Beginning with the sly multiple meanings of its title, +1 ambitiously parodies and mourns the implications of the one coherent message that mass media manages to convey to all of its consumers in all its endlessly proliferating, ever-shifting permutations: the disposability of everything. Nothing matters, because the gizmo in your hand will be irrelevant this time tomorrow and this morning’s hot meme will be stale 10 seconds later. And if everything’s disposable, then, by logical implication, we probably are too: If the phone we embrace as our third arm and avatar can be so easily replaced and improved, so, then, can we. The characters in +1 know they’re on the outs with each other when they’re blocked from someone’s Facebook account; if a boyfriend’s an unadventurous, cheating cock, then to hell with him, as there will be a half dozen other guys at the party tonight that look just like him or even better.
Pop culture has always thrived on objectification, but the 24/7 access of rapidly altering stimulation has evolved to the point of endangering our capacity to enjoy, much less understand, any fleeting sensation, and +1 is an unexpectedly effective parable of the detachment that’s triggered from this overload of stimuli. The characters initially behave as a veteran viewer of teen sex comedies and slasher films would reasonably expect them to. Everyone is horny and bored, thinking of only a fuck or a drink, and the party we see is a great, relatively subtle joke: expansively lurid, and clearly informed by a teen’s porno-fed dreams of what such a party should resemble. The house is invitingly sprawling, the women all appear to be strippers or models with bodies that are respectively hard and soft where they should be, and the lighting is polished and sensual. The cat throwing this party is apparently so loaded that he can even afford to hire a naked Asian woman to plate the sushi platter on, just in case the debauch he’s arranged isn’t quite bluntly, explosively sexist enough. This party is a dream until it’s suddenly a nightmare.
Director Dennis Iliadis’s point, of course, is that it always was a nightmare, and the cosmic glitch that creates doppelgangers of all the partygoers out of thin air allows the characters to witness firsthand the trivial obnoxiousness of their behavior—a remarkably suggestive premise that simultaneously echoes Dostoyevsky and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. +1 thematically resembles a number of recent American films, such as Spring Breakers, The Great Gatsby, The Bling Ring, and The Canyons, and it’s superior to all of them save for the Sofia Coppola, which exhibits a similar empathy and attention to formal detail. Unfortunately, Iliadis fails to fully exploit the potential of his idea, falling back on an unimaginative variation of a siege scenario that brings the surging emotional crescendos to an abrupt, disappointing halt, but his work can’t be discounted either, as he often fashions images of tender intensity, such as an astonishingly resonant moment when a disenfranchised young woman literally falls in love with herself. Most of the other aforementioned films merely lampoon narcissism from a hip distance, but Iliadis grapples with the existential despair of it.