Millennium Albatross: Savoy Skirts Surfaces in Glossy Essay on Ills of Capitalism
If you’re looking for an honest portrayal of the widely accepted generational rift between the baby boomers and millennials or even a modestly attenuated depiction of the ripple effects of the shrinking middle class vs. the accumulated wealth of the one percenters in the US, then Echo Boomers, the directorial debut of Seth Savoy, isn’t for you.
A slack paced, over narrated ‘based on a true story’ which masquerades as a heist film while trying to retain the socially conscious message of its subjects, it’s a bare bones diatribe of the haves vs. the have nots and fails miserably at formulating the perfect storm of economic realities which plague the underprivileged in America. An interesting cast headlines this terribly titled (a reference to the reality of what ‘millennials’ are, an undefined generation echoing the sentiments and archaic values of the people still in power) parcel which wouldn’t seem so egregious if it weren’t for its failed stance concerning protagonists who end up seeming, for the most part, the entitled white millennials bolstering the stereotype.
After recently graduating college and woefully in debt, Lance (Patrick Schwarzenegger) books a one-way trip to Chicago to join his cousin Jack (Gilles Geary) in a mysterious business venture. But to his surprise, Jack is part of an underground criminal operation run by Ellis (Alex Pettyfer) and his girlfriend Allie (Hayley Law). Their small band of operatives receive addresses of wealthy residents from Mel Donnelly (Michael Shannon), whose homes they burglarize when empty and then deliver the goods to Mel to sell on the black market. Lance becomes an integral part of the operation, despite his initial dismay, because he knows exactly which pieces of art procured from these homes which are worth money. Ellis and his team, however, leave behind a distinct calling card by demolishing the insides of each home in their rage and disdain for the wealthy. Eventually, their deeds begin to catch up with them, compromising their working relationship with Mel and their allegiances to one another. After they’re apprehended, Lance and Allie supply a journalist (Lesley Ann Warren) with their explanations as to what happened and why.
Savoy’s script, co-written by Jason Miller and Kevin Bernhardt, commits several cardinal sins, the most blatant being the act of telling and not showing. Schwarzenegger’s monotonous voice over narration only calls more attention to this as we’re forced to navigate this framed narrative mostly through his perspective. His introduction of each member of Ellis’ posse tends to feel like an aping of every other contemporary and jaunty heist movie (Baby Driver, 2017, for instance), further predicated by the ‘rules’ to live by which become little mantras for this band of criminals.
As predicted, the lone female Allie (Hayley Law as the only person of color, whose background isn’t explored nearly enough to formulate ironies and juxtapositions which would have made certain subtexts really pop), forces the kind of devolving rift between Alex Pettyfer’s Alpha male and the newcomer. As Lance, Schwarzenegger never evolves beyond a standard template, and try as the script does to paint him as an anomaly, he’s less interesting and enigmatic than the war vet or even the wild-eyed cousin played by Gilles Geary (who has a certain Michael Pitt/Dane DeHaan presence).
Poor Lesley Ann Warren is on hand to frame the narrative as the journalist looking to ‘bridge the gap,’ while Michael Shannon is, predictably, well cast as the sinister Mel—who is also written as more of a pathetic loser than the performer’s prowess suggests. In the end, it’s a vague essay on how hurt people hurt people mixed with the dangerous sentiments of entitlement living in negativity. Sofia Coppola’s similarly positioned The Bling Ring (2013) was a more enjoyable odyssey of white privileged youths feeding off the celebrity personalities they wish they could be, Echo Boomers asserts itself as something meaningful and then glosses over the realities of a discontent aimed at institutions beyond the reaches of both these subjects and the arrows of their wrath.