Director: Alex Richanbach
Screenwriter: Lauryn Kahn
Starring: Gillian Jacobs, Richard Madden, Michaela Watkins, Phoebe Robinson, Vanessa Bayer
Plot: A young American woman and her two best friends seek out a hot DJ in Spain.
Like the movie’s climactic sex scene that fades into shots of Spanish cliffs before any amount of passion or romance can be illustrated by it, Ibiza is all anticipation and no pleasure – as Gillian Jacobs’ terribly underdeveloped lead character would say: “I’m a total cliche right now and I don’t f*cking care.” Yeah, we get it Netflix, you don’t either…
Alex Richanbach’s Ibiza is one of the most tedious movies released this year. The premise alone seemed likely to spew up the same old “woman finds herself while on holiday with her pals” story we’ve all become accustomed to in the many decades of film history, but unlike that stale old formula which may never inspire but always seems capable of satisfying a deep-rooted desire to pass the time in an easy-to-digest 90 minutes of pure escapism, Ibiza was messily edited, horrifically unfocused in all aspects of the production and so entirely terrible it was almost broken.
The most glaring issue of Ibiza was how badly written it was. From the narrative to the dialogue and most blatantly the characters, Ibiza offered no avenue through which to become invested in its story or identify with any of what it was offering. The movie was simply a series of poorly constructed, unrealistic situations punctuated by zero character development, with the expectation of jokes inconceivably substituted for noise and profanity. What happened to really giving the word “c*nt” some umph?
We’ve seen countless times that movies can survive their lack of narrative structure and/or character development off the back of some creative visual work, situational comedy skits or fancy up-market graphics, but Ibiza was also totally void of all of these – it was almost impossible to be able to tell which country they were in, and that’s a real issue for a movie so strongly tied to Barcelona and Ibiza that it actually named itself after one of those locations.
What was most damming about this film however, was its insistence upon portraying each of its three lead characters as incredibly unlikable people, if people at all. The leading trio, whom we were told were best friends, were about as human as an emoticon, though each of them would have been an as-yet-created emoticon indicative of disdain-worthy second hand embarrassment; the sort of people who (quite literally as is the case in the film) shout down planes so they can do shots and party chants while 15,000 feet in the air, in their mid-30s and with no motivations other than to “get the D” and “pop some P’s”. Not in a “let’s get what we want because we can” way either; in a much more slimy and disrespectful manner than that.
It’s like everyone in the movie knew it was bad, too. The acting is almost entirely a non-factor given the movie in which they’re being asked to perform, but Jacobs is hitting a level below that of her fellow-Netflix-release ‘Love’ despite playing an eerily similar character, while every side character is the sort of nightclub going stereotype you’d likely only imagine up if you were 50 years old and hadn’t seen a club since before the internet, with each actor giving a performance to match. Love interest “DJ with a good heart” Richard Madden plays the entire role in two emotions and two shirts while Michaela Watkins’ over-the-top “bad boss” character is so animated she’s almost an actual cartoon, but the worst of the lot is Vanessa Bayer who not only phoned in her performance, but did so while looking so glazed over she could have been on any cocktail of drugs and none of us would have been any the wiser.
And while we’re on the topic…
Ibiza includes inconsequential drug use (most notably Ecstacy) on a whim, despite it holding no value to the plot whatsoever, and is even more random with its portrayal of nudity which could have been used as an interesting commentary on sexist and/or classist undertones to the clubbing scene but was instead used as a horrendously misplaced punchline to non-existent jokes.
As a film attempting to portray a summer mood of clubbing and going absolutely mental, Ibiza still failed – even with its drugs, tits and endless chart-topping hits. For instance, it was only on the rare occasion that the movie felt like it was actually set inside any sort of nightclub, with fully audible conversations occurring across large distances while in the midst of a DJ set that would blow your ear-drums in reality – not to mention the characters actually having room to breathe, dance and walk around; even get instant bar service. The locations of Barcelona and Spain were used sparingly at best, while the entire idea of the summer being about sun, sea and sand was lost to 90 seconds of screen time that was entirely inconsequential to the story and lacked any sort of atmosphere, whether that be a party atmosphere or otherwise. In fact, most of the film was set inside – inside a bar, a plane, an office, a cafe, a club, a hotel room – illustrating even further just how far removed from its own purpose, promotional material or even title, this movie actually was.
Positives were, quite clearly, few and far between, but the soundtrack did evoke some of the atmosphere intended – owing much of this to a large Netflix backing in the post-production aspects of the film – and the score at least tried to provide an emotional backdrop to uninspired moments of character confessions, no matter how invasive it may have been. These aspects of the film only stand out however, because they’re the only elements of the entire picture that actually function in their intended manner, with the rest of the film being an absolute nightmare of a watch and a complete waste of time.
With no reason to care for three thirty-something women whose only characteristics are desperation, addiction and incredibly irritating terrible moral standards, Ibiza has nothing going for it, which begs the question: how does a film this bad get funding?
I remember a time when “Netflix Original” actually meant “quality”. Don’t you dare make a sequel…