In an age of Youtube, there are a plethora of actors and creators yearning for the shot at being Hollywood famous. This notion is the central concept behind the film The Next Big Thing written by both Brody Gusher and Iain Roush and directed by the former. The plot is that a director films his actor friend in a documentary style in order for them to get famous.
The story is pretty straightforward in that the director named Chuck (played by Jonney Ahmanson) follows the actor named Julian (played by Brad Culver) in his daily life and every so often persuades him to do something outrageous. The film jumps around in tone in that there are comedic moments and dramatic ones as well. It becomes evident that Chuck has some ulterior motive and we are constantly given red herrings as to what it is. The motivations of Julian also become revealed in that it is obvious that he cares about fame probably more than he should.
What helps the film are the performances and the chemistry between the two leads. Their banter is very naturalistic and at times it truly feels like two people just talking. Culver is good at playing that Youtuber who cares more about fame than refining his talent and Ahmanson does well as the antagonizing and various times creepy desperate director. The side characters also do well and Marshall Manesh who plays Mr. Shah is quite funny and almost steals the show.
The documentary style also aids in the realism in that the characters are constantly talking into the camera or at least mentioning it. There are also various moments that the style also portrays a more sinister side to filmmaking. Chuck at times would film Julian in more intimate settings and these actions are commentaries on the perverse nature of filming someone.
Well, it is now time to admit that despite these praises, the movie breaks about forty minutes into it. It is at this point that the biggest flaw becomes unveiled, the script. In the beginning the movie sets up the characters and we have an understanding of who they are and their motivations. However, at the aforementioned breaking point, the story just escalates to such heightened extremes that it no longer becomes believable and it just becomes an annoying chore to watch. Even the dialogue, which I praised earlier, becomes unbearable because there are multiple arguments that feel never-ending.
In the end, The Next Big Thing feels like a Youtube-aged mixture of Edtv and The Oscar with bits of The Truman Show thrown in. While I thought the performances and camera tricks were well-done, the strange decisions in the script turn the sometimes obnoxiousness of the film to almost pure trolling.
The Next Big Thing is currently playing at the Arena Cinema in Los Angeles and can be streamed on Amazon.