Friday, August 26, 2016

XOXO: Movie Review

Boring characters wander around at a music festival.

XOXO is an electronic dance music festival out in the desert. A rave, drugs, black lights, and an opportunity for DJs to make a name for themselves. And if all of our main characters can get there, then their lives will “collide in one frenetic, dream-chasing, hopelessly romantic night.” Or at least that’s what the plotline insists will happen. The frenetic nature, or dream-like, romantic atmosphere is never really conveyed. 2016

Directed by: Christopher Louie

Screenplay by: Dylan Meyer, Christopher Louie

Starring: Graham Phillips, Sarah Hyland

The main character is Ethan Shaw (Graham Phillips), an aspiring DJ who uploaded his signature song to YouTube and now has a gig at XOXO, and all of his dreams will come true. Ethan definitely has the underdog quality to him, but other than that he’s whiny, negative, and mostly bland. Whether he succeeds or not isn’t a major concern, even though that is the main storyline.

Ethan’s best friend and manager is Tariq (Brett DelBuono), a Lebanese man who has family and cultural pressures to follow in his dad’s footsteps as a restaurant manager, but he would rather be in the music industry. His story did add a decent dramatic and sympathetic element to the movie, but then he arrived at the festival. A girl stuck her tongue down his throat, gave him some hallucinogenic drug, and for the rest of movie he was in some weird psychedelic universe. The highlight (if we can call it that) was when he dove into a toilet thinking that was his entry into the festival.

The main premise makes the movie sound a lot like 2015’s failure We Are Your Friends. The one advantage that XOXO has is that instead of forcing itself into a theater-going audience, the right audience can come to it instead. And while I fully believe there is a right audience for this movie, it’s hard to imagine who that might be. The rave-going, EDM-loving crowd, would probably much rather be at an XOXO-like festival rather than watching a movie about random people who took too many drugs and are wandering around lost.

The other main characters include Sarah Hyland as Krystal – a girl who’s desperately hoping to find her one true love, and doesn’t. Chris D’Elia as Neil – an older guy who’s passed the age of this crowd and is very cynical about attending the festival. Ryan Hansen as the hugely successful DJ that Ethan emulates. And a couple who get lost in a sewer pipe. There’s also a drugged-out hippie who interacts with all the main characters, presumably he’s supposed to add the comedy, but just felt way too forced to be funny. The exactly one moment of comedy comes courtesy of a nameless security guard who Ethan is trying to explain to that he has all of his music gear with him because he’s performing at the event – why else would he have all his stuff with him? “Man, I don’t question all the shit you people do. One guy out there’s got a vacuum cleaner. I have no idea what he intends to clean with that thing.” That was the best line, and only good line of the entire movie.

Perhaps XOXO is supposed to be all about the music. Ethan’s signature song “All I Ever Wanted” is great, but the rest of it was just background noise. And the fact that music at a music festival is relegated to the background behind boring characters - only one of whom even has something to accomplish, the rest of whom are all wandering around aimlessly on drugs - is not a good sign.

Similar Titles:

Begin Again (2013) - Straddles the line between indie and Hollywood well; delivering a feel-good, enjoyable story.

3 Nights in the Desert (2014) - A slow, mysterious piece of reflection in the desert.

We Are Your Friends (2015) - An overly dramatic, mostly uninteresting story of a DJ.