“XOXO,” a film set at an electronic dance music festival, tells the story of six strangers who float in and out of each other’s music fest experiences. Just like an EDM fest in real life, there are too many flashing neon lights, too many people doing too many drugs and an aggressively bro-ey crowd. But to say there is a real plot or character development would certainly be an overstatement.
Most suprisingly, “XOXO” is one of the recent productions put out by Netflix as original content. For the most part, Netflix has put out middling to high quality original content ranging from likes of Tallulah” to “Beasts of No Nation”. Recently, however, there seems to have been a lowering of the bar as exemplified by “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny,” “The Ridiculous 6” and most recently, the underwhelming “XOXO.”
In the film, Ethan (Graham Parker, “The Good Wife”) has recently had his new single, featuring vocals from his mom, go viral on YouTube. His best friend and manager, Tariq (Brett DelBuono, “Let Me In”), books him a spot at XOXO, a music festival that spans less than 12 hours. From there on out the movie primarily consists of EDM intercut with shots of women’s cleavage. That’s about it. Ethan has trouble getting into the festival because his manager hasn’t made proper arrangements for him. Tariq gets held up working at his father’s restaurant. But when Tariq finally arrives at the festival, he ends up making out with a scantily clad woman who he finds out had acid on her tongue. Many more shots of characters kissing women wearing few articles of clothing and ass shots follow. The movie indulges the viewer in the excess of EDM culture without he or she having to attend an actual event.
“XOXO” is voyeuristic in how it looks at the EDM subculture. Screenwriter and director Christopher Louie (“Lucky”) doesn’t leave much room for critical thought or exploration of the culture it presents. This is not to say that people shouldn’t be able to act, dress and party the way they want to, but rather that the way it should be presented in a film is a critical and artistic choice. “XOXO” reduces other aspects of EDM culture and affirms that there is only one acceptable behavior. When Kyrstal (Sarah Hyland, “Modern Family”) is getting ready for the festival, she puts on an outfit but is told by her friends that it isn’t sexy and revealing enough. She succumbs to peer pressure and changes. Although there is an obvious questioning by Krystal, the movie ultimately presents peer pressure as acceptable. At another point in the film, a group of “bros” want to beat up a character, but are convinced by a tripping Tariq that they need to be happy and loving and all end up dancing together. There are clear attempts to show the misinformed actions of certain characters, but no character is developed enough to lend the feeling that they learned something and their behavior will permanently changed. The troubling thing is it seems Netflix is OK with putting out this kind of low-quality content.
There is no doubt that movies like this have long been made and will continue to be made. There will always be a place for B-grade movies, and there should be. They can be fun, entertaining and enjoyable in a way that more serious works simply can’t be. Using tropes and stereotypes that people have seen so much they know them by heart is part of the fun of the B-movie, yet it doesn’t seem that Netflix should be the company producing and distributing movies of this sort. The company should more carefully choose the original movies it puts out and think about how they reflect the company. The Netflix banner at one point denoted a show or a movie you could expect to be good, but now this doesn’t seem to be the case. Netflix shouldn’t demean itself or its audience by producing movies like “XOXO” that only use stereotypical characters and erotic images to engage their audience.