REVIEW: Netflix's EDM movie attempt 'XOXO' tries so hard to be the film we want it to be

Vids 06/09/2016

It's a hard one, covering this ever growing electronic music world that has expanded into one of the biggest facets of music in the US over the last couple of years.

With so many different factors involved, it really is a world of its own, making it a pretty hard subject to tackle in just a ninety-minute movie.

A perfect example of 'tried-but-failed' attempt was last year's 'We Are Your Friends' featuring Zac Efron and a bunch of other never heard of actors. It was widely slammed by critics and viewers for being shallow as fuck and just really not representing the genre as a whole. 

Enough though about that monstrosity (I mean if you wanna know more just go on IMDB and read the comments section). Enter XOXO, Netflix's attempt to cover an electronic music festival in its entirity. There's an up & coming producer who gets booked to play, a naive girl who has literally no clue going to her first music festival, a couple who are going through relationship issues and my personal favourite, the guy who takes way too many drugs.


Lets kick things off with Ethan Shaw (Graham Phillips), the up and coming bedroom DJ. He's recently hit it big on YouTube with the track “All I Ever Wanted,” with millions of views (and counting). His manager gets him a gig at XOXO (seemingly a straight rip off of EDC, though the end credits claim the film holds no relation to the XOXO festival in Oregon), but isn't able to make it as he gets accidentally drugged along the way and goes on a massive acid bender. This is the first in many unnecessary sub-plots that exist only to facilitate an over the top drug bender.

This does lend to one of my favourite parts of the film. With the manager out of the way, Ethan pretty much can't get into the festival. The aspiring musician asks a bouncer why he would have all his equipment with him if he’s not in the lineup. “Man, I don’t question the shit you people do,” the bouncer responds. “One guy out there has got a vacuum cleaner. I have no idea what he intends to clean with that thing.”. It kind of exposes the absurdity of rave culture as a whole and was one of the only times this film made me laugh.


Neil (Chris D’Elia) plays a washed up DJ who has grown to hate the whole scene - I weirdly see myself becoming him in the foreseeable future - after the headlining DJ "Avilo" ($10 bucks to guess which DJ's that name is taking the piss out of) ruined his career, but eventually  he manages to make peace with the whole thing after punching Avilo in the face. 

There are like 4 or 5 other sub-plots at play here which I don't really need to go into because they all share the same kind of message: life is short, and so live in the moment blah blah blah. It's all delivered in an 'A Christmas Carol' style situation where Anders, the music festival organiser, gives a small speech to make them come to a life changing realisation. It's a done and dusted concept that works here, but made me shake my head in disappointment at the same time.

XOXO is very much American. As a punter who hits NZ shows and festivals often, this definitely doesn't show the culture here, and you know what, I'm okay with that. 'Cause if the festival scene in NZ was anything like what is portrayed here, I definitely would be spending more time at home, not watching films like this. 



A highlight of the film was the music. They pretty much nailed it here and you can thank Pete Tong for that. Don't know who Pete Tong is? Go to the BBC Radio 1 website and educate yourself or listen to his show All Gone Pete Tong on George FM every Friday night. Disclosure, Diplo, Key 'n Krates, Skrillex, Hayden James, Odesza, they are all here and it all fits like a glove. 

All in all, the whole EDM scene is still waiting for a film to represent itself as a whole. This film is definitely a step forward, but its flaws show that Hollywood is still essentially far too removed from the culture to really grasp it. The movie just doesn't know what it is. It flicks back and forth between all its characters and doesn't give us any time to actually give a shit about them. It's like no killer, all filler.

If anything you should watch this movie for the crack up drugged dude running around with a gopro which is pulled together as an end credits sequence that was somewhat redeeming if anything.

-H. Crocker