Last year’s box office nuclear catastrophe We Are Your Friends starring audience favourite Zac Efron as a wannabe DJ had Catfish’s Max Joseph bringing to light the always increasing fandom behind festival culture, EDM (electronic dance music) and the fans that join and ignite to typically enjoy said music under some sort of extra-curricular activity to heighten the experience. It’s way of the festival-going experience apparently, but it was done tastefully and it culminated in a way that, critiquing the film or not, it spoke to audiences that understood said culture.
Netflix’s streak of producing film as popular as its TV choices (everybody and their dog has witnessed Stranger Things one way or another now) continues as after hits like The Fundamentals of Caring and Tallulah they attempt to widen their horizons with XOXO. The film centres around a neon-drenched EDM festival, fictionally America’s most popular music festival that rivals the likes of Coachella or Lollapalooza, as six party goers somehow cross paths in one enormously frenetic, dream-chasing and hopelessly romantic night.
Never truly has EDM looked quite as enticing as it did in documentary Under the Electric Sky. Featuring dazzling pyrotechnics, art installations, state-of-the-art sound production, costumed performers and high octane thrill rides, all of this amongst world renowned performers and DJ sets that’ll make your palms sweat with excitement with the enormity of the crowds that attend. A concept idea lead first time director of XOXO, Christopher Louie, advertising his idea of creating his vision of his personal love for the festival circuit as Dazed and Confused at a rave, and for better and for worse this is near enough that. Under the Electric Sky blueprinted the spectacle of an EDM, but with XOXO, it creates the magic that you certainly seek to discover at an event quite like this.
Louie’s attempt at a guerrilla shoot within a real festival with the thankful aid of producer and music supervisor Pete Tong wasn’t smooth sailing, and that speaks for itself in the film itself. Writer Dylan Meyer undoubtedly speaks to the millennials that XOXO desperately beacons to, and in turn often turns dialogue to sludge and actions into ridiculed nonsense. When lines such as “You want candy whereas i want chocolate” in regards to seeking a worthwhile flame within the confines of the bustling XOXO festival, Modern Family‘s Sarah Hyland falls victim to most of the film’s mediocre lines whereas her actions would easily resonate. Hayley Kiyoko and boyfriend Colin Woodell are coming to terms with their incoming split, a realistic approach to a young romance that falls flat due to imbecilic actions. There’s generally a flaw with most characters, but XOXO’s lead Graham Phillips, starring as Ethan, a wannabe DJ whose track leads him to a guest spot on the stage of the festival, is a genuine joy.
Louie speaks of his love of the festivals that made his adolescence; a cornucopia of ear-thumping electronic waves and drugs. The film deals with both aspects with colourful vigour, and much like the aforementioned documentary XOXO looks and sounds incredible. This shiny, gleaming excuse splices enough narrative drama with blisteringly cool summer tracks that it, for the most, feels ultimately authentic, and the love of such wouldn’t have easily come to fruition without its director.
XOXO falls prey to a handful of narrative missteps but when the music, the fun and the outlandishness flows quite so vigorously there’s a real chance this will be a lot of fun.
Dir: Christopher Louie
Scr: Dylan Meyer
Cast: Sarah Hyland, Graham Phillips, Hayley Kiyoko, Brett DelBuono
Prd: Christopher Louie, Max Leitman, Joe Russell, Pete Tong
Music: Aaron Drake
DOP: Damian Acevedo