As of last year, 50 million people around the world considered themselves influencers. Whether it be a Twitch streamer playing video games, a TikTok persona dancing to the latest viral sound, or an Instagram star promoting the newest scam beauty products, influencers have irrevocably changed the Internet landscape. While there are certainly some leveraging their platforms for good, it shouldn’t be surprising that this change has rather brought out the worst in most people, the most contemptible quality of which is the need for constant approval from strangers on the Internet. Follow Her, the new film from Sylvia Caminer, follows one such attention whore on her quest to break into the Internet’s vapid upper echelon.
Jess Peters (Dani Barker, who also wrote the film) is an aspiring actress trying to make ends meet. With her streaming channel, Jess makes extra cash exposing creepy men on the Internet. With a seemingly endless wig collection, she responds to classified ads and films the interactions, which always devolve into depravity. She then blurs the faces of the men and posts the videos on her channel. She’s trying to break into the top ten on “The Hive,” a fictional social media network where the top performers earn money. She believes she’s found the perfect victim when Tom Brady (not that one) posts in search of a woman to help him finish his screenplay. And so, Jess ends up in the middle of nowhere with a man who only has an outhouse for a bathroom.
Let’s get one thing out of the way upfront — Follow Her is an atrocious movie. All that setup promises something interesting enough, and it wouldn’t be unfair for one to think that the film might become an incisive critique on the narcissism of Internet celebrities and wannabes. One would be wrong. Eventually, we end up at Tom’s (Luke Cook) cabin, where Jess sticks around despite red flag after red flag, hoping the footage she’s capturing will be what finally launches her into Internet stardom The film then turns into a tedious game of cat-and-mouse, as each half of this insufferable two-hander tries to use the other for their little game.
From here, viewers are guided through several twists and “surprises,” each one further convoluting the film’s central message. Follow Her touches on everything from sex work to misogyny, with each dangled topic brushed to the side before any real perspective can even be established. And while the film’s shift from dark comedy to erotic thriller could in theory make for a fascinating tonal gambit, Barker is far too focused on scripted shock and awe to situate the film effectively in either lane, let alone navigate a compelling transition between the two. And if her screenwriting skills aren’t problem enough, Barker’s acting leads things in an even worse direction, with campy over-emoting seemingly the name of her game. (In fairness, Cook isn’t much better.) Follow Her ultimately has no idea what it wants to say about any of its many tangents, nor does it ever center any kind of cogent thesis. By doing the bare minimum, it does remind us that influencer culture has bred a class of overly-confident, sanctimonious idiots who believe everyone should hear what they have to say. Don’t listen to them or this film — neither has anything of value to say.
Published as part of InRO Weekly — Volume 1, Issue 22.