Whether we like it or not, advertising is everywhere. Marketing has a pretty good idea of what we like and how to tailor their products to reach people such as you and me. Some people find this arrangement insidious and actively decry such tactics. In 2013, the circuitry of the corporate world and its Machiavellian messaging was brought to the big screen. After some alterations, the wit of Max Barry saw the Hollywood treatment of his takedown of the image focused consumer culture, in Syrup.
Scat, a recent business school graduate, is having a hard time selling himself. Yet he happens upon a killer new idea for cola, which he dubs Fukk, focusing more on the branding and concept than the taste. He enlists the help of hot-shot Six, a rising product executive of Addison Beverage Company (read Coca-Cola). After some chicanery from his best friend, Sneaky Pete, Scat is found outside of the tent of the product launch. It is a huge success, but corporate politicising presents Scat and a now relegated Six an opportunity for vengeance, can they beat the machine, or will their protest get lost in the marketing.
Based on a book from the very late 90s, offering a kind of scathing parody of the mirage-like world of Marketing. As an attendee of business school, myself (Yeah, I know), I can say a lot has changed or is exaggerated from the proverbial wisdom of today. (they do not tell you to rename yourself, but branding is important). The film adaptation opts to retain the late 90s setting, with its focus on T.V. advertisements, feeling straight from the era that the book was written. Syrup is also full of insightful observations of the world. Some picked up from pop-psychology tidbits, others from (I guess) lived in experience, that peppers the film. A lot of the time Six (or Scat) will break the fourth wall directly to the viewer, in a way that almost manipulates the audience. It is quite effective, once again keeping the feeling of the book. Behind all of this is a will-they-wont-they relationship between Six and Scat, offering one of the film’s many innovations.
Syrup is not only about our protagonists winning; a lot of the joy is from seeing all this corporate chicanery taken to its outlandish conclusions. The way this dog-eat-dog world manifests, from the innocuous stuff like Sneaky Pete getting the trademark first, and the hiring of an ersatz Six, calling herself Three (portrayed by Brittany Snow) is just the tip. There is a sequence that involves a not so authentic funeral that feels indicative of the ethos of the novel. Outside of being sardonic, there is a sleek glossiness that permeates the film, with its depictions of New York looking like it came straight out of a catalogue, along with soundtrack also feeling like it was featured in fashion T.V. spots, leading to a very cool package.
A great effort has been made to try to capture the hipness of the book. The score is stylish, and everybody looks trendy and air-brushed, and the acting helps add a new dimension to the big screen. While it takes a significant departure from the beats of the book it is based on. Syrup provides an interesting image of corporate cynicism to tell a fun and scornful story. In an era where soda can be celebrated for just being okay; Syrup shows there is still something subversive in the message.
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