Indie Releases: Streamer (2017) Reviewed

The opening scene of Streamer introduces us to Jared (co-writer/producer/director Jared Bratt).  In this brief but stirring scene, Jared puts it all out there: he's the quintessential lonely millennial incel man, a fedora short of basically every creepy MRA stereotype.  Jared's demeanor is somehow pathetic, sad, and frightening all at the same time.  Bratt absolutely sells it, brilliantly setting the stage for a dark and thoughtful—if occasionally by-the-numbers—film that’s as much a character study as it is a thriller.

The story kicks in when Jared discovers that his favorite cam girl (Tanya Lee) lives in his apartment building.  This premise is a tad too convenient and even a bit flimsy, yet surprisingly easy to overlook as the story unfolds.  Jared is soon faced with quite a quandary, as he strives to grow his "real life" relationship with this woman while keeping her firmly in his fantasies.  As expected, the reality of the situation soon sets in and things get a little too real.

The character of Jared is surprisingly complex for what he appears to be.  In the opening scene he does make a brutal first impression, and that’s what makes the whole thing so difficult.  Jared is a man the audience really wants to hate, and certainly does himself no favors.  But Bratt makes it fascinating to watch.  Bratt somehow takes a man whose emotional development arrested as a teenager and permanently stayed that way, and dares the audience to feel sympathy for him.  It's such a crazy idea that it just might work, and against your better judgement it does.  It's not unusual for a movie to make us feel borderline unclean for liking or even feeling for a character we have no business feeling anything for other than disdain, but Bratt somehow has a way about him that makes this character, and by proxy the movie, work effectively.

That's not to say that Streamer is the most original or inventive film.  Streamer has a structure that feels familiar, even too much so, despite the modern approach.  Jared is not all that dissimilar to Tom, Joseph Gordon-Levitt's character in 2009's (500) Days of Summer, complete with undeserved sense of middle class white male entitlement.  But while Tom was played primarily for laughs (albeit awkward ones), Jared is a straight-up creeper.  Still, to some extent we've seen him, and this movie, before.  As fascinated and horrified as the audience is with Jared, it's difficult to shake the familiarity of it all.

Streamer has a lot of the most common problems that self-made micro-indies have.  The film has a more polished look than similar films, but there's occasionally a slight amateurishness to some of the performances, dialogue and even editing.  But Jared Bratt is the secret weapon of Streamer.  He takes what could easily have been a despicable and one-dimensional character and gives him depth and dimension, with a dark and riveting performance that gets under your skin and won't easily be forgotten.  Thanks to Bratt's performance, Streamer overcomes the occasional weak and spotty elements and becomes a dark, twisted, and fascinating character study.


-Mike Stec