Writer and director Sarah Pirozek’s mysterious #Like centers on Rosie (Sarah Rich), a pretty, blonde-haired cheerleader haunted by the loss of her sister – the circumstances of which Pirozek leisurely reveals in order to ramp up the suspense. Much like the heroine of Bo Burnham’s Eighth Grade, Amelia was a creative soul struggling to navigate the precarious world of middle school; she loved to make videos sharing her art and innermost thoughts. One year later, Rosie and her mother still wallow in their grief. Rosie finds solace in her friends, the ensemble cast of Liz Meinders and Jolene Marquez who, refreshingly, behave like authentic teenagers. As the film’s title indicates, Pirozek focuses on the societal obsession with social media and aptly achieves the difficult task of making on-screen computer research seem intriguing for the viewer. We see Rosie screenshot someone who wrote “Slut” on her sister’s Facebook wall and place it in an evidence folder.
#Like combines the nail-biting, computer-lensed investigative apprehension of Searching with Hard Candy, a thriller about a young girl’s revenge on a online predator and paedophile. When Amelia’s past is unveiled, we learn Rosie is trying to find the man who was cyber-bullying and preying on her sister, setting off the chain of events that led to her death. Rosie believes she has found the nefarious @AndrewTamesUnicorns in person – a provincial building contractor who has one of Amelia’s dreamcatchers and takes pictures at children’s playgrounds – and she lures him into a bomb shelter behind her home.
Pirozek juxtaposes the autumnal tranquillity of the Woodstock setting with the inky grime of the bomb shelter where Rosie confronts her sister’s alleged attacker. It is within the gloomy confines of the bomb shelter that Rosie is able to unleash her rage, not only about men who prey on young girls but toxic masculinity as a whole. She chastises men who believe they are smarter than women and need to grant them permission, and men who rape freely or force women to swallow. Sarah Rich gives a phenomenal performance defined by a wounded ferocity. The audience is unsure how to feel about the unnamed captured man, for Marc Menchaca’s layered performance endows him with an approachable homeliness. Pirozeck challenges the audience by daring us to question his culpability, thereby interrogating the morality of Rosie’s vigilantism. Ward’s exchanges with Menchaca sizzle with hot tension. She taunts, teases, and tortures The Man, degrading him as much as he (supposedly) degraded her sister.
The final revelation of the cyber-bulling and sexual harassment that Amelia endured leading to her death is heart-wrenching and painfully pertinent to these times. Sex is the currency of social media and young girls are in constant danger of being taken advantage of on online platforms. With the addition of the smarmy character Rory who also has dangerous intentions, Pirozek presents a world where young women are constantly surrounded by leering men. This may seem too exaggerated, but it adds to #Like’s bold, in-your-face rejection of America’s rape culture. “Do I make you feel uncomfortable?” the Juxt soundtrack asks. Pirozek forces us to confront the uncomfortable and insidious nature of contemporary sexual politics and social media’s overwhelming power.
#Like leaves off with unanswered questions and an unresolved ending, one that reflects our modern times where there is no catharsis, no justice, and misogyny continues to run rampant. At times too didactic, #Like is nevertheless a searing rallying cry against the manipulation, abuse, and objectification that women face on a daily basis. Pirozeck subverts the expectations of a revenge thriller through Rosie and The Man’s empathetic, complex interactions, and honestly interrogates women’s fed up feelings about living in a sexist and patriarchal world.
by Caroline Madden
Caroline hails from the home state of her hero, Bruce Springsteen. Some of her favorite films include Dog Day Afternoon, Raging Bull, Inside Llewyn Davis, and The Lord of the Rings. She has an MA degree in Cinema Studies from SCAD and her writing also appears on Fandor, Reverse Shot, Crooked Marquee, and IndieWire. You can follow her on Twitter @crolinss and Instagram @crolins. Order her book Springsteen as Soundtrack here.