Movie Review: Syrup

A Searing Indictment of Modern Marketing Methods?

Syrup Movie. Screen Grab via YouTube

The Details...

Title: Syrup (2013) - 1hr 30mins
Genre: Comedy/Drama/Romance
Director: Aram Rappaport
Stars: Amber Heard, Shiloh Fernandez, Kellan Lutz
Writer: Max Barry
Metacritic Score: 6.0

Rarely is the advertising and marketing industry represented accurately by Hollywood. Most of the time, it’s a glamorous world of four-hour lunches, penthouse apartments and million-dollar salaries. It’s also seen as some kind of dodge or hustle; not a real profession, but something over-privileged rich kids do to waste time and money.

Syrup, a movie now available on Netflix, is not quite in that zone…but it’s really close. As a satire, it has to delve into this soulless world of pointless products and empty suits. But unlike Max Barry’s cult novel from 2000, this screen adaptation doesn’t quite hit the mark.

The Three Main Characters...

The story focuses on three people. Scat, a name he made up, is a cock college grad that wants to break into marketing. Six, who claims this is her real name, is an impeccably coiffured young executive who wields major power at a firm Scat wants to work for. She also claims to be a lesbian, but as we discover quickly, everything she says is probably a fabrication to improve her image. The third character is Sneaky Pete, whose name is scarily accurate. He says nothing for 95% of the film, and it works in his favor. Again, another stab at the emptiness of corporate marketing culture.

Scat has a genius idea one night, and he takes it to Six.

The idea plays upon the premise that drinks are nothing more than marketing. You buy an image, not a product. This, to be perfectly honest, is very close to home. Is there really that much of a difference between the vast number of sodas and beers out there? If you placed the top three beers in front of a blindfolded crowd, could they till the difference between Bud Light, Miller Light and Coors light?

Doubtful. Very doubtful. Instead, people buy the “cold” campaign, or “twins!”

The Plot Thickens...

Anyway, Scat’s drink is going to be some kind of Red Bull knockoff, marketed in a pure black can, and will be called FUKK. Clever, huh? Lines like “I’d die for a FUKK” and “What would you do for a FUKK?” come into play. Trevor Beattie’s FCUK campaign was clearly the target of the joke here.

From there, the plot revolves more and more around the dynamic between Six, Scat and Sneaky Pete. But other blatant stabs at the advertising and marketing industry are worked into the story. At one point, someone asks what the FUKK drink will taste like, and they’re almost laughed out of the room. They also talk about doing focus groups on urine-flavored drinks. Oh, and a competitor product called KOK hits the market, too. This, using celebrity endorsement and exclusivity, is actually a stroke of genius. Expect it to be copied at some point.

Of course, there are the tragedies that are exploited by the heartless clones that work in our industry. Do we exploit tragedy, and jump on the latest news and trends without care or hesitation? Yes, actually, we do. So Syrup got that right as well.

At the end of the movie, there’s a message.

Just like one of those serious episodes of “Diff’rent Strokes,” we are told that we should not buy things because of image. And we should be true to ourselves, not the people we are trying to emulate.

All of that falls a little flat though, considering the stale delivery and the fact that none of the characters in the movie have any redeeming qualities. Six, played perfectly by Amber Heard, is colder than a bucket of Dippin’ Dots. Scat’s constant wrestle between his good and bad self does not engage the viewer, and honestly, who cares? And Sneaky Pete, he’s really only in the story to create tension. His script probably had less words in it than Schwarzenegger’s did for The Terminator.

To Sum Up...

Overall, it’s not a bad attempt at showing us how depressingly fake and glossy our industry can be.

It just needed a few characters in it with a touch of warmth. But perhaps the most interesting fact of all here is that the trailer for the movie did an astoundingly good job of making Syrup look way better than it was. Oh, the irony. 

If you’d like to delve into the more realistic world of advertising, marketing and design, these documentaries are a great start.