VOD film review: I Blame Society
Leslie Byron Pitt | On 01, May 2021
Director: Gillian Wallace Horvat
Cast: Gillian Wallace Horvat, Keith Poulson, Chase Williamson
Watch I Blame Society online in the UK: Apple TV (iTunes) / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / Rakuten TV / Google Play / Sky Store / CHILI
From the first scene of I Blame Society, there are polite chuckles. Gillian Wallace Horvat’s scattershot satirical mockumentary begins with its lead character proposing an outrageous hypothetical pitch to her male friend, in which she devises a movie in which she pretends to plan and murder his girlfriend, but not really. She just wants to film the idea of how she could perhaps do it.
Gillian hates this woman. She despises how she treats her friend and her desire to off this woman is not justified in the slightest. The woman did, however, break Chase’s laptop, wrecking his current chances of gaining any income at the current time. The chuckles come not just from the absurdity of the idea, but the simple flipping of gender. The idea of the self-righteous “nice guy” who feels that their hare-brained scheme is for the good of his object of affection is well drilled into our society. The gender swap already sends that dynamic off-kilter. The icing on the cake is when Gillian puts on the waterworks to make him feel bad. This girl is a nightmare. More than we know.
I Blame Society lays its cards squarely on the table: it is angry at everything. Annoyed at the idea of Strong Female Leads. Cheesed off with what is considered likeable or approachable. Ticked off with the status quo. And with good reason. It wants to be weird and viewed on its own, bizarre terms. In its best moments, it accomplishes that and does so without an irritating, superficial “girl boss” attitude. The story of Gillian’s skill set to make a movie being the same as becoming a serial killer and that being a more satisfying and productive use of her time is not that out there. The allusions to American Psycho are not surprising, although not as potent. Yet the character of Gillian holds a peculiar allure – she’s no Patrick Bateman, but also no typical Hollywood starlet or cool girl who’s OK to “hate” because people secretly fancy them.
The difficulty in placing Gillian, in terms of performance and style, is at times one of the strengths of the film. At first, it is difficult to get a grasp of this Generation-YouTube Man Bites Dog at first glance, from the ugly documentary use of style to the affected performance from Gillian. Yet, while Gillian the character moves slowly from awkward wannabe director to a lo-fi indie Suzanne Stone-Maretto, she and the story become more compelling, and funnier.
Horvat plays a deranged, fictionalised version of herself, using this meta aspect as an axe to grind at the performative nonsense displayed by many within the industry. The amusing dichotomy of the film often stems from scenes that dip their toes in Serial Mom or Todd Solondz-like waters (think Storytelling), never wholly placing their foot in and yet still being passed over and belittled by dunderheaded producers or oblivious editor boyfriends. One moment which while trespassing in a potential victim’s room, she reassures her audience to the camera: “I’m not being creepy. It’s just a second angle for coverage”. All the while, she looks like an extra for Harmony Korine’s Spring Breakers. The film amusingly reminds well-versed viewers of other male-directed or male-oriented features. Strangely, they seemingly had no problems obtaining the budget despite plumbing themselves into perhaps more cynical depths.
The film takes large swings at everything it can, and the ratio of hits and misses is tit for tat. One could argue that the film is too angry or sloppy to hit its targets at times. Yet the point it has – about a woman who genuinely wants to find her way through the shallow, belittling swamp of buzzwords and pandering – often rings true. The patronising claims of Gillian’s boyfriend that all her films devolve into something sexual is a wry nod towards the many online conversations about the female gaze. Once the film itself moves into moments of unromanticised sexual digressions, one cannot fault its scalding messiness. Unfortunately, the awkward pacing and cringe-worthy aspects of I Blame Society may lead folk to pick up one of the many similar features over itself. However, for a film that yells from the rooftops that it is unapologetically its own thing, there are far worse films out there.