If we are to believe the protagonist of Aram Rappaport’s latest film, then our entire life is based around marketing. Everything from the products we buy, the way we present ourselves at work, and even how we go about courting that special someone is calculated to evoke a precise image. Which is exactly what marketing is all about…creating an image. Enticing others to believe they will run faster in a particular pair of sneakers and get the girl if they drink the right beer.
The cutthroat world of marketing is the focus of the satirical film Syrup. Based on the novel by Max Barry, who also penned the screenplay with Rappaport, the film follows Scat (Shiloh Fernandez) as he tries to make it big in the world of advertising. Scat has come up with an idea for an energy drink called “Fukk” that he believes will take the industry by storm. Of course Scat must convince one of the top corporate marketers, Six (Amber Heard) to buy into the concept. Cold, calculating and attractive Six’s mixture of advertising expertise and sexuality proves too intoxicating for Scat to resist.
Despite falling for Six, Scat is never quite sure if he can truly trust her. Deceit is not only prevalent in the dog eat dog world of marketing, but it is basically the principal goal of advertising in general. However, Scat must put aside his doubts and join forces with Six once his former roommate Sneaky Pete (Kellan Lutz) steals Scat’s idea and patents “Fukk” for himself. Quickly climbing ahead of Six up the corporate ladder, Sneaky Pete proves to be a bigger foe than either Scat or Six could have anticipated.
Syrup offers some sharp commentary on the state of modern consumerism. At one point we see just how low a company is willing to go to keep their product in the forefront of the media. Characters routinely break the fourth wall to deconstruct how every aspect of life follows a particular law of marketing. Rappaport exploits this to comedic effect by having Six breakdown the ways in which seduction occurs within her relationship with Scat. Whenever you think that Six and Scat might give into their urges Rappaport quickly pulls the rug out from under the audience.
Though this technique provides some genuine laughs, it also exposes how problematic the romantic subplot is in the film. It toys with the notion of “will they or won’t they” in regards to Scat and Six’s relationship, but never seems to know how to draw it out in a captivating way. The relationship is too disjointed and cannot find a genuine rhythm within the greater context of the story. This both hinders the overall flow of the film and takes away from the satirical commentary.
Instead of trying to force a romantic angle, it would have been more interesting had Rappaport explored some of the other aspects of the corporate world that the film touches on. The most notable one being the way women are treated in regards to corporate hierarchy. Rappaport hits on some interesting themes of discrimination when he focuses on how easily Six is passed over for promotion in favour of grooming males like Sneaky Pete and Scat. However, the film never explores this in any great detail. The same can be said for Brittany Snow’s blink and you miss it supporting role as “Three”, Sneaky Pete’s assistant who is essentially a colder version of Six. At times the film feels like it is more interested in Six and Three’s sexuality than it is as them as real people.
Fortunately, Amber Heard tries her best to bring some sense of depth to her character. Heard offers the best, and most consistent, performance of the bunch. Shiloh Fernandez is solid as well though the uneven plotting, especially in regards to the subplots, tends to hurt the overall impact of his character. The film simply tries to do too much and ultimately spreads itself thin in the character development department. Even Lutz’s Sneaky Pete, whose persona is to be mysterious and silent, jokingly admits to how limiting it is to play such a one dimensional character.
Like the products featured in the film, Syrup had the potential to be a truly memorable satire. As it offers some pointed commentary about the way marketing has consumed our lives. Unfortunately, the uneven romantic subplot and lack of true character development outside of Scat hurts the film. What we are left with is a product that will satisfy for a few hours, but will ultimately have you searching for something more fulfilling later on.