Why does Andrew Garfield never get enough credit? This is a man who really should have been nominated for an Oscar for his impressive performance in The Social Network. Garfield took that Sorkin dialogue and absolutely ran away with it. He did get his nomination for his powerful performance in the brutal war film, Hacksaw Ridge. Heck…he even made a quippy and endlessly charismatic Peter Parker and was one of the biggest highlights of The Amazing Spider-Man. But lately Garfield has been diving deep into bold and strange films like Under the Silver Lake. But Garfield may have found his most profound and bold performance yet in Mainstream.
But what makes his performance and character so special in Mainstream? This is a character with charisma piled as high as a mountain. A towering performance is delivered in the film that cannot be contained by the confines of this muddled narrative. Garfield delivers a character that demands a cult of personality built around him. What starts as a small-scale online presence becomes a prophet that evokes the masses to his will. It takes quite the performer to make such a character believable. But here’s the thing…Garfield owns every second of it. His performance is so bold and unforgettable that his work will live on well past the legacy of Mainstream itself.
Wait…that isn’t a good thing is it? Definitely not in considering the legacy of the film itself. Writer/director and new generation member of the Coppola clan, Gia Coppola, brings this extremely relevant and impactful message to the forefront. How many of you out there have seen Network? This film from the height of 70’s cinema is a sharp and forceful commentary on the whole system of the news. The commentary is acidic in the way that it burns through the allusions of the news system in our country. Mainstream takes an equally bold approach to the world of social media and influencers. Garfield really channels the energy that Peter Finch did in his role as Howard Beale. Coppola pulls out every ounce of talent from Garfield in his performance as Link, a man who becomes the all powerful and inspiring messiah to the social media community.
Can Coppola capture the same spark that made Network an incredibly powerful experience. Not quite. This film has a muddled and detached feel. The narrative is quite messy and hard to follow and stay emotionally attached too. Maya Hawke is staged as our lead as she meets the eccentric and manipulative Link. The first act or so leans into their buddy love story with everyone experiencing the high energy and influence of Link. But soon the film refocuses on the commentary that it is trying to make. What happens to Hawke’s Frankie? I honestly struggle to remember. I do remember the powerful presence that Garfield brings to his speech (especially the finale). But when the heart and soul of the film fall so hard to the wayside like they do in Mainstream, you start to wonder about the deeper merit of the film beyond the performance and its message.
Does Mainstream deliver more for its audience than just one incredible performance? Not really…and that is a shame. This film would not even work anywhere near the level it does without the talents and bold choices of Garfield. The abuse and manipulation fire the biggest tension and suspense in the film. But is this film worth checking out for just a performance and the message? Those elements are SO good…Mainstream just might be worth it.