While “Palo Alto” was cautiously observational, commenting only on its characters with what amounted to moderate sympathy, “Mainstream” can’t help but knowingly shake its finger as these three self-proclaimed rebels rise to fame, dulling the few. ‘existed. their advantage along the way. Link finds an increasingly massive following, and a kitsch celebrity ego emerges with his new roles as a game show host and silly philosopher. Inevitably, it also breaks Frankie’s heart, soon after degenerating into a full-fledged megalomania that Garfield interprets with repulsive and almost religious fervor. This doesn’t bode well for our three exchanges, but it’s especially bad news for the gentler audience members (the one played by “Euphoria” star Alexa Demie), who Link takes a bad habit of putting on. under the projectors.
By directing a series of music videos in the years following “Palo Alto” (including for Carly Rae Jepsen and French singer-songwriter SoKo), Coppola clearly showed his fascination with the external performance optics, the elusive emotional reality questions where art exists in between. But in “Mainstream”, armed with such a moralistic narrative, that career interest turns into a more outdated contempt.
Coppola was open about her debt to Elia Kazan’s 1957 classic ‘A Face in the Crowd’, which featured Andy Griffith’s iconic and obnoxious performance as Lonesome Rhodes, a Carolina wanderer turned demagogue. Frantic and outspoken, the Kazan film explored the parasitic links between celebrity, mass media and American politics; perhaps needless to say that since then he has been given the power of foreknowledge. But a similar fate seems unlikely for “Mainstream,” which rolled cameras in 2019 and already feels overwhelmed, especially given its yesteryear interest in YouTube as opposed to more relevant competitors like TikTok and Twitch. (This extends to the stunt cast of vloggers like Jake Paul, whose social media moment has passed for so long he was renamed an amateur boxer.)
“Palo Alto” has drifted on the strength of its stylistic cohesion, the emotional vacancy of its teenager drives enhancing an amorphous quality in its surrounding atmosphere. “Mainstream,” a more energetically material object in every sense of the word, deepens its subject, abandoning Coppola’s previous restraint in favor of a more confrontational and merciless hyperactivity.
Reteaming with many of his “Palo Alto” collaborators, Coppola’s film is stylistically assured, even though some of his bigger swings fail to connect. ‘Mainstream’ commentary and Garfield’s oversized performance may be what audiences remember most when they walk out of the theater, but cinematographer Autumn Durald Arkapaw is wonderfully precise about crossing a spectrum of tones. neon, evoking elsewhere a haunted atmosphere which settles on Los Angeles of the film like a thick fog.