“Here deeds have understood / Words they were darkened by;
The Eternal Feminine / Draws us on high.”
[Johann Wolfgang von Goethe]
It was clear very early that Sam Levinson had a few clever ideas based on the juxtaposition of the lived experience of females and the demoralizing reality of social media exposure in today’s society. This was impactfully done in the first part of the film (even though the kids looked and behaved way too old for high school). The protagonists lay bear the vicious cycle of second wave feminism and the so-called sexual liberation of women, where their behavior is indistinguishable from a type of passive predatory masculinity and the internet only provides the documented proof that teenage-years will often do us no favors in the long run. Very soon this good will was wasted and the bill of goods (that I consider) being sold to women today regarding their need to sexually surrender slowly turns into an incompetent mess of The Purge like sequences without the competence of writing to end the movie with any meaningful lessons.
Assassination Nation is a basic film about the online secret lives and gossip of four high school girls who allow their empowered new identities of sexual liberation to be weaponized as grounds for an attack after someone hacks the town of Salem and puts their online footprint “on blast.” This turns into a chaotic revenge-fest akin to that church scene in the Kingsman, where the clear message is based on the dangers of dormant “toxic masculinity” triggered by shaming and the redemptive empowerment of girls who fight back by any means necessary. This is perhaps a timely film to watch given the Kavanaugh circus where some, like Jia Tolentino (New Yorker), are writing about this idea that “white and wealthy teen-age boys have the right to engage in criminal sexual cruelty as long as they later get a good job, start a family, and ‘settle down.’” There are indelible dangers for girls in high-school and this film does well to remind little boys that girls can still be a violent force as counter-measure
I understand that this was a parody of the reality of today, but the film’s attempt to channel the likes of Black Mirror, Spring Breaker, & Eight Grade ends up being little else than a semi-decent reboot of another Purge spin-off resembling radical feminist snuff porn not too far removed from The Favourite. There is a way to make these films and there is a way to ruin the underlying potency of the message regarding social media and its psychological ruinous effects on teenagers — especially girls, who are constantly (as the movie effectively points out) bombarded with expectations as to how to look and think. That said, what Levison did was once again prove that American writers can’t write a screenplay worth half the price of admission (even with that $2 discount from MoviePass!!), even when the harvest is ripe for the picking.