EXCLUSIVE: After hitting the fall film festival circuit of Telluride, Venice and Toronto with her edgy coming-of-age directorial debut Palo Alto back in 2013, Gia Coppola is returning to the Lido with sophomore effort Mainstream. The film will screen in the Horizons section on September 5 with star Maya Hawke and producer Fred Berger, among others, also in town. Coppola wrote the script with Tom Stuart and also produces for American Zoetrope. Check out the exclusive first-look photo above.
The film is described as “a love story of being in love with someone who doesn’t love themselves set against the new emerging culture of today’s world.” Coppola tells Deadline she was partly inspired by her love for Elia Kazan’s classic Andy Griffith-starrer A Face In The Crowd about an Arkansas drifter who becomes an overnight media sensation and becomes drunk with fame and power. She says, “I connected with it from a female point of view like losing your instincts and morals and getting overshadowed because you want to be loved and to love… Then you put that with someone and the dangers that can come along with that.”
Mainstream‘s LA-set story follows Frankie (Hawke), a young woman trying to navigate who she wants to be. With the death of her father still lingering, she knows she wants to do something of meaning but isn’t sure how and with the world in a current state of so much content and narcissism, it’s hard to not “compare and despair.” Stuck working as a bartender at a comedy club with her best friend Jake (Nat Wolff), Frankie questions what people today really value. When she has a few cosmic run ins with the mysterious Link (Andrew Garfield), a man that seems to live life without rules, it inspires Frankie to film him and upload his anti-mainstream rants to the internet. Together, with the help of Jake, this unlikely band of outsiders rise to internet stardom.
However, it’s hard to stay sane when the pressure of relevancy becomes important and new characters like a manager, Mark (Jason Schwartzman) start making more demands to bring in money. To make matters more complicated, Frankie and Link start getting romantically entwined. Frankie watches as Link becomes the epitome of everything he once denounced. It isn’t until Link publicly humiliates a young fan and Jake quits the team that Frankie really questions if she is also becoming the monster she helped create.
A friend of Coppola’s working with social media influencers described to her that some people “have such a following that they don’t even understand that they’re so mainstream.” That, says Coppola, “stuck with me. I didn’t really undertand content and how this was such a massive thing.”
The end result of the film “feels like it’s a fable and satire of all the things that I was witnessing on the internet and in the context of human nature and love and how to navigate through that.”
Berger adds, that Mainstream is a “cautionary tale that will spark debate. It points a mirror at the audience in terms of how we engage with other people and how we engage with social media and react to incentives that are subliminally sent to us all day long.” Still, “with all those serious ideas, it’s such a fun quick compelling ride. It’s only when the movie ends do you realize that you’ve had a full meal of provocative questions. And part of the fun is watching Andrew totally shift from any persona that you’ve identified with him before.”
Coppola knew Garfield, who is also a producer on Mainstream, through an acting coach and calls him “so intelligent that working with him as a collaborator was really helpful.”
Fortunately, Coppola was locked before the coronavirus shut down film production and she is pleased to be traveling to Venice for the premiere. “That’s my Italian heritage, I’m very proud of that.”
Venice along with Telluride, Berger notes, were “so seminal to Palo Alto and allowed it to resonate so.” He praises organizers for “courageously being the first to brave the headwinds and allow this celebration of cinema to endure in this moment to honor young and older filmmakers.”
CAA is handling U.S. sales on Mainstream with Wild Bunch on international. Along with Berger, Coppola and Garfield, producers are Lauren Bratman, Siena Oberman, Jack Heller, Enrico Saraiva, Francisco Rebelo de Andrade, Alan Terpins and Zac Weinstein.