Sundance London: Hits review

Katelyn (Meredith Hagner) dreams of making it big and escaping the small town of Liberty. She imagines a time when she is interviewed on Ellen, where she’s a household name, and when Ryan Gosling is her boyfriend. How does she think she’s going to achieve this dream? Through appearing on The Voice, of course.

Hits‘ writer-director David Cross appears to be mainly concerned with satirising modern fame and the search for popularity at a time when talent comes second to public indiscretions, but his jabs don’t begin and end there. As well swiping at the low hanging fruit of our celebrity obsessions, he also takes glancing blows at hipsters, ‘new media’, Neocons and the likes of Alex Jones.

But these really are just a glancing blows. At some very easy targets.

Following a series of outbursts at local council meetings, Katelyn’s father Dave Steuben (Matt Walsh), gets the attention of a group of New York hipsters who decide to make him their cause célèbre. These self-obsessed buffoons travel to the town of Liberty (liberty, geddit?) to fight for Dave’s right to free speech, and to Tweet, Vine and blog his every word. Unfortunately, Cross has hardly managed to paint anyone outside of Katelyn as anything approaching a believable, real person and so sections like this, which involve her less, seem particularly simplistic.

Meanwhile Katelyn’s attempts to get on The Voice are not going well and even a local boy, a friend-enemy of hers, is now becoming an internet sensation thanks to a YouTube clip that shows him with his trousers down. A clip, it’s worth mentioning, that couldn’t logically exist. We know that no-one could have filmed its as we saw the scene play out earlier and there was nobody there holding any kind of camera.

So everyone is getting famous but Katelyn, and not necessarily for the ‘right’ reasons. This all builds to a climax which is nowhere near as funny or as incisive as it needs to be. It ends up feeling like a lukewarm reheat of the closing scene from Bobcat Goldthwait‘s God Bless America, which was a superb take on similar material.

While Goldthwait may have taken aim at similar targets, he did so with laser accuracy and blew them to pieces with both humour and ferocity. Hits, on the other hand, absolutely fails as a work of satire. It’s just weak, unfunny and often rather dull, and any laughter depends on the audience never having once questioned even the most obviously ridiculous elements of popularity culture for themselves.

Hits currently has no confirmed release date for either the UK or US.