Hannah Strong


Wild Diamond – first-look review

A young woman with her heart set on social media stardom gets a shot at fame when she's offered an audition for a reality series in Agathe Riedinger's feature debut.

Various surveys report anything from half to 86% of Gen Zers would like to pursue a career in being an influencer, pointing towards a culture just as scandalised by the concept of making a living from social media as excited by it. Now it appears easier than ever to monetise yourself – set up an Instagram, YouTube or TikTok, perfect the choreography to some hyper pop, post a few fast fashion hauls, and wait for the brand deals to come rolling in, right? Plenty of social media personalities will tell you it’s not quite that simple, but it’s easy to see the appeal to young people, especially post-pandemic. Why toil away in an airless office or be verbally abused by customers for minimum wage when you could make bank from the comfort of your own home?

So goes the thought process of Liane Pigou (Malou Khebizi), a 19-year-old from a troubled background who takes pride in her appearance and strives to be a French Kim Kardashian. When we first meet her in the southern town of Fréjus, she’s being cat-called by a stranger on public transport and responds with a justified amount of anger to his abuse. A little less righteous is her income stream of selling shoplifted perfume and laptop chargers, but hey – a girl’s gotta pay for her lip filler somehow, and Liane already used all the money she made as a waitress to pay for her boob job.

When she’s not babysitting her spunky little sister or arguing with her mother about the “sugar daddies” she brings home, Liane parties with her friends and updates her Instagram with new videos and selfies. She has a small but appreciative audience, but when she receives a call from a producer offering her a chance to appear on the popular reality series ‘Miracle Island’, Liane becomes obsessed with the stardom she sees dangling just out of reach. She’s encouraged to grow her social media following if she wants to get cast on the show, where she will be expected to act up for the cameras and potentially have sexual relationships with the noxious male cast members (who it’s implied are considerably older than her). All of this sounds like a dream to Liane, who sees Miracle Island as her ticket out of her small town, away from her deadbeat mum and doubting friends.

But there’s a small complication in the form of Dino (Idir Azougli), who remembers Liane from a foster home they both briefly spent time in. He’s now working for his brother’s dirtbike business, and immediately sets about courting Liane, who despite her external image proves to be quite insecure and suspicious of him. As she waits to hear if she’s been cast in the television series, Liane is consumed by her blossoming social media fame, seemingly unfazed by the death threats, nudes and strange comments she receives. She dismisses her friends’ scepticism as jealousy and fantasises about how brilliant her life will be once she’s a star.

It’s a spirited debut feature from Agathe Riedinger that absolutely has its finger on the pulse of present-day pop culture, and Khebizi is a formidable presence as the sulking, sultry Liane, attempting to recreate the formula for success she’s been studying since she first had access to the internet. But we’re always kept at a bit of a remove from her, unable to pin down what motivates Liane aside from a crushing desire to get away from an environment which has brought her so much unhappiness or to offer any new insights into how exactly the pursuit of stardom in 2024 is all that different from the pursuit of stardom at any other point in history.

Perhaps the biggest difference now is that social media gives the illusion anyone can make it if they put in the hours – but Liane is already young and beautiful, which have always been the main requirements for becoming famous. Although Riedinger doesn’t sneer at the pursuit of a social media career, it’s not entirely clear what exactly she does want to say about it, other than positioning influencers as the new religious idols (which is not really a novel concept at this point – there have already been too many riffs on Kim Kardashian as the Virgin Mary).

What comes across most in the film is Liane’s loneliness. Deprived of maternal affection and directionless in life, social media has become a replacement for connection, bringing to mind a quote from Dee Reynolds, a character on It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia, in the episode ‘Charlie Rules The World’. A perpetual loser, Dee becomes obsessed with succeeding at a mobile game called Techpocalypse. “It’s like when I’m doing good in the game, I’m doing good in life,” she explains earnestly. Liane would undoubtedly agree.

Published 15 May 2024

Tags: Agathe Riedinger

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