VOD Review - XOXO

Graham Phillips is the child star who's probably best known for his role in the CBS drama The Good Wife. He landed the starring role in Staten Island Summer, a romantic comedy that played exclusively on Netflix. This movie is an out-and-out, Netflix original in which Phillips is again the lead, although it's more an ensemble. Yet, it could be an indication that Phillips could have a similar deal as Adam Sandler. He may not have the creative control as Sandler but he could rise as this kind of Netflix star perhaps.

Here, Phillips plays Ethan Shaw, a digital musician, a millennial DJ who has created a song "All I Ever Wanted" with the help of his mom that has gone viral. As a result, he gets a slot at a EDM festival, a huge outdoor concert called XOXO. Ethan simply has to get there and perform well because it could lead to the start of his career.

Brett DelBuono co-stars as Tariq, the best friend of Ethan. He works as a waiter at his father's restaurant. What he really wants is to be Ethan's manager or agent. Tariq is the one who arranges for Ethan to play at XOXO. He pretends to be a hotshot manager, even while busing tables. He too has to be at the concert, but his strict, Lebanese father won't allow it.

Sarah Hyland (Modern Family) also stars as Krystal, a young girl who is a fan of Ethan's music. She intends to meet her boyfriend, Jordan there, just so she can see and hear Ethan perform. She sets off with her friends, as they just want to have fun.

Along the way, the three of them encounter a series of people all going or connected to the festival. These people add to the comedy or to the romance of this romantic comedy. The first is Chris D'Elia (Undateable and Whitney) who plays Neil, a failed musician who is now managing a party bus, which escorts people to the festival. He's hilarious in the silly cynical way that D'Elia has been on his TV shows. The other is Ryan Hansen (Veronica Mars and Party Down) who plays Avilo, the headlining musician who steals the work from others through tricky collaborations. He's hilarious in the douche-bag kind of way. They're both so good that you wish the whole movie were just D'Elia and Hansen putting to the forefront whatever backstory they hint at here.

Colin Woodell (The Originals and Masters of Sex) plays Ray and Hayley Kiyoko (Jem and the Holograms and CSI: Cyber) plays Shannie. While D'Elia and Hansen bring the comedy. These two bring the romance. They play a couple teetering on the edge and they have to decide whether to stay together or not. More could have been done with them, but it's fine as a B-plot romance.

Written by Dylan Meyer, the movie really only does right by that romance and not by what would be the main romance. It barely does right by the romance or bromance between Ethan and Tariq. Meyer uses this conceit of separating Ethan and Tariq for the whole movie. Both go off on individual journeys. Tariq's is the wackiest of all. It does aide in the comedy, but it hurts the drama. There simply should have been more scenes of Ethan and Tariq together.

The same goes for Ethan and Krystal. By the end, the two kiss and we are to assume that it's the start of some great love affair. Yet, like Ethan and Tariq, Ethan and Krystal pretty much spend the whole movie apart. At least, Ethan and Tariq have a history together. Ethan and Krystal are brand new, but we're supposed to buy this connection between them. It's not enough.

Arguably, Krystal and Tariq spend just as much if not more time together than Krystal and Ethan. In fact, there is a scene between Krystal and Tariq that shows those two have just as good if not better chemistry. They have a genuine bonding moment, but then, at the end, Tariq says, "You should meet my friend," and all I could ask is why. The only reason Meyer would give Tariq that line is because of some rule that the two pretty white people should be together, not because of anything organic that occurred in all the moments leading up to it.

Three Stars out of Five.
Rated TV-MA.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 32 mins.


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