Release Date: 04/28/23 [SXSW 2023]
Genre: Biography. Comedy. Drama.
Studio: IFC Films
"The story of the meteoric rise and catastrophic demise of the world's first smartphone."
OUR MOVIE REVIEW:
Do you remember the BlackBerry? That phone before the iPhone; that phone that let you do email, texting and phone calls all in the palm of your hand. Who could forget those? They were such giants in cell phone culture when the new millenia hit, but their glory didn’t last forever as they quickly vanished from the conversation when Apple’s seminole phone, the iPhone was released. It’s a classic fall from graces story, but the story behind BlackBerry’s downfall, according to director Matt Johnson, is a path of unhinged madness and haphazard decisions that lie in a gripping, hilarious and devastating tech-drama.
Johnson’s filmmaking journey has been an incredible thing to witness; from the webseries to now Television series Nirvanna The Band The Show, to his eerie mockumentary debut The Dirties, Matt Johnson’s style has become so defining, and seeing it evolve as keeps making movies is just really great to see. He’s honestly one of cinema’s more charming unknown voices, and BlackBerry may be his best work to date. He presents the film with a style he’s familiar with, but it’s still evolving more and more. There is an even more firm fly-on-the-wall approach to the filmmaking that amps up the dread when the doomsday clock starts counting down for the phone.
Johnson brings in comedy powerhouses Jay Baruchel and Glenn Howerton to lead the film while also playing as one of the key supporting characters himself. Baruchel plays Mike Lazerities, co-founder of RIM technologies along with Douglas Fregin, played by Matt Johnson. Fregin and Lazareties find themself letting in enigmatic businessman Jim Balsilli, who is played by Howerton. This launches our film into a tech-bro love triangle much like the dynamic between Eisenberg, Timberlake and Garfield in David Fincher’s The Social Network, but just as fresh and sharp. Howerton’s performance is absolutely electric here, fans of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, will get their Dennis Reynolds kick while also deciphering what exactly the hell is going on in Balsillie’s head. However, Baruchel steals the show with a career best performance as the motivated, but reserved Mike Lazerities. A man with an angel and a devil on his shoulders just trying to make a phone where you have the whole world in your hands, and he is forced to make many decisions that not only compromise what the RIM team stands for, but what he also stands for.
Johnson’s supporting performance is just as big of a highlight. It’s a performance with so much heart and depth, I really couldn’t imagine this story told by anyone else but him. While also playing as co-founder Douglas Fregin, countless times Johnson improvises with Baruchel that makes for the film's funnier and more genuine moments. There’s also countless references to many corners of nerd culture while also celebrating the magnificent innovations that came out of the 90s; Johnson himself serves as somewhat as BlackBerry’s lifeline as he leads these group of nerds who just want to make the best things in the world while also being squeezed by the deathly grip of capitalism.
There are so many different aspects about BlackBerry to love, from the main performances, to Johnson’s eye-on-the-wall filmmaking that makes us experience the ever growing dread of the BlackBerry’s downfall. I only know for sure that Matt Johnson just keeps on improving upon himself in making a singular, but more dynamic style and delivering a story that only he could have told. BlackBerry is nothing less than an electric tech-drama, and will go down as one of the more essential films of 2023.