Watch the opening scene of Sweat while he is sitting on a sofa, it is as upsetting as eating a bag of Doritos while he is motionless on a platoon. Using a hand-held camera, director Magnus von Horn follows his energetic fitness-influencing protagonist Sylwia Zajac (Magdalena Kolesnik) as she skyrockets an adoring crowd during a public cardio demonstration. in a shopping center in Poland. Her thick blonde ponytail wiggles in rhythm as she weaves her way between fans, shouting high octane words of encouragement like a particularly toned mega-church leader. His is a prosperity gospel for the body, and he is a persuasive preacher. I almost stood up to follow.
If you’ve spent any time in fitness-focused internet corners, Sylwia will be a familiar figure. In von Horn’s new film, which hits select theaters Friday and the Mubi streaming platform next week, she posts home workouts for her 600,000 subscribers in a series of candy-colored spandex outfits. ; she eats pre-made cereal bowls with balanced macronutrients; it will promote said cereal bowls on its social media accounts, provided their manufacturers have demonstrated their commitment to sustainable packaging. She’s slim and beautiful, the kind of person who always looks lit by a ring light, but she’s cunning enough to drop her shiny facade every now and then to reveal humanizing vulnerabilities. (She really wants a boyfriend.) Her advertisers don’t like these orchestrated glimpses of fragility, but it doesn’t matter, fans do.
Influencers are often portrayed in books, movies, and the media as evidence of a rampant and pervasive cultural vapidity. Dependence on followers for validation and attention becomes a shortcut for societal rot. Gia Coppola’s recent film To integrate tries to slam online fame in a thread about a filmmaker who helps a charismatic con artist become a viral prankster. It doesn’t work, however; the story may as well have been written by a bot that fed exclusively on alarmist editorials about Logan Paul’s depravity. (Plot synopsis: “INTERNET FAME BAD.”) Not just influence culture mailings need to qualify. Leigh Stein’s recent novel Self-care provides a delicious dissection #girlboss, and Beth Morgan’s upcoming novel A touch of Jen is a ruthless horror comedy about the dangers of being obsessed with Instagram. The first major influencer satire was in 2017 Ingrid goes west, a ruthless and funny two-handed who pairs desperate fangirl Ingrid (Aubrey Plaza) with a bohemian-chic lifestyle maven played by Elizabeth Olsen. These characters are broad archetypes – the Basket and the Princess – but the film does not aim for psychological realism. It’s a skewer of a certain Southern California millennial scene.
Sweat does not seek to fit into this new collection of influencer satire, to its advantage. Instead, it offers something newer: a refreshing character study of the kind of person often reduced to a punchline. It’s not so much judging Sylwia as it is probing the shallow contours of her world to allow the deep loneliness to surface.
After her kinetic opening performance, audiences see Sylwia’s energy levels plummet, but the two-faced artist sulking backstage does not. Instead, it’s a portrait of someone who draws her identity from the feedback loop between herself and her followers; his enthusiasm is genuine, just over. With a different actress, Sylwia may have grown into a more ripe person to laugh at, but Kolesnik turns her into a raw nerve, so well-meaning that her narcissism is a forgivable flaw. She recounts her days on her phone screen as she runs errands in her car and hangs out in her modern and tidy apartment, appearing more at ease while addressing her invisible audience.