2017 Film Essays

Review: Brent Bonacorso’s ‘You Get Me’

We need to talk about texting graphics in movies. The character above represents my thoughts on the matter. By now, this over-used technique provides the same impact as the old-person-learns-social-media sequence: it’s a tired distraction. With You Get Me, the latest Netflix Originaldirector Brent Bonacorso doesn’t seem to get that most viewers don’t need such blatant guidance. As a result, the film suffers immediately and doesn’t have enough depth to overcome its collective flaws. It’s not all bad, though.

You Get Me focuses on the dark side of teenage romance. During the last week of summer, Ali (Halston Sage) and Tyler (Taylor John Smith) attend a late-night pool party. Tyler gets heated after learning surprising details about Ali’s San Francisco past. Soon thereafter, Ali dumps Tyler, who catches a ride with Mysterious Party Girl aka Holly (Bella Thorne). The two hook up, and Tyler spends the weekend at Holly’s Ex Machina-like pad. The wide open spaces and synth soundtrack complement the personal chemistry, suggesting there’s a natural understanding. They get each other. But when Tyler reunites with Ali, Holly shows up at school and all hell breaks loose.

Paranoid and unpredictable, Holly is part Black Swan, part Neon Demon. She commands attention when she walks into a room, sometimes for the wrong reasons. And Tyler wears his heart on his sleeve; he’s easy to read. But when the first round of texting graphics appear, they feel unnecessary, as the characters’ frame of mind is clear. You Get Me obviously wants to make a timely point about teenage communication, one the target demographic can relate to. I get it. Unfortunately, the moments of reflection and texting don’t work, mostly because they don’t feel natural. There are better ways to connect the dots, especially considering Magdalena Górka’s visceral cinematography and the film’s vibrant color schemes. Show me the pool but don’t push me in.

When Holly emerges from a pool, or stares at a sleeping Ali, she speaks with her eyes. That’s a visual statement. The film’s best moments are visual statements. Yet Bonacorso often pulls viewers out of the pool. In the first act, Tyler wakes up in a luxurious home, but there’s no walk of shame. Instead, he calmly takes it all in, smiling, curious, wondering what the day will bring. After getting dumped and hooking up with a random, Tyler’s morning reaction feels… unlikely. In You Get Me, the head-scratching moments add up, yet many stand-alone visuals are mesmerizing.

This is clearly Thorne’s film, with Sage not far behind. Both actresses display obvious star power, and both have tasteful Lolita-like moments that keep the film above water. Sage represents a calming force in You Get Me, as her character exudes confidence and carries herself with poise. Thorne reaches a bit too far at times, yet those moments feel appropriate for the character. In contrast, Taylor John Smith’s Tyler often seems perplexed, which takes away from the film’s organic qualities. It’s not surprising that Tyler loses his composure in public settings, it’s just that he never gets called out by his girlfriend. (The Lost Texting Graphic: I’M FREAKING OUT, MAN! ALI STILL DOESN’T KNOW. SHE STILL DOESN’T KNOW!) Tyler gives the impression that he might vomit at any time. In the real world, his girlfriend would notice his awkward reactions to Holly.

You Get Me is predictable and often frustrating, but the visuals leave a lasting impression. I’ll leave you with this: you’re floating in a pool, drifting away and locked into your thoughts. Do you want to be distracted with text messages and information that you already know?

Q.V. Hough (@qvhough) is a freelance writer and the Founding Editor of Vague Visages. In 2004, he graduated from Concordia College (Moorhead, MN) with bachelor degrees in Communication-Mass Media and History. From 2006 to 2012, Quinn lived in Hollywood, California and now resides in Fargo, North Dakota.