A young woman named Frankie (Maya Hawke) finds a path to worldwide internet stardom when she starts making videos with a charismatic stranger known as “No One Special” (Andrew Garfield).
Gia Coppola’s Mainstream doesn’t really boast the meatiest premise. It is simply about a young woman who gets famous online thanks to this strange “No One Special” guy that she instantly takes a liking to after seeing him on the streets one day. Let’s just forget about the fact that if anybody in the real world were to see this guy in real life they would want to run away immediately in fear, and instead, let’s talk about the relationship Frankie has with this man.
On the surface, No One Special is an extremely fascinating person. He doesn’t live by any of life’s rules and simply does things the way he wants to. One day, Frankie quits her normal nine-to-five job in order to help No One Special out with his internet videos but she instantly begins to question whether or not her decision was wise or not.
She openly expresses this to No One Special, but surprisingly, he doesn’t sound worried about her predicament. He simply explains to her that everything is going to be alright and she shouldn’t worry about such a thing, all while flashing a toothy grin.
Frankie feels an indescribable connection to this man and will follow him anywhere. If he tells her that he has an amazing idea for an internet video, she will do it with him no questions asked. The same things apply to their real lives. This is the most entertaining aspect of Mainstream by far – getting to watch the dynamic between Frankie and No One Special blossom and getting to see just how weird it is. But they do feel like they were meant to meet each other, despite Frankie being a very normal girl and No One Special being very strange. He kind of is someone special.
But ultimately, Mainstream fails to impress in the grand scheme of things. This should have been a deeply unsettling movie that spoke about the dangers of social media, popular culture, and the potential damage that the Internet, in general, can cause to so many people. It should have left me feeling uneasy and it should have left me not wanting to go online for a while, but after the credits rolled, I felt nothing.
Instead of touching on these questions and themes, it instead presents you with a larger-than-life character portrayed amazingly, by the way, by Andrew Garfield in one of the zaniest roles he has yet to portray. The problem though is that there should have been meaning behind his character and the relationship he has with Frankie.
Maya Hawke and Andrew Garfield are the only two reasons why you should end up watching Mainstream. They are extremely fun to watch in their zany best, but it’s just not enough to make this movie a stand-out. It shies away from discussing the dangers of internet usage and viral exposure. It hints at it but it never fully commits to it. Sadly, for a movie that wants to be so out-there and different, Mainstream is exactly as the title suggests it is.
Overall Grade: C-
MPAA Rating: R for pervasive language and some graphic nudity
Directed by: Gia Coppola
Distributed by: IFC Films
Release Date: May 7, 2021
Running Time: 94 minutes