mâché-masked social media broadcaster Kiya (Little Sister‘s Addison Timlin) holds up a convenience store and forces the vulgar clerk (The Battery‘s Jeremy Garnder) to piss himself – we’re viewing fractured moments through a screen. As the midnight-shift townie screams, begs, and cries, the mask allows our girl to dispassionately put her cell phone behind the silenced gun she’s brandishing for him to see. It’s made abundantly clear that the device is extending the audience beyond these two, transmitting into a verified psychosphere until she dashes back into her car and drives away.

If this prank is the first piece of art in Kiya’s online gallery, then the commenters and reaction videos are her critics – screaming their thoughts and feelings into the void to try and even come close to matching the 950,000+ views she’s generated via the act of drive-by terrorism (which, admittedly, didn’t end in a robbery or murder). The harshest hot take comes from a fellow YouTuber with the single moniker of Burt (Ian Nelson) – an acidic prince of suburbia who hisses for her to cut her wrists (and make sure to slice the right way). His words burn into Kiya’s eyes as she watches from inside her spartan room, setting the girl off on a road trip across the country, filming the whole way to obtain the validation of strangers in this neon-soaked anti-reality. We’re never given a backstory or a sense of her family history. The only info we know about Kiya is from this trip, and the videos she films, as Mockler allows the audience only slightly more access than her haters.

Like Me is Natural Born Killers for the post-YouTube epoch, savagely existing in a too bright purgatory between fame and normalcy. The ceiling of a motel room Kiya rents from fume-huffing Marshall (indie horror maven Larry Fessenden, who also produced Mockler’s insane vision) is painted with fake blood, and vintage furniture is crammed into the corners. When she invites the manager in for a possibly ill-advised tryst, she ends up zip-tying him to the bed and swinging above his head in a hammock, before force-feeding him junk food until he vomits. The crimes she commits and films are innocently non-lethal, allowing her to remain somewhat accessible to online peers. Yet once she kidnaps Marshall and piles him into the trunk for the rest of her road trip, it turns out these two just might be lonely souls who’ve collided into each other like cosmic molecules. Or maybe the motel owner is simply experiencing a bout of psilocybin-tinged Stockholm syndrome, a minor diversion before he decides to off himself.

As good as Timlin is – and she’s really, really good as the self-minted icon of digital rebellion – Fessenden steals the entire movie out from under her as Marshall. Equal parts melancholy and sleaze, he slowly gives in to this hallucinogenic journey, all while injecting moments of tiny truth into the proceedings. Were this an actual drug trip, Marshall would embody the hidden inner monologue that appears from time to time after the peak – whispering about the worst things you’ve ever done, while simultaneously giggling at how your surroundings keep shifting. It’s a dynamite performance that reminds you of the stellar work he did in his own micro-budgeted horror films during the ’90s, now playing godfather to a new generation of weirdo mavericks like Mockler.

And what a truly bizarre nightmare Mockler has crafted, as we never feel like we’re experiencing a plane of reality quite like our own. James Siewert makes his feature debut as a cinematographer, and Like Me should be earning him job after job once producers lay eyes on it. Each frame is sharp and colorful – a wave of garish primary blues and violets that transform every scenario into a poster-ready tableau. Inserts are cut together and bombard us with reactions to the events, as well as Internet representations of how our YouTube Bonnie (and her captive Clyde) feel from moment to moment. Layered on top like glass-laden birthday cake icing is Giona Ostinelli’s mix of portentous drones and hypnotic ambient compositions, a glimmering soundtrack fit for this otherworldly trip to the other side of oblivion.

No spoilers, but Like Me ends with Kiya’s emotional response to her most heinous act – a fictional mirror to the Logan Pauls of the world, desperate to try and understand the drive that causes some folks to do anything and everything, just to earn a few more lonely clicks. Kiya’s journey isn’t an easily sympathetic one, nor is it judging her for all her awful impulses. Instead, Like Me presents her and Marshall’s trek for you to consume and then process your own gut response, before (more than likely) transmitting it into a personal sphere of influence, however broad or limited it may be. It’s a challenging, complex work of confrontational art, announcing the arrival of a talent who should be producing stellar work for years to come.

Crome Yellow

1/26/2018

Film Review: ‘Like Me’

Like Me captures the all-too-real search for authenticity in a YouTube age. It’s a reflection of being inundated by quickly-forgotten viral videos, how artifice has become reality, and how we’re addicted to content that we’re simultaneously repulsed by. Like Natural Born Killers filtered through Tumblr-ready, glitched-out gifs, Robert Mockler’s film is a neon nightmare that digs into primal instinct with striking aplomb. Definitely not for everyone, the film’s ingenuity and dreamlike haze is undeniably a knockout for those willing to brave it. Stars Addison Timlin and Larry Fessenden are also a knockout, giving the film’s inexplicable madness its raw emotion. Original, beautiful to look at and all around insane, Mockler’s film is a technicolor powerhouse that rings with purpose.

Things kick off as Kiya (Addison Timlin) holds up a rest stop at gunpoint. Masked and armed with a cell phone, she records everything, subjecting an unsuspecting employee to demeaning acts of cruelty. She then uploads the video online, where it goes viral and she becomes an anonymous, overnight sensation. Naturally, the entire thing is a rush for Kiya, but it’s a high that fades fast, leaving her thirsty for more. Unsure of how far she can push things, she quickly gets on the road, searching for her next thrill. It comes in the form of a lonely hotel owner named Marshall (Larry Fessenden), who initially accepts a dubious proposition from Kiya before she eventually kidnaps him and stuffs him into her trunk. Kiya and her “prisoner” soon find out that they share a perversely common middle ground, however, longing for connection while living lives seemingly without form or void.

There’s a lot going on in Mockler’s stunning debut. It succeeds as both a bold sensory experience, and an intimate story about two souls floating through the cosmic ether. In fact, what makes the film so impressive, is how Mockler uses his fierce style and hyperrealism to present an existential search for meaning. At every turn, the story subverts how we expect to feel about its characters, turning typical archetypes into something more urgent. As Kiya and Marshall run towards an uncertain (but obviously destructive) future and the world tries to satiate its thirst amidst disposable stimuli, Mockler explores unsaid hunger through the fringes of society. But while scenes unfold with slow, hypnotic suggestion, the film never slows down in terms of making us think, piling on lurid images and twists as Kiya and Marshall cling for anything that’ll last.

Even though the film’s visuals stand on their own as shifting nightmares, Timlin and Fessenden are the story’s anchors. As Kiya, Timlin draws us into her oppressive reality in a way that’s utterly magnetic. Timlin is a presence that can’t be ignored, in command of her settings and those around her even as she grapples with her own, unknown internal struggles. It’s a testament to the actress that she can make us understand her character even if a lot of her concrete details are kept shrouded. Opposite, Fessenden near steals the show. Initially introduced as a timid pawn in Kiya’s game, Fessenden’s Marshall never bows to our expectations, adding a bit of wry humor and a character full of unsuspecting depth. In the horror genre, Fessenden’s a legend and a staple, and this is another role that shows us why. Ian Nelson’s Burt, an online nemesis of sorts for Kiya, rounds things out even further, playing a character were made to hate, who again challenges perception.

If this is anything to go by, Mockler’s going to be a voice that needs to be heard. In the hands of any other director, the film could’ve been a senseless shocker using its snuff aspects as a misguided attempt to aimlessly shock. Instead, this is a film that unfolds with sharp psychedelic poetry, one in which its most oddly touching scene features horse tranquilizers, and where its depth comes from what isn’t said. Like Me counts the cost of connection in a world where everyone’s connected, but not listening, and is a tactile journey that haunts in all the right ways.

Daily News

1/26/2018

5 new movies opening in LA this weekend

Like Me: Nicely transgressive and stimulatingly psychotronic, this tale of a gothy gal trying to become an Internet star by uploading videos of men she torments fails to make much psychological sense and suffers a narrative nervous breakdown in the stretch. But there’s fun while it lasts, thanks to the remarkable Addison Timlin’s (“Little Sister”) demented sphinx lead performance, those of no-budget genre movie eminence Larry Fessenden as her most willing victim and Ian Nelson as her harshest online commenter, and debuting writer/director Robert Mockler’s pulsating style. The filmmaker captures the nasty world of viral outrage better than most who attempt it, too, even if he seems to have no idea what to say about it.

 

Paste Music

1/26/2018

Like Me

Like Me is an indictment of a life spent “extremely” online: a thriller in which the thrill is the threat of empty transgression; a body horror flick in which the body horror is the way social media and Tumblr and Reddit and YouTube transform us, make us grotesque, perverting basic physical functions into scary, dysmorphic representations of the flesh sacks we carry around with us whenever we’re not online. Early in the film, writer-director Robert Mockler introduces us to the online world of our main character, Kiya (Addison Timlin, terrifying), via a disturbing barrage of hyperreal, gif-like images—close-ups of sugary cereal and milk chewed sloppily, of a viscous tongue mid-slurp, of Kiya doing weird kinesthetics in a dirty motel room while the camera capsizes and arises around her, this Manic Pixie Dream Girl who embodies each of those words as literally as possible. Though Mockler implies that these are all curated posts Kiya’s put online, we believe that this is how she sees the world. Aided by some seriously heady opioids and hallucinogens, she can’t help but digest her lived experiences without mitigating them digitally.

Mockler seems to understand that such an obsession gives Kiya a kind of authority, a sense of control over her world, even as it alienates her from pretty much everyone else. The film opens with a stunt perpetrated on some schmuck, Freddie (Jeremy Gardner), a clerk in a drive-up convenience mart. Wearing a bone-white mask, like a pixelated Eyes Wide Shut get-up, Kiya asks for milk (maybe the most filmable of all liquids) but then turns her phone’s camera on Freddie, waiting. The tension becomes unbearable as Freddie increasibly humiliates himself, unsure what’s happening but unafraid of the petite woman silently watching him…until she pulls out a gun, still filming, and orders Freddie on his knees. He begs for his life, and at the possible end of it, pisses himself. That’s all Kiya wants, even if she wasn’t sure until that moment that a grown man making minimum wage peeing his pants was something she wanted, so she shows Freddie that the gun isn’t real. Escaping back to her car, screeching away, Kiya breaks into laughter, horned up by what she’s done. Cue Mockler’s nightmarish credits.

Holing up in the aforementioned motel, binging on shit food and drugs, Kiya uploads the video of Freddie ruining his slacks and wakes to it having gone viral. She’s apparently achieved something: After watching the many varied YouTube takes and Vic-Berger-like remixes—Mockler prominently featuring a Milo Yiannopoulos stand-in, Burt (Ian Nelson), who calmly encourages the person who filmed the video to kill herself—Kiya continues on her ill-defined quest. She picks up an old homeless man (Stuart Rudin) and buys him dinner, insisting her tell her a story. Watching, we’re as nervous as he is, unsure whether she’s trying to be kind or about to commit something severely fucked up on this poor guy.

As Kiya moves through Mockler’s pink-ish, neon dystopia, DP James Siewert shooting Timlin as if she’s stranded in the middle of a Michael Mann joint, everything seems on the table. Pushed by her nascent virality into attempting to capture greater extremes on film, Kiya lures a motel manager, Marshall (Larry Fessenden, better than excellent), to her room—another room, another motel, somewhere on this stupid planet—with the possibility of sex. Instead, he finds Kiya’s redecorated her room like an outtake from The Cell, testing the lonely guy’s willingness to go along with whatever insanity’s in store. Of course, some icky gastrointestinal calamity occurs, but Marshall never flinches, so Kiya kidnaps him and takes him with her.

From there, Kiya and Marshall bond despite their volatile meeting, sharing pieces of their neuroses without delving too deeply into their backgrounds. Though Marshall eventually reveals an event in his life that sheds some light on why he seems to be game for whatever, Kiya is a blank slate. We aren’t ever sure why she’s doing what she’s doing, or where she comes from, or where she gets her money, but Mockler never insists that explanations hide in her past, either. She pursues identity—validation—through her presence online, her whole life suspended between the control she exerts in forming that identity, and the helplessness she feels in needing the approval of a bunch of strangers in order to make it from one day to the next, from one motel to the next. Meanwhile, Burt exists at the edges of this film, our anti-Chorus chastising Kiya for her viral videos while foretelling an inevitable confrontation that will rip down the veil of “likes” and clicks that exists between them.

Gorgeous and gross in equal measure, propelled by the sense that anything could happen, Like Me is a visual feast. Mockler conjures setpieces out of practically nothing, crafting each frame with a meticulous symmetry that belies the chaos at the heart of Kiya’s impulsive odyssey. Maybe we aren’t given a reason for what she’s doing because Kiya doesn’t have one. Same with Marshall: Like Me is a sad, funny, upsetting road movie about two people—two addicts—who can’t find any purpose in their lives besides the pretense of purpose. Their lives are means to an end, most likely an end not worth the means, an end Mockler portrays with the familiarity and intimacy of someone who’s struggled with the same, as we all have, as you are, reading this right now, before you switch browsers to something less boring.

Knockturnal

1/27/2018

Film Review: ‘Like Me’

What if David Cronenberg started out on YouTube?
To say that we have grown attached to social media is an understatement. In addition, many current celebrities have become famous thanks to the things they share through social media, and it gives the impression that anyone can become famous this way. This doesn’t work for everyone, though, and as a result, not only do we occasionally forget about the physical world around us, but we also lose a grasp on the idea of relationships. That is the issue surrounding Robert Mockler’s directorial debut Like Me, which was given a special screening Thursday night at the IFC Center.

The main character of the film is Kiya, a lonely young woman who is obsessed with becoming famous. Her attempts at achieving fame involve her filming the people she chooses to harass. When she gets the kind of reaction she wants, she leaves the scene, goes home and uploads an edited version to her site. As far as her life goes, we do not see her do much else except watch the amount of views her videos get, as well as the responses her viewers post. Among these responses is a rather ruthless young man named Burt, who calls her out on her desperation for attention and suggests that she is worthless. His constant trolling doesn’t thwart Kiya, though, as she decides to move forward with her spree and finds another victim in the form of motel owner, Marshall (Larry Fessenden). After getting his reaction on camera, she finds herself starting to bond with him. When she decides to have him tag along with her journey, we get a glimpse of how she views the world, and where she could possibly go from there.

One can see that this film was inspired by David Cronenberg’s Videodrome, not only its theme of excess in tastelessness, but also in its visual style. There are many moments in the film that stand out just by how surreal and colorful they look. The opening sequence, for example, consists of a montage of random shots of Kiya laying on her bed, with some close-ups of movement. This is shot astoundingly, with a dizzying camera movement going through the floor, around, and through the floor again, as if the audience is spinning in a circle. Shots like these are so mesmerizing, that even after the film is over, I myself still wonder how they were able to film that. On the other hand though, some rather grotesque extreme-close-up shots of mouths filled with food, distract from the visual style a bit, and feels like watching an actual YouTube video. Could this be an intentional decision on Robert Mockler’s part?

Something else to appreciate with this film is how Mockler manages to blur the lines between reality and the Internet, at least in terms of how we perceive behavior. This opening scene, for example, shows a character being filmed by Kiya, who decides to throw straws around while making funny noises just to appease her. Mockler cuts back and forth to the film and the phone footage. Subtle edits like that dare you to examine human behavior and how it looks in different formats. While I can’t say that this is the first film to do this, it feels fresh here because of the bleak atmosphere that Mockler applies to the scene.

Like Me also reminded me of 2017’s Ingrid Goes West, which stars Aubrey Plaza as a mentally unstable woman who uses social media to get up close to a celebrity. Both Ingrid and Like Me display the dangers of social media obsession and how misguided their respective characters’ views on relationships are. Like Me, however, takes it to an unusual level, because of the excessive and aimless lengths Kiya would go to make the slightest connection. This act is executed well, mostly thanks to Addison Timlon’s performance as Kiya. This would be a daring role for any actress, considering that the character is socially separated from the rest of the world, but Timlon has great on-screen charisma, and makes her characters disturbingly interesting.

‘Like Me’ is a nauseating, yet somewhat fascinating look at the way we obsess over social media. With all of this said, I am not sure whether or not this film works as a whole, because the conclusion doesn’t exactly wrap things up, which is interesting because the film is less than 90 minutes. However, despite the somewhat incomplete story, the visual style is great, and the references to Cronenberg’s work in the film’s favor. So as an experimental film, however, it works fine. To “Like Me,” I say “I do, but that is as far as I will go.”

 

Uproxx

1/25/2018

Larry Fessenden On ‘Like Me’ And The Changing Attitude Toward Horror Movies

Despite a long resumé as a producer, director, and actor, Larry Fessenden isn’t exactly a household name, outside of diehard horror circles. Fessenden, however, always has the larger world in mind. His mostly low-budget movies all incorporate larger themes alongside the scares. Fessenden acts in and produces Like Me, in which a young woman named Kiya (Addison Timlin) causes a firestorm of controversy via line-crossing prank videos. It’s the first feature from writer/director Robert Mockler, and Fessenden took on the project via his company, Glass Eye Pix. We spoke with Fessenden about bringing new filmmakers under his wing, the role social media plays in our lives, and how this year’s Academy Awards is part of a changing perception of horror movies on a whole.

Given your history working with up-and-coming filmmakers, how did Like Me first cross your path?

Well, I’ve grown up with a lot of movies with first- and second-time filmmakers, and I have a producing partner named Jenn Wexler who became aware of the project. It was sort of looking for a way to get made, and that’s something that we like to try to do. We had a much bigger budget at first, and as time went on, it seemed harder and harder to raise the kind of money we thought we needed. It was more of a road movie at the time, but our motto is to do it at all costs, and so we dropped the budget and reduced the footprint of the story to more like the Rockaways, and we made it for a lower budget.

It was a great experience working with Rob Mockler and [producer] Jessalyn Abbott, they’ve been with the project for many years, and to finally put it on screen was a great triumph because so many movies can die in this process of trying to achieve a bigger budget. If you alter the vision, you can do it efficiently with a great crew, and that’s how we did it.

Is that the kind of experience you’re used to working primarily in the horror genre?

Yeah, that’s really the vibe, and we fill that niche. Obviously, there are great films being made at bigger budgets, and that’s something to aspire to. A lot of the people who make work out of Glass Eye are able to move on and work with more money, but I like the petri dish that is low-budget. You really have to be resourceful and you can break out an artist and catch them when they’re finding their way. Of course, part of this is also helping the artist [and] giving them support. Obviously, Rob had a very unique vision and we were so thrilled to pair him up with James Siewert, his cinematographer, who has a very strong vision as well.

That’s part of it. Pairing people up and getting artists together to really do something unique. When there’s not a lot of money, then there’s not a lot of suits who are nervous who are worried about losing it, so you can be more creative in this sphere.

So you’re able to lend your specific kind of expertise as a producer under these circumstances?

You really go from A to Z [in] every aspect of a production you consider, and you try to find the best way, and the most efficient way, to express what he’s after. He really wanted a bold vision influenced by Kubrick and all the usual beloved artists. So it’s really about listening to what the director’s priorities are, telling them what they probably can’t do, but what’s another version of that. You’re always trying to hit the ambition and the vision and figuring out is there an alternative way to do it.

Also, he never made a feature, so [you] get what is most important on the screen. He had made a short that I really liked that was sort of a scene from the movie. I really liked how he could make a really interesting movie with that confidence you can suffer through some of that stumbling [with] first-time directors.

Was playing Marshall always part of the deal, or did that come along later?

One day he invited me out for a drink and I said, “Sure man, we’ll talk directing.” We’re getting closer and he said, “Actually I have you here for another reason. I want you to play Marshall.” I was very touched because I have an actor’s ego, you know. When you’re invited to be in the movie it’s always special and this is a slightly more substantial role that I usually play. But I told him I had to think about it and then you know agreed shortly thereafter.

And then that became another way that I was creatively engaged, the character changed a little from what he had originally written and as it does when you work with a director and you have specific actor, everything on the page alters slightly, that’s also the magic of making a movie.

It’s interesting because Marshall spends the bulk of the movie as a victim of Kiya, but he puts himself in that situation initially through revealing some kind of unpleasant aspects to his character.

Well, I really feel that whenever you play a character you have to find the sympathy, and of course the real fun thing, I always say this, if you play a villain, you have to humanize him and I try to direct that way as well. You know if I have a character that’s obviously the bad guy, you still try to find the humanity, because even bad people don’t think they’re bad. That always gives a dimension other than the classic mustache [twirling]. So that’s just my natural inclination, leading with empathy.

Clearly, this dude is coming up to see this young girl and it’s a little inappropriate, especially nowadays. But I come as a character through his obvious loneliness. Basically, his brain cells are shattered, [but] he does have a backstory where he basically fucked up and lost his daughter. So there’s a lot of loneliness to his character and the fact that he makes bad choices, I think, is driven by that fundamental sadness. And that’s always a way into a character.

Obviously social media has become a sort of weapon in the arsenal of the horror genre. But here it’s more than just the method, it’s the madness, too. All of Kiya’s actions are driven by the pageviews, the comments, the reaction videos, all the controversy she’s creating online.

Well, it’s Rob’s project first, and it’s his world. I think he’s one of those guys that’s on YouTube a lot. Instagram, Twitter, sort of tracking life in that way, that’s a medium I don’t have any engagement with. And I have a lot of questions about how social media is dividing us and confusing us, so I have a point of view which is why I get very excited when someone brings a project that fits that niche. I always say the reason I like producing is because I can’t make all these movies myself.

But to be able to produce the movies that address social media and loneliness is fantastic. It’s all Rob’s vision, but I’m very excited to be a part of getting that out into the world. And what I like about the way he uses social media is that he used it cinematically. You know there’s a lot of movies about our engagement with social media that show the screen all the time, and I think what he manages to do is instead show the fracturing of the mind, and that’s a much more cinematic depiction of what’s happening to us. We’re sort of becoming impatient, fractured, we’re incredibly lonely whilst feeling engaged.

So I like that it’s still a cinematic expression and that also has to do with James Siewert’s camera work and all the colors that Rob wanted to use, and this very fractured editing where you’re just being thrown from non-sequitur to non-sequitur and the animations and all of the editing style is jiggery. I think he’s sort of expressing how our brains are sort of fractured rather than the alternative, [which] is constantly showing someone on their computer. But that’s not interesting visually.

It all speaks to your larger body of work. It’s horror, but there’s always some kind of underlying philosophy to it. But there’s always been a kind of aversion to the genre, in terms of a mainstream acceptance. But this year, movies like Get Out, a comparably low-budget horror movie that also speaks to much larger social issues, is up for some Academy Awards. Whether or not it’s a longshot to win, do you see this as a larger acceptance of the genre?

Well, I think this is an exciting day to be talking about this because there’s Get Out, which is social commentary as well as horror, [and] horror has always done that. That’s what’s thrilling about it. That’s why it’s perennial. That’s why it always works. Westerns come and go, but horror, [has endured] since the 30s, since the 20s, from the very first movies people are engaged with fear and their anxieties. Horror movies express the natural anxieties and obviously [Jordan] Peele made a mega movie about racism that we get to see through the lens of horror. So it’s sort of a safe way to address that.

I mean we had Moonlight last year, also fantastic, but that was considered high art and drama, whereas to do it in a horror film is to have access to audiences [who] are more open. But also we have Shape of Water, which isn’t horror, but it’s a monster movie. And what could be more spectacular that [it’s] being recognized, because the thing about that movie is that it’s just about a creature that’s an other? I would argue that that’s also about race and using metaphor to express our anxiety is such a powerful thing and this is really the value of fantasy is to use metaphor. It’s actually a way to depict race, sexuality or [another] niche for the viewer.

It’s so important that these movies exist and Guillermo Del Toro is about the power of the monster. So it’s a great moment in cinema to have these so-called B-Movies recognized for the power [and] the catharsis they offer the audience.

Film School Rejects

1/26/2018

ROBERT MOCKLER ON THE INSPIRATION BEHIND HIS CRIME SPREE FLICK ‘LIKE ME’

The first-time filmmaker tackles isolation in the obsessive age of social media.

Robert Mockler’s Like Me is an unshakable film. Here is an aggressive, often angry assault on our desperate desire to connect in the age of likes, follows, and retweets. Concerned with the cinema of isolation, Mockler partnered with genre legend Larry Fessenden (HabitWendigo) and actress Addison Timlin (Little Sister) to produce a visually visceral descent into the psyche of the social media obsessed. Not quite Natural Born Killers, the crime spree of Like Me  is a pulsating and painful conversation surrounding our Information Age addiction.

After making a significant splash at last year’s SXSW Film Festival, Like Me is finally ready to be set loose upon the rest of us. We talked with Mockler about the anxiety of putting your baby out into the world, the challenges of capturing the language of YouTube, and the inspirations that fed his narrative.

Honestly, I found Like Me to be a rather difficult watch at times. It’s so aggressive in its visual language. Or, at least, maybe the internet culture that it is absorbing or adapting is so aggressive.

Got you. In what sort of way?

When you’re adopting the unfiltered look of a wannabe YouTube star or Facebook Live or whatever, it’s such a caustic environment. You’re playing in that realm, attacking us with that imagery spliced into the narrative, and it can be really uncomfortable.

I see, I see. Okay. In a way that works for you, or in a way that it’s difficult to watch, that you’re distracted by it?

I think it certainly works in antagonizing the viewer, and maybe it aligns with your message. But it’s not an easy sit.

I see. Got you.

What was your approach to adapting social media content into your narratives?

Oh, man. That’s a tough question to answer, I guess. There are actually a lot of films that I felt were important to helping unlock that, to a degree. Věra Chytilová’s Daisieswas important to me. I felt like there’s sort of like connective tissue there in a lot of the ways that she was exploring editing techniques and stereoscopic effects. I think there are similarities and… Sometimes with internet vernacular there, the way that she’s using this fast cutting imagery and what sometimes can seem like non-sequiturs but actually has some sort of abstract emotional connective tissue.

Enter The Void was also something that sort of helped me piece this together. More specifically, I think the opening credit sequence, that was something that was inspiring, that energy, that frenetic sort of fragmentation. I was just trying to convey how I feel I absorb information now. I can only speak from my own empirical experience of this, but my attention span seems to have shrunk, I feel. I notice that I feel uneasy when things are too silent. I require noise and stimuli to the point where I kind of had to actively try to treat that in some way, if that makes any sense.

You’ve talked about how, when you set out to make a film, when you’re looking for your subject matter, you specifically were looking to tackle loneliness.

Yes.

When you thought of loneliness in the 21st century, you immediately go to our obsession with phones and the internet?

I think that’s only an element. I’m not expert when it comes to social media. I’m certainly not some kind of internet guru. I have my own thoughts and opinions, it’s something I’m sort of addicted to in my own way. But for me, social media is just one element among many that the film explores, and it’s not necessarily the central focus. It’s really just kind of a tool that has become infused into our everyday life. I don’t think it’s necessarily a blatant, corrosive force, because it really just reflects our amplified impulses and behaviors that are sort of innately in us. Some of those things can be ugly and horrifying, but they’re undeniably human. I think sometimes social media can be an incubator for our tendencies to try to escape our isolation and a certain powerlessness due to sort of like a communal pleasure in humiliating or judging people. But for me — and bear with me on this — hopefully it doesn’t get too convoluted.

No, you’re good.

Guillermo del Toro said, to him, Frankenstein was sort of about the essential loneliness of man and sort of being thrust into this world you didn’t create and didn’t understand. Bride of Frankenstein was about this absolute compulsion for company and the need not to be alone. For me, I did my best to try to explore those two concepts. Addison’s character is rebelling against the world she doesn’t quite understand, while searching for companionship and an outlier to quiet this pain and restlessness that she feels through her isolation. That outlier ended up being Marshall, who is played by Larry Fessenden.

So, you don’t necessarily see Like Me as a Black Mirror cautionary tale?

I think it could be, but I don’t really want to necessarily point anyone in one direction. I like the idea of not… I’m always trepidatious to solidify a meaning because I feel that that could potentially rob someone’s personal experience with the movie. But I think that’s certainly a valid interpretation of it, if that was one’s interpretation.

How about your own relationship with your phone or online entertainment? I know you have a Twitter feed. You’re well connected. You’re out there promoting this film using social media. Has your relationship with the online culture changed in making this movie?

I don’t know. I guess. I’m still trepidatious of really getting out there with Twitter in any sort of… I don’t really use it that much, to be honest. I use it as sort of a news aggregate. I try to use it more sort of like an information aggregate. I don’t know that I’m terribly active with it. I don’t know if that will change, one way or the other. It’s all sort of foreign territory to me in some way and also very familiar, but I feel like it is that way for a lot of people.

It has been a long road from SXSW for you. Now Like Me is finally hitting theaters. What has it been like living with this film as a finished product for so long and now finally unleashing it upon the public?

It’s like this fusion of excitement but then anxiety and terror. I remember watching an interview with Ti West a while back, and he was talking about how making a film is a very traumatic experience. I didn’t really understand that until I went through the process. You feel vulnerable in some way. I gave everything to this thing for five years, so it’s anxiety inducing to see where it goes but very exciting that it’s finally going to live outside.

You act as writer, director, producer. You co-edited the film. I imagine that there are various stress levels in each of those positions in putting this together.

Yeah. I guess that’s true.

At what stage were you the most confident in what you were producing? When did you feel like you really had something here?

Probably during the edit. You go out and capture these pieces during production and you have an idea of the tonality and how these performances and these characters are going to come together and what the atmosphere and the mood is going to be like, but you don’t really have a firm grasp on what the thing is until you start putting it together. I would say during the edit is when I started to figure out what it really was.

Is there a moment in the film where it all clicked?

No. I feel like every element is intended to cohesively sit together. I don’t think that there’s necessarily one scene that is more important than another scene.

How did Larry Fessenden get involved, first as a producer and then as an actor?

It’s a long story so I’m trying to figure out how to truncate it, but that will get boring. I was working with a producer, James Belfer, who produced Compliance, and he had just finished producing Prince Avalanche. He started this accelerated program for filmmakers that my partner and I, Jessalyn Abbot, who is also a producer on a project and an editor, we got accepted in. It was sort of a process of, we were developing a script and we were trying to look for the right producing team to partner with to really bring this to life. We were struggling to find someone, a team that we shared the same sort of philosophies that we were comfortable with.

I met Jenn Wexler, who is a producer at Glass Eye Pics, and she read the script and she loved it. We had a long conversation and Jessalyn and I felt really comfortable with her. She eventually introduced us to Larry and then we all just kind of sat around the table and talked and got to know one another. We all got along really well. Then it was months down the line that I revisited Habit. I love that film. I love his performance in it, and I felt like there were similarities between his character and Marshall, certainly dealing with loneliness in some way and addiction in some way. I felt like it could be a good fit, he could really give a humanity to that character.

What was his biggest contribution? I know he’s acted as a mentor to you over the filming of this, so, what was his contribution behind the scenes to the script that you really took away from it?

I think that’s just really it. He was a mentor in the sense that he helped me find a level of confidence and ask the right questions to help me explore that material. I could talk with him about the stresses and vulnerabilities that you might feel going to this process. Just being able to talk to someone who has been through it so many times themselves as a filmmaker in many different capacities was invaluable.

I can imagine he would be a goldmine of information.

Yeah. I was so lucky to meet him and I’m so fortunate that he was interested in the project.

I found it to be an incredibly visceral experience. As I attempted to say at the start of our conversation, at times it was hard for me to look at the screen just because of the images that were assaulting me and the pain that radiates from Addison. She’s phenomenal in the movie.

Oh yeah, she’s brilliant.

What was your relationship with her? What was your relationship with her? How did she take to the material? How did she process it with you?

She was attached to the project for months. After a while I was sort of able to write for her specifically and we were able to exchange ideas. She was really involved, even through post-production. I wanted her to have ownership over this character and really feel like it was her own. She’s so incredibly smart and has so many great instincts. Like Larry, she was just another amazing ally that I was very fortunate to find to really gravitate to the script, love the script, put her all in it, sacrifice for it, went above and beyond. I really could not have been luckier there.

Now the film is done, and it’s coming out, where do you want Like Me to reside in the cinematic landscape? What films do you see this movie, your movie, sitting next to in the great video shelf in the sky?

I don’t think that’s for me to say.

No aspirations?

No. I have films that I love and I admire, but I would never say that I hope it sits behind this certain film or that certain film. Hopefully it finds an audience and hopefully certain people connect with it.

Are you eager to jump back into it? Your film has barely been born yet, but are you eager for another child?

Oh, yeah. Of course. I love the whole process. It’s like nothing else. I hope I’m fortunate enough to have the opportunity again.

The Verge

1/26/2018

Rob Mockler’s surreal film Like Me explores loneliness through YouTube culture

It’s easy to read Like Me as a fatalistic commentary on social media. Kiya, the film’s star, is a teenage YouTuber who makes the antics of personalities like PewDiePie seem quaint. In the film’s first 15 minutes, she holds a convenience store clerk at gunpoint just for the pleasure of recording his meltdown and posting it online.

But Kiya — who seems to have an obsession with older men, and a dark need for validation — is speaking to an audience. As her videos hit the internet, they spawn a web of reactions ranging from disgust to delight, and they’d feel right at home on the internet today.

Kiya’s driving force can be boiled down to one audience member in particular. With each outrageous new stunt she pulls, this sneering viewer has a cutting commentary on her weak “attention whore” stunts. Through online videos, he taunts Kiya, dictating new lines of one-upmanship, and pushing her to cross them. As the film progresses, so do Kiya’s ambitions; she ups her game to include kidnapping, assault, and even snuff films before she confronts her rival.

Rob Mockler, the film’s writer, directer, and editor, describes the film’s conception as part of a knee-jerk reaction to social media. “I thought it was a real absurd step for humanity, and I thought it was kind of scary in some ways,” he says. It made him seek validation in something as simple as posting a photo online — and then doubt himself if people didn’t like it. “[Social media] changed how I feel we look at ourselves. We’re now sort of crafting, we’re curating memories, we’re crafting our identities like never before. There’s this real-time sort of authorship of who we are as people.”

Like Me pushes this idea in a fantastical, over-the-top way. The film, clocking in around 80 minutes, leans heavily into high-concept directing. It’s a strange tale told through neon colors, uncomfortable close-ups, and looped moments that Mockler says were inspired by GIFs. Kiya pursues her guaranteed self-destruction like a dog chasing a car, but she never feels like a fully realized character. She’s a living metaphor for loneliness and attention-seeking, but the film never addresses why she is this way. Her choices are erratic: she kidnaps a man, then treats him as a sort of pet, then doles out more abuse.

Kiya would be a modern-day femme fatale — seducing a man twice her age, then enacting punishment — if she weren’t so young. There’s something uncomfortable about the way the film walks this tightrope. One scene paints Kiya as a wide-eyed wild child quietly asking for stories; in another, she wears a bobbed wig and swings from a high-mounted hotel room hammock while encouraging a man to strip. Her beauty and inherent darkness is fetishized, with one character describing her looks as “wicked.” But the film is forgiving about her behavior, possibly because of her appearance: at one point, a character tells her she still hasn’t committed a crime she couldn’t get away with, because she’s a pretty girl.

Asked what the film means, or what Kiya’s motives are, Mockler was cryptic in a way even he admits is cliché. After the film’s SXSW opening, I spoke to one viewer who said it felt like a love story; to me, it felt more like modern horror. When I asked the director how he felt about both interpretations, he was vague, reiterating only that Like Me is deeply rooted in loneliness. “I think they’re all trying to connect in some sort of strange way,” he said of the film’s characters. “These are all the sort of flawed people who are kind of outliers, who are just trying to connect to other people.” He pushed back against the idea that he holds a pessimistic view of social media, saying instead that there’s simply a strange slice of it that we should question.

“For me, [Like Me] started as this universal story about loneliness and how we try to connect with people, and how that sometimes manifests in strange, scary, and violent ways,” he says. “It’s this feeling of being lost and vulnerable and scared and feeling like you’re judged, and wanting to reach out in some way to someone else to see if they feel that, too.”

Like Me’s vision isn’t cynical, then, but tragic. Kiya has no clear goal. She’s desperate for connection, but hasn’t had to face consequences yet for what she’s done. The rush of attention she receives for each new stunt ebbs and flows like the waves of the beach the film ends on, but it’s hard to feel pity for her. She’s almost literally getting away with murder, but the weight of her actions doesn’t feel real. Like any good photo or video, Like Me aims to show only the juiciest bits. How the mess gets cleaned up isn’t meant for us to see.

Collider

1/26/2018

Addison Timlin on Her Arthouse Horror Movie ‘Like Me’ and Playing Hillary Clinton

Whether she’s playing a brassy Hollywood starlet in Californication, a young nun in crisis in Little Sister, or an artist hungry for connection in the new arthouse horror thriller Like MeAddison Timlin is an actor who disappears seamlessly into her roles. From the thoughtful construction of the character’s look to the finely tuned frequency of their energy, Timlin can be sneakily stealth as she moves from character to character.

In Like Me, Timlin plays Kiya, a lonely, reckless artist who broadcasts her art-project-via-crime-spree on social media, starting with a self-filmed convenience store robbery that goes viral, earning her the attention but not the connection she’s desperate for. From there, Kiya’s internet-famous journey earns her a YouTube troll and takes her along the coast, where she pushes the boundaries of her art and morality with the help of a kidnapped, paint-huffing loner played by genre staple Larry Fessenden. Debut director Robert Mockler infuses the film with bravura aesthetic, an avant-garde assault on the senses that turns Kiya’s lunatic art-spree into a topsy-turvy trip down the rabbit hole.

With Like Me now playing in theaters, I recently hopped on the phone to chat with Timlin about the film. She talked about the art incorporated into Mockler’s unconventional script, creating Kiya’s physicality.

This is movie is pretty far out and almost like a video art installation at moments; it has a really distinct and creative visual flourish. And I’m curious, how much of that flourish was evident in the script when you got it?

TIMLIN: It was pretty evident in the script when I got it. The way that Robert had written the script was that he had links to visual references throughout the whole thing. So that was one way that made it easy for me to digest in the broader scope of what his palette was looking like, and what he was trying to make. Visual symbolism of certain elements, and it seemed like he had certain sizzle reels almost for different parts of the film. Different montage feelings, or different colors. I also have to say that from when I read that script, compared to what we made, it’s really so different. The narrative seems quite different, and I think Kiya changed quite a bit, and I think there was more of a blend of reality and that kind of surrealism. Initially, I think it was leaning towards a more hyper version of itself, if you can believe that. But I did have a pretty good idea what I was getting myself into, but mostly after I met Robert and we talked about it. But I knew right away that I wanted to do the movie, because there was a lot that wasn’t on the page, but the thing that was on the page was a lot of loneliness, and that was what drew me to Kiya and the project itself I think.

She’s a really fascinating character, and you get to go to a lot of interesting places with her. What were some of the complexities in her that you were excited to explore?

TIMLIN: Well, I think that she is really lonely and I think she’s really angry and I think that she was living in a world that she didn’t know how to fit into. I mostly think she’s an artist, and I think that a lot of … That’s what art is, is channeling your perspective to the world and your pain to the world, and I think that the kind of stuff she was doing and what she was making was really reflective. I think she was trying to hold a mirror up to her generation and her peers, and was fascinated by the attention it got her, and how that was her feeling of connection in the world. But it was all rooted in this thing that she thinks. That’s the root and the heart of it. That she wasn’t fond of who she was as a person.

You’re an actor who I don’t always recognize right away, which is definitely a compliment. It takes me a minute to realize that I’ve seen you in a bunch of stuff before, and that happened again with this film. What was your process in developing Kiya’s look?

TIMLIN: Well, thank you by the way. I’m really flattered by that and the way that a character looks is always a really big part of how they come to life for me. When I met Robert, I had platinum blonde hair and it was long. That stage in my life didn’t last so long, but it was platinum and chopped off for a significant period of time, and I think that that was kind of what we thought was going to be who she was a little bit, but then it kinda became more interesting I think for me to … There’s the implication that someone with platinum blonde hair is someone that’s really doing it. You know what I mean? It takes a lot of maintenance, so then I kind of wanted to get rid of that element of it, and I also had gone from doing this movie, Submission, and then I did Little Sister right afterwards, and Little Sister … She needed to look the way she looked. Then it was kind of easier for Robert and I to talk about. We both pulled the same image from the internet with the same picture of Winona Ryder. I sent it to him, and he was like, “Oh, that’s the picture I’ve had on my desktop all week.”

So it kind of lined up that way, as my look had changed and we were supposed to shoot the film in the summer and then we shot it in the winter, and so to kind of keep her in more of a darker realm, and also I wanted it to be a hair color and style that didn’t require any maintenance, because I didn’t think that was what she was about. That’s kinda how we got there. And I also think that we dressed her in a lot of oversized clothes and all this stuff. I think that sexuality was for her something incredibly foreign and a real part that she was putting on, and the real childlike nature of how we made her look and how that’s who she really was. I think we did pretty good job. I thought our costume designer was great, and we all had a pretty similar idea of what we were doing.

A lot of the tension in the film comes from exploring that sexuality, and also other strange versions of power dynamics and unexpected power shifts. How did you enjoy digging into that element as a performer?

TIMLIN: I really loved that element of that character and how she’s exercising power over people that could very easily have power over her. I think men specifically, and I think it’s rooted in a lot of things and I feel like a lot of women are living in that world a little bit. I think that the idea that she’s using her body for sexuality in that first scene with Marshall, and then also, it’s looming all this threat over him because the way that she’s presenting herself — it’s illegal what he’s about to do and she’s filming it, and it’s that kind of … The threat that that has over him is really intense, and I thought it was a really interesting way to get that across, the way that that scene happened. And also, forcing him down this road in this absolutely, insanely aggressive way, but really just being this tiny, tiny person.

So yeah, that was really interesting for me, and also when I’m talking about her anger, I think that is a pretty fundamental part of Kya. I think that that comes from abandonment and loneliness, and we don’t really reveal anything of where she’s coming from or where she’s going, but the fabric of the character for me was how much pain she was in. And I think pain translates to anger more often than not. So when it comes to Burt, I think he’s a triggering presence and I think that her anger is so gigantic that the way that the movie ends is kind of like a catharsis in some way, but it was also something that she — That’s the element of her life that’s just not curated at all. And she doesn’t have control over it, and I think everything else is incredibly curated.

When it comes to curated lives, in everything from Black Mirror to Ingrid Goes West, there’s all kind of stories centered on social media right now. What do you think Like Me brings to that conversation?

TIMLIN: I don’t really view the movie as being a social media movie. I really think it’s more a movie about loneliness, but I think it’s a conversation that we’re bringing in. I think that there is something incredibly lonely in the fact that we are living in a world where we’re not experiencing anything unless we’ve documented it. I think that’s a big part of it, and I also think that she’s putting these really violent and really grotesque things on the internet and then people are enjoying it. I think that’s what she’s doing, is she’s … That’s what I meant when I said it’s very reflective. I think she’s kind of holding the mirror to people and going like, “This is really how detestable we truly are.”

Larry Fessenden is such a figure in genre movies and you can always count on him to bring a singular quality. You guys got to explore some really interesting dynamics together so I’m curious what your experience was like working on that relationship.

TIMLIN: I really loved working with Larry, and Larry to me is one of the all-time greats, and is truly a character actor and he’s an actor’s actor and it was wonderful to work with him because I think we both kind of understood that the movie was going to rely on the vulnerabilities of these two people, and this kind of unlikely friendship. My favorite line in the movie is when she goes, “Are you scared of me?” And he says, “You might just be the best thing that’s ever happened to me.” I think there was just two people, two characters that were going through a similar thing and feeling really isolated, and are really misunderstood and however fucked up their journey is together, they’re together, which is better than the alternative. I just think that Larry as a person and as an actor was able to be so vulnerable and so honest in that character, and it was really magical to work with him.

Before I run out of time with you, I definitely want to ask about taking on the role of Hillary Clinton. What did you want to bring to her story and what did you like about how the script handles that part of her story?

TIMLIN: I don’t know exactly how to talk about that movie because A, I haven’t seen it, but B, the way that it was written was … It’s not a biopic of Hillary Clinton at all. It’s a hypothetical commentary, I think. In that way, the script isn’t based on anything exactly true, but it’s based on certain elements that we know about her life at that time and then kind of filling in the blanks of what we think a young woman might be like. Ayoung woman who is about to enter this career of being a public person, and being a public servant, which brought the intentions at 20 years old to become the President of the United States. It’s kind of about what personality that is, and how she’s kind of navigating that journey in that time in her life.

That was, to me, the hardest part. The hardest part was to play someone that was a hyper intellectual, because I’m not. And truly it was memorizing those lines and speaking in a way that was so clear and without anything um… like “um” or “like”. [Laughs] That was the hardest part, and also, I admire Hillary Clinton so deeply and I wanted to at least, if I was going to be doing a movie in which the implication is that we’re portraying her as a young woman, that I was playing a young woman that was incredibly poised and had a lot of potential of being the leader of the free world.

And it goes without saying that the results of last year’s elections were utterly devastating. Because I think I felt connected to that young version of her. It was really heart breaking. Because that’s the thing that draws me to any character that I play is that either that I recognize them in myself, or that I don’t recognize them even a tiny bit. And those are the two specificities that I look for. My job is to give them heartbeats and life and thought, and I think over the years, I’ve played a lot of young women that are incredibly complex and totally different from each other.

Nightmarish Conjurings

1/27/2018

INTERVIEW: WRITER/DIRECTOR ROBERT MOCKLER FOR LIKE ME

A hypnotic, psychedelic acid trip for the eyes, LIKE ME (2018), the new film from first time writer/director Robert Mockler, opens in limited release on January 26th and lands on VOD on February 20th.  The film stars indie icon Larry Fessenden (Marshall) and Addison Timlin (Kiya) and is produced by Fessenden’s Glass Eye Pix and Dogfish Pictures. This fascinating story about loneliness and the extremes an attention starved girl will go to on her quest for love and acceptance, incorporates spellbinding cinematography and powerful performances and represents everything I love about indie film. LIKE ME is a visually striking endeavor and I was thrilled to have the opportunity to talk with writer/director Robert Mockler about his first film on the day LIKE MEpremiered in New York.

Nightmarish Conjurings: Hi, Robert! Thank you for taking the time to talk with me about LIKE ME! How are you?

Robert Mockler: Hi! I’m freaking out. (laughs)

Nightmarish Conjurings: Congratulations on the premiere!

RM: Thank you! How are you doing?

Nightmarish Conjurings: I’m good, thanks! First I wanted to ask you why did you want to be a filmmaker and how did you get started?

RM: I just fell in love with it. I don’t know why. I just love movies. I wanted to go to film school, but I couldn’t afford it, so I spent a couple of years trying to figure out how I could afford to go to school. I was actually misdiagnosed with MS and that was sort of like a moment. I’m really fortunate that I don’t have MS. I’m very lucky, so it was just a little scary moment. That was a time in my life where I wondered why am I not doing what I want to do. There was a local community college near me and they had a really amazing equipment room. I signed up for classes and there was a Professor there who was really pretty great. I met my producing partner Jessalyn Abbott there and it’s a small program; there’s not a whole lot of people who sign up for the classes, so we had unlimited access to all the equipment. We were learning about lighting and learning about different cameras, learning editing software and learning how to do it. We were so lucky. It was an affordable option and we found a great Professor and we could afford it!

Nightmarish Conjurings: This is a pretty wild film, but it also addresses some serious social media situations that are really relevant right now. What was your inspiration for the story?

RM: I always wanted to make a movie about loneliness and America’s obsession with the outlaw. These ideas started to converge into what I thought could be interesting territory. For me, social media is just one element of the film. It’s not necessarily the central focus of the film. Loneliness is just ingrained in our lives and it’s a part of many of us and it’s this major paradigm shift. I think at first people were trying to figure out a process and didn’t really understand to what extent it would infuse with our lives. I’m not an expert on the matter. I’m not an internet guru in any way. I just kind of have some opinions on it. I really don’t think social media is an actively corrosive force. It reflects or amplifies what alienates us and things are ugly and horrifying. That’s what sometimes bubbles to the surface. Social media can also be like this weird incubator for people to escape our isolation and our powerlessness. We kind of strangely resort to this communal pleasure of humiliating people or condemning people. For me social media is just a tool, so I think that’s coming from some place within us. It’s not so much for me about the tool itself, but what it is inside of us that the tool is exposing.

Nightmarish Conjurings: The entire cast is amazing! What made you decide to cast Larry Fessenden and Addison Timlin in the roles of Marshall and Kiya?

RM: I met Larry maybe two years into the project and showed him the script. I was introduced to Larry through Jenn Wexler, who is a Producer at Glass Eye Pix. I met her and she read the script and she really liked it. I really got along with Jenn and was comfortable with her sensibilities. Glass Eye knows how to band together and do something through very little resources, but not compromised. That’s a rare thing to find and we were incredibly lucky. For a while we were just searching for that sort of producing team. I met Larry and he was only on board as a Producer originally. I was familiar with his work and his Blu-ray box was being released around the time that I met him.  I revisited Habit on Blu-ray and I saw a lot of parallels to Marshall and his character Sam. I thought he could bring a humanity to Marshall that was really necessary or else that character could have just completely fallen apart. I would always annoy him with questions about filmmaking (laughs). I just asked him if he was interested and luckily he said yes. I was lucky enough to be introduced to Addison and we had instant communication and instant short hand which was so valuable. We were in a situation where we knew we were going to be in a really tight production window. We needed to be able to communicate and feel comfortable with each other. We ended up not making the movie until after I met her. It was great to be able to meet her and we were exchanging ideas all the time and it was great to be able to tailor the script to her. Writing a role with someone in mind is usually beneficial. She’s so talented and has so many amazing ideas and I was just lucky to be able to partner with her. She’s brilliant.

Nightmarish Conjurings: I love the cinematography in this film as well as the use of colors and special effects. How did you and the cinematographer come up with the surreal, trippy look for the film?

RM: That’s James Siewert. He’s incredibly talented. He also did a lot of the animation. I was introduced to him through Jenn. We were looking for a Director of Photography and I saw his short film called The Past Inside the Present, which is on Vimeo. I think people should check it out. I love that movie. We have similar sensibilities. We both really like Chris Cunningham and his videos and Terry Gilliam. We started talking and we just got along. We lived together. He moved in with me right before production for 2 or 3 weeks. It was the first time he was ever the DP on a feature film and I had never directed a feature film, so we were just both kind of freaking out (laughs). The thing about James that I was so impressed with and so thankful for was that he can completely make something like this his life. I felt like he cared about it as much as I did. I had someone who could challenge me and who I could have conversations with and someone who sacrificed so much to bring this to life. I can’t speak highly enough of James. I hope people check his movie out and I’m really excited for what he does next.

Nightmarish Conjurings: What do you hope audiences take away from this movie?

RM: That’s not for me to say. There’s things that I hope that they take away from it, but I think people are either going to connect with it or they’re not. They’re going to explore as deep as they want to. I’m always trepidatious to discuss what things mean. I’m a huge fan of Stanley Kubrick, but I’m not equating this film to his in any way whatsoever. I’m just saying I appreciate him and I like his philosophy which is kind of absent now and missing from the culture. He didn’t discuss meaning and he left things mysterious and invited people to engage with it. I think sometimes people think if you don’t discuss what things mean then there’s the philosophy that it doesn’t mean anything. I hope there’s room for interpretation and I want to leave that as a sort of undefined margin. When you work on something for five years it’s not like you don’t put things in there, you know what I mean? It’s there, but at this point it’s kind of not my business anymore. It means something to me, but now it’s up to people that watch the movie.

Nightmarish Conjurings: Are you working on any new projects you can tell me about?

RM: I have two things that I’m working on and there’s nothing I can say right now. There’s nothing I can speak to with any thoughtfulness, but there is this haunted house film that’s very driven by music that I’m exploring. These things change so much, hopefully that answers your question in some way.

Nightmarish Conjurings: Thank you so much for taking the time to talk with me about LIKE ME! Good luck with premiere and have a great day!

RM: Thank you! Have a good one.

 

Punch Drunk Critics

1/26/2018

Interview: ‘Like Me’ Writer/Director Robert Mockler Talks The Importance Of Open Interpretations For Films

I had the pleasure of viewing one of the most fascinating thrillers that I think I’ve ever seen, Like Me, within these past couple of weeks. It’s a film that explores the perils of isolation and loneliness that has been caused by internet culture. I had the opportunity of talking with the Director/Writer/Editor of the film, Robert Mockler, where he went into more detail about those themes, the importance of not giving away too much so as to not ruin other people’s interpretation of his work, and a ton of other things. Check it out below!


Before I get into the questions that I have planned for you I just wanted to take the time to tell you, and I had put this in my review for your film, that this was one of those films that reminded me why it is that I love film and why it is that I know that I have chosen the right passion to pursue. I myself want to be a filmmaker and I know that this is one of those films that will continue to have an impact on me for years to come. So, I just wanted for you to know that all of your time and effort that was put into this film wasn’t in vain by any means.

That means so much to me. Thank you for saying that… I don’t really know how to respond. I mean that’s really nice of you to say, thank you so much.

No problem! I just wanted to make sure that I got the opportunity to say that to you. So, going ahead and getting into the questions that I have planned for you, I have 7 questions, does that sound ok?

Yeah, totally! I must say, I’m always really nervous during these things, so if things get awkward I’m just letting you know that that’s totally on me, not you. I’m losing my mind right now; we’re about to premiere at 7. I’m riddled with nerves; so if I’m out of it, then my apologies and I’m so sorry.

Well let me just tell you that this is my first time ever conducting an interview, so you’re kind of making history right now with me.

[Laughs] So, it’ll be a journey.

[Laughs] Yeah, definitely. So the first question that I have for you is all about your inspiration for the film. I personally could tell that isolation plays a huge part in this film, so I was wondering if you could talk a little more about what inspired you to create a film that explores this topic.

Loneliness and isolation is something that I’ve dealt with in my life. It’s something that is very personal to me. I guess, it’s just drawing from personal experiences and seeing how its affected my life and others around me. I hope that… I don’t know, I don’t want to say too much because there’s a part of this where I feel like if I say too much like I’m robbing an interpretation of the movie. One of my favorite filmmakers is Kubrick; he avoided talking about meaning. I don’t know how to tackle questions that start to open up that world because I like that there is a margin that’s undefined that hopefully people can explore on their own like you already have. I hope that that answers the question somewhat

I completely get where you’re coming from. Looking more specifically at the film, one of the things that I noticed is that you pay a lot of attention to the act of consumption; whether it’s character eating copious amounts of food or (the main character) Kiya’s consumption of various technology and drugs. I know that one of your things is that you don’t want to give away too much, but I was hoping that you could expound a little more on that idea?

Yeah! Well, the film is about loneliness and how we medicate our loneliness in some ways and I feel like we medicate our loneliness through things like technology and drugs. So, that’s exactly right.

Would you say that that was the inspiration behind that beginning montage scene where we get a lot of close-ups of Kiya consuming those things?

Yeah… I feel like I’m constantly consuming… consuming some things that may be toxic and I’m aware of it, but I’m still doing it. It comforts me for short periods of time, but I know that it’s not necessarily something thats good for me, so I guess part of the film is kind of exploring constantly consuming toxic qualities of our culture to quiet our isolation and the pain that comes with that.

Talking a little bit more about that montage scene, I actually think that that is going to be one of the things really sticks with people after they’ve watched the film. The biggest reason as to why I say that is because you took something as trivial as close-ups of someone consuming various things and made the imagery come off as being really abrasive, disturbing, and even uncomfortable; and I know that that was a choice that you made throughout the film. So, I wanted to know if that was an initial intentional thing or was it something that just kind of unfolded as you went along in the filmmaker process? If so, why were you going for that kind of uneasiness within the viewer?

I basically viewed that as a way of diving into Addison’s (Kiya’s) character’s brain in some way and expressing this fragmented sense of her identity and I hope that that was able to come through.

I loved your use of color. For me, color is one of those things that I personally pay attention to when watching films because I think, when used correctly, it’s a great unspoken way of learning more about the characters and story at hand. When we usually see a story about isolation and loneliness, the colors are usually muted, dull, boring, and really desaturated. Within this world that you created for this film, those colors are anything but; you use a lot of vibrant, contrasting, and neon colors. I wanted to know why it is that you decided to go against the grain in that way?

Again, I think it has to do with this world being a reflection of this character’s brain. Although, we’re dealing with themes of isolation and loneliness, there’s something about this moment in her life that’s this reckless protest against society that I think is making her feel alive for the first time; and I hope that that use of color gets across that idea and hopefully amplifies that concept. Not to give away too much, but toward the end of the film that last scene looked a little different in the sense that the color is almost completely pulled out of it, it’s more subdued and muted and that was definitely intentional.

I was hoping that you could talk a little about the presence of water. Now, I may have been digging a bit too deeply into it, but I noticed that water plays a subtle but still noticeable part within this film; we see shots of the ocean, lakes, the gas station that Kiya visits is named “Wave”, the mural on Marshall’s wall resembles that of an ocean; so, I was wondering if you could talk about the symbolism of water and how that plays into the larger narrative of the story.

I’ll try to me, let me know if it all makes sense; again this may all sound pretentious, but for me there’s this idea of oceans separating people throughout history. The ocean was this kind of obstacle in keeping different cultures from connecting and learning from one another. For me, the idea of oceans was exploring that territory in some way. I don’t want to specify too much in that way because  again, hopefully I can still leave room for some kind of interpretation there; so, hopefully, I can kind of point to something and not completely spoil it.

What is the biggest thing that you would want for people to takeaway from this film?

I don’t think that’s for me to say. There’s things that I hope people see but I understand that not everyone is going to connect with it in a way to where they necessarily see… I guess for instance some people are just going to connect with it. For me, a lot of the reason why I like certain films is because I’m connected to a feeling and kind of completely disconnected from something that I can verbally explain which is why I love film in general; there’s this energy that I’m attracted to that I can start to make sense of later. Hopefully, people are interested in the mood and energy that we were trying to express and then from there I hope that they see areas that we tried to lean into.

Well, that’s all of the questions that I have. Thank you for taking time out of your day to talk with me, I really appreciate it.

Thank you so much for talking with me. I really enjoyed it and I’m glad that you enjoyed the film. Hopefully, we get to talk again some time.

Vice

1/26/2018

addison timlin is the spellbinding star of a horror film about youtube culture

Timlin stars as a click-hungry teen in the eerily prescient thriller ‘Like Me.’ The 26-year-old actor talks to i-D about social media obsession, holding up convenience stores, and her next role: playing a young Hillary Clinton.

Addison Timlin needed to play Kiya because she had no idea how to. Morphing into the social media-obsessed teenager she stars as in Robert Mockler’s phantasmagorical thriller Like Me can’t have been an easy challenge. In the opening scene, Kiya holds up a gas station armed with a gun and an iPhone, filming the frantic cashier as he throws pretzels in the air like confetti and urinates on his own leg. Subsequent actions that give a whole new meaning to “doin’ it for the ‘gram”: seducing a sleazy hotel owner just to force-feed him snacks, and abducting a homeless man en route to a late night diner binge.

And that’s long before we get to the stomach-churning final scene. At least there’s no avocado toast.

Like Me holds a surreal, neon-soaked mirror up to our obsession with online validation. Kiya is a loner who uploads the fruits of her midnight escapades to YouTube before hungrily tracking each video’s view count. “I thought that there was a lot on the page that made this character really difficult to like, which is ironic given the title,” Timlin tells i-D. “I’m a real sucker for a challenge.”

Timlin also seems a sucker — consciously or not — for uncannily prescient film roles. As Like Medrops into the aftermath of Logan Paul’s appalling suicide forest stunt, Timlin is prepping for the arrival of her follow-up film. She’ll play a young Hillary Clinton in an anti-biopic set during the former presidential candidate’s summer of ‘69, when she was working at an Alaskan salmon cannery. The film, titled When I’m a Moth, is an allegory of not just America but also about the free will of ambitious young women. We talked to Timlin about playing angsty teens and potential presidents, and what they both have in common.

What made you most excited about playing Kiya?
It was a really exciting journey for me to find her humanity. The world that we live in right now, with social media and these arbitrary feelings of validation coming from these clicks and numbers that you can’t quantify… I found that she was a young woman who didn’t necessarily identify with that. I think she’s an artist — she’s doing a bit of a social experiment. She’s saying, “If this is what you’re like, you’re just as bad as the person executing it.” I also found her to be a very depressed and isolated young woman trying to figure out who she is and not being able to in the climate of this world. She got to so low of a place that she had nothing to lose.

The film feels even more eerily relevant in light of the Logan Paul controversy, and debates around where platforms like YouTube should be drawing lines. How did you get inside the mind of someone who seems to have no boundaries?
When I was preparing for this role and trying to shape the narrative of Kiya and the bones of her soul, I thought about where to draw the line in the sand, and how far is too far. I came to the conclusion that there was no line in the sand for her. The way she viewed her own life and how deep her trauma was — even if she lost her own life in this experiment, that was kind of okay. It was fun to play this person who had nothing to lose and was trying to make a statement. People and things kept proving to her that there is such a lack of humanity in the world today.

As far as I know, you haven’t robbed any gas stations, but you are pretty open about posting on social media. How do you approach Twitter and Instagram knowing that you have an increasingly large following? Do you feel a sense of social responsibility?
I go back and forth on it. I used to have a private account and a public account, then I realized that I didn’t want to live my life that way. I didn’t want to have to censor who I was because it might be polarizing for a potential fan base or whatever. I have a slightly off-color sense of humor and I’m very expressive about that on Twitter. My Twitter feed is a bit like a character that I play — a much darker, drunker, sadder version of myself. Instagram can be flippant and fickle — I don’t think that a picture that I post is going to have a big impact on the world, and if it has an impact on people’s perception of me, I don’t really care all that much. It kind of bums me out that we’re not doing things for our own experience, but for other people to validate it.

You also played an angsty teen, albeit one studying at a nunnery, in 2016’s Little Sister . That film really spoke to me as a reformed emo kid. Did you have a goth phase as a teenager?
I really didn’t. I’ve never really been fanatical or passionate about anything in that way — to go through phases. I’ve kind of remained the same person from puberty to now. What I loved about Little Sister is how the anger you have when you’re younger can inform who you are as an adult. And the duality of people is human nature — you can be both things at once. The relationship between her and her brother was also so poetic and beautiful to me. When you’re siblings, you’re both kind of in the same prison run by your parents. You have to be allies in some way. I also just loved [my character Colleen] so much, because she’s so complex and so bizarre, and such a lovable weirdo — kind of similar to Kiya. How to play her wasn’t obvious to me right away.

The Hillary Clinton film sounds like a total 180 for you. What can you tell us about that “unbiopic”?
It’s a hypothetical narrative about what we think she might have been like on the cusp of womanhood. In essence it’s about a hyper-intellectual with good intentions in a prison of her own mind, trying to figure out exactly where her life is going to go. Some things in the script were outright Hillary Clinton and some things are absolutely not her. There’s never a point in the film where we specify that she’s who we’re talking about. It was an interesting role to tackle, but I related to her as a young woman, and I think a lot of people will — especially during that moment of being 21-22 when you’re deciding, “What’s my next step? Where is my life going to go from here? What do I have to sacrifice? Who do I have to become?” That’s a pretty universal topic.

You were still filming when the 2016 U.S. presidential election happened. How did that impact the movie?
Doing that movie was pretty informed by my utter devastation after the election results. I was always on Team Hillary, but the election definitely personalized the film for me, because I spent a lot of time reading and learning about what she was doing as a young woman. She spent her whole life in public service, and to hear the way Trump was talking about her… I was so angry. But a lot of people in this country were shocked and devastated, and playing a hypothetical version of her in a movie had nothing to do with it at the end of the day. I was more worried about the world than I was about the movie I did.

It sounds like a big departure from your other recent films, but Like Me and Little Sisterdo address gun culture, the “feminizi” stereotype, and even the Iraq War. Do you find yourself drawn to films that comment on the political climate?
I think art is always commenting on something in the world. They were all three pretty different topics, but those themes do add a lot of meaning to films and that’s a big part of storytelling. It wasn’t a factor in why I chose those projects — at least not consciously.

You were speaking earlier about how Kiya is a loner. Colleen also only forms very intense relationships — whether with God or with her brother. Is that something you identify with?
I don’t enjoy having surface interactions. When I meet someone, I like to learn something about that person. To learn something about the world is why I truly love human beings, and why I love the work that I do. The intensity of relationships that I find in my characters I do constantly find in real life. If there’s any way that my work and my real life intersect, it’s in that. We’re so different but we’re so intrinsically the same. There’s nothing more beautiful to me than people being vulnerable with each other.



ADDISON TIMLIN, (Kiya) Addison began her career with the 2000/2001 National Tour of “Annie”. She performed every orphan role before taking over the role of Annie when she was 9 years old. Her love of stage continued to several productions of Annie including Papermill Playhouse and the Theater of The Stars Tour alongside Conrad John Schuck before going on to Broadway as Baby Louise in “Gypsy” with Bernadette Peters. Addison is also seen in a film called “Isabel Fish” directed by Lara Zizic for the Columbia Film Festival.

IAN NELSON, (Burt)  an actor, known for The Hunger Games (2012), The Boy Next Door (2015) and The Judge (2014).

LARRY FESSENDEN, (Marshall) – has appeared in dozens of films including RIVER OF GRASS, I SELL THE DEAD, WENDY AND LUCY, BROKEN FLOWERS, THE BRAVE ONE, BRINGING OUT THE DEAD, STAKE LAND, IN A VALLEY OF VIOLENCE, WE ARE STILL HERE, YOU’RE NEXT and TV shows including LOUIE and THE STRAIN. He appears in his son’s films RIDING SHOTGUN and THE ADULTS. Fessenden is a director and producer and has operated Glass Eye Pix since 1985 with the mission of supporting individual voices in the arts.

JEREMY GARDNER, (Freddie) Actor and director, known for THE BATTERY (2012), SPRING (2014) and TEX MONTANA WILL SURVIVE! (2015).



Robert Mockler – (Director) is a Brooklyn-based writer, editor, and director. LIKE ME is his feature-length directorial debut.
Executive Producer:  Peter Phok, Leo Joseph, Anya Joseph, Anthony Gentile, John Gentile
Producer:  Jenn Wexler, Jessalyn Abbott, Robert Mockler, James Belfer, Larry Fessenden
Screenwriter: Robert Mockler
Cinematographer: James Siewert
Editor: Robert Mockler, Jessalyn Abbott
Sound Designer: Shawn Duffy
Music: Giona Ostinelli