December 3, 2020

SCREEN | 'Songbird' Infects the Future – Mutating COVID–23

"Rich people need their sh*t!"
Alexandra Daddario Adam Mason | Songbird
STX Films / Elevation Pictures
Songbird, the probably too soon pandemic thriller, takes place a few years into an alternate future where the current strain of the coronavirus we know has mutated into something much more devastating—referred to as COVID–23—raging on around a hazy American wasteland. Director Adam Mason takes a familiar dystopian approach to his vision of a transformed near-future.

Produced by blockbuster filmmaker Michael Bay, it's not exactly clear what public appetite there is for a film showing worse circumstances (110 million dead) than our current world and recent past. Starring K.J. Apa as an immune bike messenger trying to save his girlfriend, whom he cannot see in person, from the corrupt Department of Sanitations' ghastly government-imposed quarantine camps, Songbird is the first film to be conceived, shot, and produced during Los Angeles' lockdown and it's hard not to think the filmmakers anticipated they'd be releasing this into a world much further past the hard realities of the pandemic's destruction.

Co-starring a pleasant ensemble including Sofia Carson, Craig Robinson, Bradley Whitford, Peter Stormare, Alexandra Daddario, Demi Moore, and Paul Walter Hauser acting mostly in isolated homes and single locations, the romantic drama tries to boil our pandemic anxieties into a somewhat forgettably standard young adult romance. Furthermore, it confuses what we know about the actual COVID–19 disease into a foggy idea of what the film's mutated version is. Characters follow more extreme and loose precautions or inconsistent restrictions when convenient without explanation making it unclear why this future is exactly so much more extreme.

Songbird ping pongs in knowing dramatic tropes while including little familiar nods to our communal experiences from over the last year. Despite some energetic direction and well-done schlocky genre flourishes, nothing aside from the topicality of the slapdash film's subject matter proves all that interesting dramatically. It's hard not to feel the makers behind this opportunistic effort needlessly rushed into something made awkwardly timely but misguided.

Songbird is available to stream on various digital platforms and through video on demand starting December 11th.

More | AV Club / Indiewire / Polygon

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