Legendary pro wrestler “Stone Cold” Steve Austin supposedly advises rookie grapplers to pick an aspect of their respective personalities and amplify it in order to make a lasting impression with fans. For better or worse, social media personalities and influencers seemed to have applied a similar recipe for success in their chosen occupations, magnifying their own idiosyncrasies and obsessing over nuance, details, and minutiae in an unyielding effort to remain relevant and popular. Seizing upon this Dadaesque sociocultural trend, screenwriter and director Laura Kosann has crafted the comedy film The Social Ones, which purports to offer parody and commentary of social media as both concept and phenomenon.
The Social Ones is something of a documentary-type spoof in the tradition of The Office in which a duo of senior staff at a magazine attempts to bring together the top (fictionalized) influencers and personalities of each social major media platform for a photoshoot for the ages. Along the way, the audience meets each social media luminary, and of course, they all epitomize the worst hyperbolic foibles of real-world Internet sensations. A plot twist of sorts results in one of the most influential ‘net celebs flaking out and leaving the magazine folks and his fellow social media cohorts hanging as he goes on a nonsensical quest for self-realization.
It would be a nice gesture to claim that The Social Ones is simply too good at lampooning the most objectionable standouts of present-day pop culture. But the fact of the matter is that if that is indeed the task at hand, then it’s simply too easy to poke fun such types and too difficult to ultimately turn them into redeemable character. Indeed, not a single character in The Social Ones is even slightly likable or relatable and the longer any of them are on screen, it becomes more difficult to tolerate them, much less to empathize with them or to root for them. Perhaps Sheila Berger, played by That 70’s Show alumnus Debra Jo Rupp, emerges as the closest offering to an original and intriguing character here, but even by the end of the film, as each cast learns his or her respective “truth” about the importance of real-world interaction, her novelty wears thin, much like the general concept of the film itself. Even Richard Kind, a veteran of television with a particular flair for comedic endeavors, doesn’t bring much to the table here, as his performance is overshadowed by the positively ridiculous premise of his character.
All told, The Social Ones is not so much of a satire as it is a painful reminder of how predictable and shallow some aspects of popular culture have become over the course of the past decade or so. Granted, The Social Ones might elicit a chuckle or two for folks in the audience who find some kind enjoyment in following the exploits of self-aggrandizing narcissists. But those who find such behavior annoying and contemptible likely won’t find much entertainment in this effort.
Inside Your Head doffs our proverbial cap to The Social Ones with a modicum of regard, giving the movie one out of five golden tophats.
– Mike Bessler, February 2020