Monday, May 20, 2024

“WILD DIAMOND”

THE STORYLiane lives with her mother and little sister in Fréjus, on the Côte d’Azur. She is obsessed with her physical appearance and dreams of becoming famous. Eventually, she discovers reality TV as a possible springboard for a career. Liane gleefully responds to a casting call for “Miracle Island.”

THE CASTMalou Khebizi, Idir Azougli, Andréa Bescond, Ashley Romano & Alexis Manenti

THE TEAMAgathe Riedinger (Director/Writer)

THE RUNNING TIME – 103 Minutes


In the 2017 dramedy, “Ingrid Goes West,” Aubrey Plaza plays a character obsessed with giving and garnering likes on social media, often striking up real-world friendships with influencers. Her attempts at offline relationships are foiled when she is found to be a fraud. This theme has carried over to a more intense degree in French director Agathe Riedinger’s latest coming-of-age film, “Wild Diamond.” The movie premiered at the 77th Cannes Film Festival today to marvelous applause from festivalgoers as it was selected to compete for the Palme d’Or. But obsession comes with a hefty price when clawing one’s way to fame and fortune, something actor Malou Khebizi pulls off to perfection in her screen debut.

Khebizi stars as Liane, a 19-year-old preoccupied with beauty, attention, and money and accumulating Instagram followers in order to get noticed. A product of the foster care system and down on her luck in every way, Liane takes care of her younger sister while trying to avoid her mother at every turn. Liane has a single goal: to be a famous influencer and not settle for a job where her beauty isn’t noticed. Her friends are her ultimate support system, though they tire of her insulting ways when all Liane does is dance for social media clicks and complain about not getting on reality television.

She sees reality shows as a way to stardom and finally gets the chance to demonstrate her talents when she is invited to audition for the ninth season of the long-running reality series, “Miracle Island.” In front of a faceless casting director, Liane pours her heart and soul into looking at the part, agreeing with the casting director no matter the cost to her dignity. This is a theme spread out in “Wild Diamond,” as Liane grows increasingly frustrated when the casting director doesn’t return her calls and tortures herself on camera to gain attention from her followers, thus hopefully grabbing the attention of “Miracle Island.”

The attention she gets, but is it the good kind? Over the coming days and weeks, Liane is subjected to vulgarity hurled her way from keyboard warriors, though her follower count increases. Advances from the handsome, stable, and sensitive Nathan (Idir Azougli) don’t stop Liane from accomplishing her goals. All she thinks about is likes and followers as she envisions a life where she would hit a specific follower count and be taken seriously by the producers of “Miracle Island.” Breasts enhanced, self-tattooing, and a consultation for a butt lift later, Liane is committed to making her life all about being famous and beautiful, no matter the consequences to her mental health and well-being.

“Wild Diamond” is a peak into social media culture and the pitfalls it produces with a marvelous realism at the hands of writer and director Agathe Riedinger. The casting director says it best at one point in the film when she notes, “The world desperately needs beauty,” giving credence to Liane’s compulsions. The film hinges on Malou Khebizi’s performance, and the actress does not disappoint as she convinces the audience that Liane is an anti-hero worth watching, even if she alienates those around her at every turn. Encapsulating almost every frame, Khebizi holds true to the downward spiral her main character takes and doesn’t let up, even when Liane is at her lowest. Riedinger’s direction provides a shaky framing that speaks to Liane’s chaotic trajectory.

The film explores Liane’s passion and disregard for others, but her friends, sister, quasi-boyfriend, and mother tend to be severely underdeveloped characters. Yes, we are meant to focus on Liane and her plights, but the movie treads into hazy territory without defining who these other people are in her life. Liane isn’t a character worth rooting for, despite her struggles and desire to be famous no matter who or what she steps on to get there. Because of Khebizi, Liane feels like a fully realized character by the time the credits roll, but no other characters or actors get time in the spotlight at any point during Liane’s journey.

“Wild Diamond” is a frightening look at the modern life of a teenager desperately seeking attention from internet trolls while faking life on social media that others perceive to be real. Just like Aubrey Plaza demonstrates in “Ingrid Goes West,” once someone achieves internet stardom and reaches their ultimate dreams of fame, it can be a slippery slope to what one will do to keep it. If not for Malou Khebizi’s dazzling performance as Liane, “Wild Diamond” would not stand out among similar films. It does, however, thanks to her unflinching portrayal of a woman on the verge of a nervous breakdown over not getting what she wants when she wants it.

THE RECAP

THE GOOD - Malou Khebizi breaks through with a debut performance that surprises as much as it disgusts.

THE BAD - A somewhat tired premise seen in other movies, though this one goes deeper and darker than others. Many characters, including the main love interest, remain surface-level, and some don't appear again after being introduced.

THE OSCAR PROSPECTS - None

THE FINAL SCORE - 6/10

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<b>THE GOOD - </b>Malou Khebizi breaks through with a debut performance that surprises as much as it disgusts.<br><br> <b>THE BAD - </b>A somewhat tired premise seen in other movies, though this one goes deeper and darker than others. Many characters, including the main love interest, remain surface-level, and some don't appear again after being introduced.<br><br> <b>THE OSCAR PROSPECTS - </b>None<br><br> <b>THE FINAL SCORE - </b>6/10<br><br>"WILD DIAMOND"