Director - Christopher Louie
Cast - Sarah Hyland, Graham Phillips, Brett DeBuono, Hayley Kiyoko, Colin Woodell, Ryan Hansen, Ione Skye, Chris D’Elia
Rating - 3/5
A young bedroom DJ who has no intention of letting his humble origins getting in the way of his big dreams. His best friend, burdened with the responsibility that can only come with being a first generation immigrant. A couple grasping at every second they have together before distance separates them. A young girl chasing mysterious love. A disenchanted man, forced to relive memories of his heyday.
None of these characters know each other. But before the evening is over, they will. Just for one night, they will let their guards down. They will sing. They will dance. They will Snapchat. They will make connections possible only in the movies as their lives collide, and then collide some more. They will chase their dreams at XOXO, the biggest EDM festival in the country.
XOXO is the new original film from Netflix, who seem to have firmly struck their stride with these quirky little movies that aren’t really worth writing home about, but are the internet age equivalent of a solid matinee.
XOXO is a lot like a Richard Linklater movie – not in terms of quality of course, but in the way its structured (loose, free-flowing), in the way it treats its characters and in the vibe it creates. The film is more concerned about the idea of a certain time and place more than any one story. For it, every little moment is a story in itself. Our characters make the pilgrimage to XOXO to make memories.
Just like the film, they’re bound by the loosest of threads, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing – once again, just look at Linklater’s Slacker or Dazed & Confused – but when the writing isn’t your film’s strongest point, a more concrete foundation can really help out. An aimless structure can work wonders, provided the characters and their motivations are given room to breathe. Frustratingly, XOXO moves at a breakneck pace - which is an odd criticism, I know. But there’s no way you’re remembering even a single character’s name 10 minutes after you’re done watching it.
So while it doesn’t push any new ground when it comes to story and character, the director – Christopher Louie – clearly making a debut, brings a uniquely visual and sonic approach to the familiar material. He throws so many pretty lights and sounds at the screen that it becomes difficult not be distracted by it all – even as Sarah Hyland says things you’re 100% sure you’ve heard in a movie before.
Just last year, we got two films set in and around the world of EDM – the Zac Efron-starrer We Are Your Friends (a film that bombed worse than Skrillex during a blackout) and Eden (a love story by Mia Hansen-Love set during the mid-90s birth of the movement). And while XOXO won’t be transcending the boundaries of its genre, just like those films, it also treats EDM – a kind of music that is often ridiculed for its lack of skill – with respect.
It’s movies like these that are necessary, in a way, to remind everyone that DJing isn’t simply about VIP areas and raising your hands like you just don’t care (although that is what most of it has sadly become). But isn’t that the case with most music as it becomes mainstream? Presumably, there are just as many terrible classical violinists as there are DJs.
But XOXO isn’t about them. It’s a fairytale about a magical world in which everyone is in it for the love of the music and not for exclusive backstage passes. From the wizard-like founder of the event, to the doe-eyed young performers on stage, to the crazed fans tripping their neon-soaked ba**s off it.
“Don’t forget to enjoy the party,” one particularly eccentric character declares at one point. “You’ll be home sitting in front of your computer soon enough.”
For one minute, let’s ignore the irony.
Watch XOXO trailer:
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The author tweets @NaaharRohan