“Bankrolled?” Think of it as a classic example of “meeting a comedy on its own terms.”
It takes a while to settle in. And truthfully, you’ve got to be simpatico with its vibe, something that ties “Bankrolled” to the stoner comedies of the past.
I started this Mexican satire from Netflix three times before it roped me in. It’s almost manic and as random as random can be. But then you see, “Ah, so this is ‘The Producers’ with a hint of classic Cheech & Chong (“Nice Dreams”) and a lot of satirical invention?”
Something like that. Just go with it.
The glimmering, shiny Silicon Valley send-up is set in a high-glossed Mexico City of youth, easy money, loopy “entrepreneurs” and born-victim venture capitalists. It’s about two aimless sometimes-stoned non-hustling hustlers (Aldo Escalante, Ricardo Polanco), hitting 30 and seeing their peers “start-up” and “network” their way to fame and glory.
All Polo (Escalante) wants is to fit in with them, with pretentious poseurs and their wacky apps and “ping pong” parties where they brainstorm “the next next thing.” He already has the bossy influencer/”muse” (María Chacón) such self-hype kings require. If only he had, you know, an original thought, “Big Idea” or any notion of what “follow through” looks like. And the money to bring that idea to fruition.
Even more directionless Blas (Polanco) is a slacker’s slacker. He’s got programming talent wrapped in misplaced idealism. His pretention is cynicism mixed with coffee snobbery. His ambition is no higher than landing a barista gig at the upscale beanery too snooty to ever hire him, maybe settling in Catalonia and reading architect Antonio Gaudi’s autobiography in his leisure.
But they finagle their way into a classmate’s (Guiseppe Gamba) “ping ponging” (a new phrase for “brainstorming”) networking party and stumble into their drug dealer pal Aderales (Fabrizio Santini). He’s no longer selling weed, etc. He’s rebranded. “Nootropics” is all about stimulants, things that may or may not be legal and may or may not help one zero in on a great idea and pound away at it — drugged-up and sleeplessly — until they have something, “just like Elon.”
Damned if they don’t wake up with an online pitch they don’t remember making for an idea that sounds stupid and seems stupid but just might be nutty enough to catch on in crowdfunding/Venture Capital circles.
SignNow will allow players/downloaders to indulge in our mania for “clicktivisim,” “the stupidest form of social justice.”
You click “like” on some cause, save the manatees or support homeless women, feel righteous, collect “points” in competition with the other self-righteous-and-too-lazy-to-lift-more-than-a-finger, and “change the world.” How addictive is that?
Polo and Blas can’t shrug off this drunken “ping ponged” idea that they pitched and posted. Because a VC outfit named Bankrolled, where “crowdfunding is the NEW economy,” get behind it and next thing you know, they have a $2,000,000, their own start-up, status with the other “entrepreneurs” and…expectations.
They’ll live large, spend like drunken sailors, and fail. On purpose. Just like “The Producers.” Only things don’t work out that way. Just like “The Producers.”
Veteran Mexican TV and film writer (“How to Survive Being Single”) turned first-time feature director Marcos Bucay takes too long to get us through this long set-up. But starting with the way the guys “remember” what they did to get to that video “pitch” — their hungover selves llook across the room at their drunken, stoned “last night” selves to see how they got to here — “Bankrolled” is on a roll.
Welcome to a world where everybody is online and maintaining the illusion of their lives online. Everyone is live-streaming, everyone wants attention, everyone wants the validation of likes and the ultimate ego trip of a YayTalk. You know who and what that’s sending up, right, the “Here I am, ain’t I great?” TED Talk phenomenon.
YouthBank, where their line of credit is set up, is part ashram, part VR gaming room where you set up accounts with a “singing” password.Yeah, you sing or hum a bar of music and that unlocks your account.
Every office is a romper room, every “meeting” a pep rally, every colleague half-clueless about whatever it is they’re doing, and what drinks, colon cleanses and drugs will help them meet the deadline for whatever it is they’re making.
It’s just nuts. They’re all making…nothing.
The parallel story has two Bankrolled “professionals” working the SignNow account — officious workaholic Nat (Natalia Téllez) and cocky free-spirit Mayte (Seo Ju Park), who thinks every day is “Slutty Monday.” They’re in charge of supervising this start-up, keeping tabs on where the money goes, and as an afterthought, figuring out if this “idea” is worth anything to anyone and if the guys who came up with it are just con artists.
Because their bubbly boss, Gus (Sebastián Zurita) is too ditzy and enthusiastic to sweat details like that.
The dialogue and situations hurl a thousand riffs on the start-ups that closed the door on new “big ideas” in hospitality, dating and sex (Lyft, AirBnd, Tinder, Grindr), on every “cleanse” and new drink/supplement/lifestyle fad “fresh from LA” and on everything that can go wrong at the top of a start-up just like this.
It’s all a mad clutter, but I got into Polo’s egomania and work-avoidance “networking” and Blas’s delusions that he’s being cheated out of credit when the two of them are changing their coding team’s priorities every hour on the hour.
For a comedy that gets in its own way more often than not, that doesn’t give nearly enough screen time to the two somewhat funnier women (Park is seriously hilarious and seriously shortchanged) or even enough to let the leads fully form their characters, this still manages some serious third act laughs.
It’s amusing enough to be worth reading the subtitles if you’re not fluent in Spanish. And it might be even funnier once Hollywood realizes its promise and tidies things up for an even more manic and messy remake.
Cast: Aldo Escalante, Ricardo Polanco, Natalia Téllez, Fabrizio Santini, Seo Ju Park
María Chacón, Sebastián Zurita and Guiseppe Gamba.
Credits: Scripted and directed by Marcos Bucay. A Netflix release.
Running time: 1:37