Tony Black reviews Black Mirror – ‘Nosedive’…
We can all pretty much stop now and agree that Charlie Brooker is a genius, right? Love him or not as a personality presenting the Wipe program on the BBC or his Guardian articles/books, but Black Mirror has within two painfully short seasons on Channel 4 become The Twilight Zone of its generation, with Brooker the Rod Serling heir apparent. The third season, bought up shrewdly by Netflix and marketed craftily as a ‘Netflix Original’ (sure guys, sure), has been hugely anticipated with more episodes, as much money as Brooker wanted, and a flotilla of well-known stars from both sides of the Atlantic queuing up to be part of his futuristic anthology shining a terrifying light on technology of tomorrow and how it can illuminate today. ‘Nosedive’, much like the previous episode ‘White Christmas’, taps into something relevant, powerful and enormously scary about modern social media.
Bryce Dallas Howard is Lacie, an unmarried twentysomething who lives in a near-future America where everyone is judged and rated up to 5 stars based on their actions toward and interactions with others; please someone, you’ll get 5 stars and your aggregated rating remains or goes up, edging toward the coveted 5.0 ranking. Annoy someone, upset them or be rude, you may get fewer stars and your aggregate won’t go up and, potentially, may come down. While we may like or give an emoji face to someone’s post on Facebook, Brooker takes this one step further by having society arc around this rating in terms of status – you may not be able to get a busy flight registration for instance if you’re not a 4.2, or you may not be deemed worthy of buying *this* house if you’re not a 4.5. Rankings mean everything. Status and crucially numbers directly correlate with wealthy, prosperity and at first, for Lacie, happiness. Her journey is not just one of self-discovery, but revelation as to what such a societal system means.
‘Nosedive’, as you might expect, is timely and quite brilliant, not just in the sense of a plaudit but from a creative, philosophical standpoint; Black Mirror always takes a technological element of society and twists it into something ghastly and inhumane, where the base motivations and moral core of human beings are morphed through the prism of that screen. Take Alice Eve’s loathsome Naomi, a seemingly perfect blonde about to get married, ranked high, whose life Lacie aspires to desperately more than anything else, but who purely exists to maintain and advance numbers. In this world, everything and everyone is reduced to a number, a statistic, which can be raised or lowered depending purely on a subjective encounter. Imagine not being able to get your kid into a good school because someone down voted the choice of restaurant you attended and tagged on Facebook? That’s the kind of picture perfect dystopia Brooker crafts here, which director Joe Wright paints in bright lights, pastel pinks, and a retro-futurist picket fence 1950’s which is as fake as everything Lacie sets out aspiring towards, and sees crumble before her very eyes.
With a powerhouse of a shrill, painfully innocent and by turns powerfully resilient performance by Howard, flanked by a strong supporting cast (look out for Cherry Jones in a terrific small role), a peerless script filled with incidental details & world building from Rashida Jones and Mike Schur, and impressive direction which is as artful as it is tragic, ‘Nosedive’ is yet another stunner from Black Mirror. Perhaps not as heartbreakingly genius as ‘Fifteen Million Merits’, but not much is likely to be. On this start however, Black Mirror could well this season surpass its already towering bar.