“Send me your BBM”
On January 9th, 2007, when Steve Jobs took to a worldwide stage to make the biggest announcement of the tech industry as we knew it, What did he do? Well he announed the iPhone and the world was forever changed. But before all this, there was the “BLACKBERRY”, and most audiences really don’t know much about the story of the man nor the company behind this invention this one time status symbol. Like many others, never having owned a Blackberry myself, one can only remember when someone said “Send me your BBM” and we looked at them in possible confusion. We also never knew the story of the BlackBerry to this depth, thankfully, this movie portrays that very well with its dark comedy and anxiety-inducing writing. While we all know that BlackBerry doesn’t exist anymore, Director/co-star Matt Johnson does a good job of showing how the IPhone destroyed this Canadian-based company, and how the fall from grace for those behind it all was actually more of a boom! than just a blip.
BlackBerry is not your by the numbers biographical drama of a company as the film is structured into three segments based on major shifts at the company, Research in Motion (RIM). The film follows the duo of tech boy wonders Mike Lazaridis (Jay Baruchel) and Doug Fregin (Matt Johnson), are the heads of a the very almost child-ish start-up, in which they’ve essentially just hired their friends to hang out with them and do “movie night”. Somehow during all this movie time – they have developed a phone capable of sending and receiving emails in a pocket-sized device you can hold in your hand – an idea that at the time that was deemed as a pipe dream.
As with anything new in the tech market – funding, support, and distribution are important to the plan and they duo head out to do get just that. Both are incredibly unprepared, to pitch their idea to Jim Balsillie (Glenn Howerton), who despite not having a tech background, gets it instantly, but feels they aren’t worth his time – until he has a interesting little incident of insubordination in the presence of his boss (Martin Donovan), which needless to say, gives him a bit of a career setback. He ends up meeting them again in a diner, where in a scene typical of how these two interact, Doug counts out change for the check from a Ninja Turtles wallet. Still Jim, offers his services to RIM in exchange for a large share of the business and the status title of co-CEO. Doug completely loses it, but Mike, who is clearly gets the bigger picture as payroll checks are bouncing, realizes they need each other.
What’s good about this film is how perfectly it captures the rise and fall of this once innovative company, highlighting the heart at the core, and of its inevitable demise. Fans of earlier films running this gamut like The Social Network or this years Tetris, will feel right at home here. Just like those films, this multi-faceted one is not just for the technology gurus out there, as co-writers Matt Johnson and Matthew Miller wrote it to integrate technological jargon into a narrative that everyone can understand and follow, not just those tech gurus. BlackBerry, is not just a film about the creation of the world’s first smartphone, but also works as an exploration of friendship, community, and power that never shys away from references to where they were located (what we here is the U,S. would call ‘the boonies), of Waterloo, Canada, and it never falls short of things like the constant praise of its hockey origins.
Where is falls a bit short at times is leaving out a background of the people themselves. If these people have homes or families we never see them. Jim has a loyal assistant, who is one of two women with basic speaking parts in the film. The other being Michelle Giroux as Dara Frankel, the SEC investigator who ends up bringing the axe down on RIM. All the other team members, with the exception of Rich Sommer as Paul Stannos, an engineer poached from Google and Michael Ironside as Purdy, another terrifying character made COO, otherwise blend into the same basic background. For all this movie’s pride in being Canadian its true home is plain old cutthroat capitalism. The various men in suits like Saul Rubineks’ John Woodman, or Cary Elwes as Carl Yankowsky, all are at various points just yelling at each other in their own colourless corporate settings, Making what I say next more than obvious that what stands out in all these films, not just this one but in all the films about the major innovators of our time, from Steve Jobs to Mark Zuckerberg, to Jim Balsillie, and eventually even Mike in this film, (taking into consideration they are correctly portrayed), are always some of the most horrid people to everyone around them. They were the times when this type of leadership was not only accepted, though that’s no excuse for being a unhuman human, it was the norm and women in the boardroom were a rarity. It is essentially the creation of the coporate overlords that we now know today.
Lastly is the acting. Jay Barucshel and Matthew Johnson were both wonderful in a corporate Ying-and-Yang relationship, though Johnson steals the show with his mockery and comedy. But the complete show stopping film stealer is Glenn Howerton as the corporate tough guy. Coming from a comedic background shows through here as his timing of every single scene scream roast is impeccable, it’s truly dark comedy at it’s best. He can stop the whole show with just a showstopping look. I can only say to everyone watching, let’s remember this performance come Awards season. Together, the three of them drive the story from its lowest points to its dizzying heights. All the supporting roles fit in as needed, as again, it’s like they hired a group of friends and funnily enough, a post Q & A with Director Matt Johnson confirmed just that.
Overall ‘BlackBerry’ is a fun entertaining picture, that may not be completely accurate, but for those who don’t know the details, it won’t matter or to the point, detract from the story at hand.
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Review Screening: Sunday, May 7, 2023 ~ Courtesy of CAA/IFC Films
“BLACKBERRY” FROM IFC FILMS IS OUT IN THEATERS FRIDAY, MAY 12, 2023