The existence of Not Cool can be blamed on the Starz reality show The Chair, where two first-time feature directors took the same original screenplay, about a group of high school friends reconnecting while home on Thanksgiving break, to create two very different films — this one helmed by YouTube personality Shane Dawson (and the other being Anna Martemucci’s not-bad Hollidaysburg).
Unsurprisingly, Dawson sticks with what he knows: outlandish, cheap gimmicks that capture our attention for all the wrong reasons. It’s shock value (drugs, sex, bodily fluids, and a lot of yelling) over any semblance of cleverness.
Its shout-outs to social media (Twitter! Facebook!) and trending topics (hashtag! selfie!) are geared to appeal to the millennials who probably comprise Dawson’s robust 6 million-plus YouTube subscribers, and there’s nothing wrong with catering to your audience. However, what is largely mindless drivel may be entertaining and funny for five minutes at a time, but at 90, it’s painful. And layering in some cheesy, tender background music once in a while doesn’t mean a movie has “heart,” a quality Dawson has proclaimed distinguishes his directorial debut.
Not Cool is a cautionary tale of how being able to make videos that go viral does not necessarily make someone a filmmaker. As the saying goes, quantity doesn’t mean quality. So, for the sake of (pardon the dramatics) film itself, let us hope that quality will prevail and be backed by the quantity when the final tallies come in for the Chair competition.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on September 24, 2014