by Paislee House, Film Critic
Picture it: a beautiful Saturday afternoon in mid-Missouri with your wife and friend. You enter the theater and walk up to the counter to order a tall, gorgeous blend of ice and sugary syrup that you’ll sip slowly during one of the worst movies you’ve ever seen. Are you seeing it? I wish I hadn’t because that Icee was the only worthwhile part of “Friend Request.”
“Friend Request” was directed and co-written by Simon Verhoeven who has mostly worked and released projects in Germany. Verhoeven and his two co-writers, Matthew Ballen and Philip Koch, managed to create a film so serious yet completely ridiculous that it was impossible to try and enjoy. Luckily for me, my friends and I were the only people in the theater, so we were able to turn our viewing of “Friend Request” into an episode of “Mystery Science Theater 3000.” As an experience, my time with “Friend Request” was full of laughs, but as a movie “Friend Request” is hot trash.
The film is the story of a pretty, popular college-aged girl, Laura, who’s got a hot, soon-to-be doctor boyfriend and a slew of great friends. She’s perfect and so is life! Then she meets the classic weirdo, Marina, who sits in the back of the class, wears all black, keeps her hood up and is into art (I wish you could see my eyes rolling). Of course, Laura wants to be nice, so she accepts Marina’s Facebook friend request.
This is where things begin to get weird. Soon Laura can’t take Marina’s overwhelming attention and makes the grave mistake of unfriending her, which ultimately leads to Marina vowing to make sure that Laura will know what it’s like to be alone. It isn’t the plot of the film that is the problem but the fact that it takes itself 100% seriously.
The film’s writing is horrendous and predictable. I’m honestly baffled that the writers believed they were saying something important, but they apparently have strong feelings about Facebook and being addicted to the internet. The incessant need of the film to remind the audience that the internet is scary and Facebook is dangerous/superficial/dumb was annoyingly on the nose and a very shallow approach to the topic. A better version of this story can be found in “Ingrid Goes West.”
One of the few redeeming qualities of the film were some of the performances. Alycia Debnam-Carey, who plays Laura, somehow managed to deliver her clumsy lines in a convincing manner as did her med-school boyfriend played by William Moseley. However, that’s where the good performances end.
If the character of Marina had not been Tropey McGee then Liesl Ahlers might have been able to show off some acting chops, but what discernable talent was there was overshadowed by awful writing. Ahlers was still more fun to watch than any of Laura’s friends who all managed to be uniquely terrible in their roles. Granted, it really could’ve just been the atrocious writing.
With its laughable dialogue and ankle-deep message, “Friend Request” is at its best hilarious and at its worst pretentious. I wasn’t sure such a combination existed until I endured the 92 minutes of this movie, which somehow felt excruciatingly long. Don’t see this movie unless you want to watch it at home with friends while tossing back beers every time someone says “internet addiction.”