Mainstream 2020 Review - Psychological Fireworks!

Jun 2021
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Los Angeles
The main question of this movie is whether or not people “can live here (on social media) anymore,” if the “intrusive eye” and “engulfing mind” of someone like a “pyromaniac” Mary Trump can warn people about the destructiveness and inhumanity of someone like her uncle. An uncle who, among other things, projected these same qualities onto other groups (not unlike the Nazi and Rwandan governments did in their propaganda campaigns referencing “rats” and “cockroaches” respectively).

An answer to this question is explored through Frankie’s triangular relationships with Link, Jake, and Isabell Roberts. Presumably Frankie grew up in a love triangle with her parents. She is a bit distant from her nagging mother. She needs “love and approval” from her father. Her father dies in a car accident when they hit a “tree” on her way to a party and she gets a facial scar. Frankie feels a “secret guilt” about being angry at her “intrusive” and unmodulated father. Later the childhood love triangle is gender role-reversed in her relationships with Link who is seen as the stereotypical philandering bad boy and Jake the stereotypical committed nice guy.

Link is emotionally supportive of Frankie’s scar in private. With Isabell, who also has a facial mark, things go differently. Link “exposes” Isabell’s facial mark on social media for views, likes, and ad revenue. Frankie initially colludes with Link to cover up the moment of “exposure” to make it look like Isabell was requesting support on social media – a help that is rejected and complained about later. Symbolically, this looks like a subtle projection of Frankie’s own beauty “issues” onto Isabell and repetition of Frankie’s less than nurturant rivalry with her mother for her father’s “love and approval.” A writeup of such an understanding for the purposes of providing support would traditionally be titled “Isabell R” to protect Isabell’s privacy.

Since, unlike Mary Trump’s uncle, Isabell is neither destructive nor inhumane, the obvious implication here is that neither social media, big tech, nor any other “unempathetic Link” should disclose nor help to disclose what the “R” in “Isabell R” stands for – even if it means fewer views, likes, ad revenue, or “go with the flow” solutions. Nor should they tell “big lies” that push people’s buttons, vindictively incite hysterical mobs, smokescreen, “project their own issues” onto Isabell (as mentioned above), interpersonally exploit her as a human shield (like Trump tried to do with the entire country after the capital riot), etc, etc.

All this results in Isabell’s suicide – and the world is devastated beyond what even this movie can portray.

But it is Frankie’s “secret guilt” over her competition with her mother in transference to Isabell and the triggering of her paternal schema that gets her to listen to her own “gut,” “take that next step,” “frankly” set boundaries with an “unempathetic Link,” and commit to the committed Jake.

Link, whose real name is Alex, nevertheless also agrees that social standards (of beauty) should in fact be social, that Isabell “should not have to prove that she is worthy,” that “gutless trolls” with rivalrous Electra complexes should not be so mean to “Isabella Cinderella” (or the Jenner-Kardashians for that matter…), that people pressured onto stages by manipulative “infantilizing” bullies should be rescued (a timely reference to the world’s projection of self-love toward George Floyd?), and that Isabell should otherwise still be very much alive and well.

Soulful, intense, hyperkinetic, and uproarious, this enigmatic and misunderstood gem is another great period piece from the Coppolas that will leave the viewer with many important questions to savor long after the movie is over.