In late March of 2019, a Toledo news station began their morning news segment with what is considered to be the cringiest minute in the history of humanity. If you have not seen it, I highly suggest that you drop everything and watch what is probably the eighth wonder of the world. In order to wish local students good luck on impending standardized tests, a group of news anchors used what can only be described as an outpouring of incorrectly used teenaged slang. In it, you can find hits such as a news anchor informing the students to get a quote “gucci breakfast,” and a weather anchor informing us that the weather is going to be “v. lit.” It’s glorious.
Cringe is a phrase that I generally have little time for, save some notable exceptions (the above clip is the prime example). Mostly, I believe people who use it regularly either use it a cruel cudgel, which in turn make their anti-cringe cringey, or are just simply mis-using the phrase. Cringe and trash are not coterminous; content such as Ryan Murphy’s Hollywood likely falls into the latter camp. And hey, maybe this is all subjective. One man’s trash is another’s cringe content.
This is a necessary prerequisite when talking about Jake Horowitz’s feature debut All About Who You Know, because good heavens were the first fifty minutes some good ‘ole fashioned cringe. Natalie “Contrapoints” Wynn recently did a deep dive into the term, and deduced that true cringe necessitates some form of a lack of awareness. It’s impossible to tell if Horowitz is oblivious to the way their film sounds, or if they are aware and have decided to double down on it anyways (a strategy I like to call “the Riverdale”). Someone randomly says “okurrr” mere minutes into the film, and my only response was a gag reflex.
Mercifully, the film gets better, particularly one love interest Haley (Niamh Wilson) winds up becoming a greater part of the picture. Wilson, of Oakville fame, is probably best known for her early child actor work on films such as Saw III, but it’s very clear that she’s been around a camera before. She’s magnetic, commanding the frame in a way that her opposite (Dylan Everett) never really matches up to.
I don’t hold at the feet of Everett’s performance though. No, you can attribute that to the fact that his character Cole is a bit of an aggravating menace. Furthermore, in the spirit of being charitable he does get better, and that growth is pretty much the trust of the film’s narrative. But his manic pixie dream snark vibe suffocates the hell out of the first half of All About Who You Know.
Cole meets Haley at his graduation from what I’m assuming is either a film school or an basic creative writing degree, the film leaves it ambiguous so I say that you should take your pick on whichever you think sounds more ridiculous. Haley is in attendance because her famous father (David Hewlett) is one of the greatest living screenwriters turned commencement address giver. When Cole steps outside, the two have a flirty and fun conversation, which convinces Cole to “date” her in hopes that he can pass along a screenplay he’s been working on to her famous father.
Thus, Cole sets in motion an elaborate scheme to make her fall in love with him, which he treats as if it were him writing a screenplay. Best friend and fellow screenwriter Austin (Stephen Joffe) is not amused, and also, seems to be progressing in his career far quicker than Cole could with his painstaking plan. But Haley seems to be into Cole, which means this meet cute is going to full progress through it’s motions.
Horowitz is a much better director he is a writer. There’s a real tender moment between Cole and Haley that swings into big, romantic gesture energy, but kind of works. It’s all visual, and even better, it’s intercut with the real crux of where the film is planning on heading. But when All About Who You Know feels the need to comment on the existence of said montage it falls apart. As a choice, it’s far too cute, far too deeply diving into the dreaded territory of the obvious cliché, something the film references on multiple occasions but does not seem to understand. There is enough of a vision here which makes it all worth it, but you’ll have to wade through the first half’s ocean of cringe to get to it.
All About Who You Know is on VOD now and is hitting Crave on the 28th here in Canada.
- Rated: NR
- Genre: Comedy
- Release Date: 5/23/2020
- Directed by: Jake Horowitz
- Starring: David Hewlett, Dylan Everett, Niamh Wilson, Stephen Joffe
- Produced by: Jane Loughman, Nick Talon
- Written by: Jake Horowitz
- Studio: Monkeys & Parrots, Sideways Dog Productions
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