HomeMoviesSXSW Review: Blackberry

SXSW Review: Blackberry

Jay Baruchel in the new movie BlackBerry.
Photo Credit: IFC Films

Last year at SXSW, not only did Best Picture winner Everything Everwhere All At Once premiere in Austin but it’s where Andrea Riseborough’s To Leslie started getting Oscar buzz. However controversial her eventual nomination was, now with two major Oscar nominated movies coming out of the multi-hyphenated festival in 2022, it’s natural to look for the next one.

There probably isn’t a Best Picture nominee in this year’s group. And an acting nomination is far from guaranteed. But come end-of-year lists, make sure to look for Glenn Howerton (It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia) in BlackBerry, Matt Johnson’s audacious telling of the rise and fall of the former tech giant.

That’s where the greatest intrigues lies. 

Sure, there may be a few scenes that feel stripped from a Dennis Reynolds’ fits of rage, but it’s a clear strength of Howerton and one that fits Johnson’s characterization of former BlackBerry co-CEO Jim Balsillie. Without much footage to pull for Balsillie’s actual personality, Howerton’s quick wit and stern demeanor sells the entire story like Alec Baldwin’s Glengarry Glen Ross.

To that end, Jay Baruchel’s nerdy co-founder Mike Lazaridis is a great complement that slowly unravels in this story of deception and obsession. The two play a perfect combination, opening debate for what drives success. Is “good enough the enemy of the world” or is “perfection the enemy of good?”

By the time the credits roll, it may feel like there’s a definitive answer as Johnson shows an obsessive Baruchel trying to fix a giant mess with one band-aid at a time. But the whole story is far more nuanced than the black and white the BlackBerry’s dueling characters may show. Johnson’s answer might actually lie within his own character, co-founder Doug Fergin (and fully answered in the end credit sequence.)

From start to finish, there’s not a single bad beat. Everything works in sync. And as much as I might praise Howerton’s performance, Curt Lobb’s editing and Johnson’s editing have a couple of draw-dropping moments as well, linking ideas and visuals together both in the moment and in callbacks. They fit a three hour movie within two hours, never missing a beat while remaining playful.

During the post-screening, Q&A an audience member asked Johnson about his “satire” which he boldly took the assessment further to say in essence, “Yes, we stole a lot of ideas. No need to be polite.” 

When people walk away from BlackBerry, it would be completely justified to call this a Social Network ripoff, as the story of fractured relationships among a tech startup which is fueled by a techno musical score. The fingerprints are all over the place. 

But you know, don’t fix what isn’t broke. Because this blueprint works, and even if Johnson admits to closely following inspirations, the movie still feels inventive. 

BlackBerry hits theaters nationwide on May 12, 2023.



Most Recent

Stay Connected