'Clickbait' review: Steers us through the haze of our lies on social media


'Why? Because... my hosting service will suspend my account for exceeding its bandwidth limit.' Photos: Netflix

Clickbait? Hey, did someone trip (on some special fungi, perhaps) and make a miniseries about those intrusive and annoying online stories?

You know, the kind with headlines like "You won't believe what happens when Morgan opens the box" or "Former head of state shares miracle cure for (insert ailment here)" or "Check out how many hot dudes/dudettes live within 10km of you" (yay, SOP-compliant hookups).

Not yet. Things have not deteriorated that badly, thank goodness.

No, wait. Actually, they have. And the over-before-you-realise-it thriller Clickbait from Netflix is here to cast light and throw shade on a range of social media-related ills that afflict our societal psyche.

It does so by presenting, for our consideration, family man Nick Brewer (Adrian Grenier), a physical therapist in Oakland, California. Ha, fooled you, it's actually Melbourne, which is where most of this American-Australian venture was shot. Only to be expected of something named "clickbait".

'And if you give us the exclusive, we'll even ... flash your YouTube and Insta on the online broadcast. Deal?''And if you give us the exclusive, we'll even ... flash your YouTube and Insta on the online broadcast. Deal?'

So Nick disappears one day and shows up online in a video that goes viral. Besides promising that he will die once it hits five million views, the video also hints that Nick is an abuser and murderer.

It falls to his wife Sophie (Get Out's Betty Gabriel) and his sister Pia (a charismatic Zoe Kazan) – with some help from his boys Ethan (Camaron Engels) and Kai (Jaylin Fletcher) – to try and find him while clearing his name.

Only it's not so easy, when women start popping up claiming that Nick had affairs with them while using different identities. Given that one of them is played by Jessie Collins, CSI: Crime Scene Investigation's notorious Miniature Killer, I'd keep a salt-shaker handy.

Speaking of, Clickbait's showrunners cleverly shake up the show's (and by association, the audience's) perspective by having each episode told from the viewpoint of a different character: the sister, wife and kids, harassed detective Roshan Amiri (Phoenix Raei), unscrupulous reporter Ben Park (Abraham Lim)... and of course, the culprit(s) behind the various crimes being perpetrated here.

'It took me hours of practice to get this pose just right. Boy, I hope the news crews are on the scene.''It took me hours of practice to get this pose just right. Boy, I hope the news crews are on the scene.'

You could indict everyone who actually chooses to view such a video, knowing that they could well be contributing to someone's murder.

Or the media, who hound a family in pain and dig up every last nugget of dirt that can be truffle-pig-sniffed-out. (The miniseries is especially unflattering in its portrayal of journalists, as embodied by Park. Oi, we're not all like that.)

There's another particularly nasty online behaviour or phenomenon that is on show here, but to mention it by name would drop too great a stinky spoiler. So, just follow along and you'll cotton on to it... oh, just about where creators Tony Ayres and Christian White want you to get it, I guess.

It's terrifically acted, with the principal cast really inhabiting their roles, from the sons on up the age ladder.

Gabriel, so great at showing the torment of someone trapped inside her own body in Get Out, extends that range now to give us a magnetic performance as a woman trapped in her life, partly through her own fault and then by the lies she keeps telling herself... as well as a dark truth that has been kept from her.

And as the horrible "truths" begin to surface about Nick, we may find it hard attributing them to someone played so congenially by Grenier (who IMHO would have a great future in politics).

Its core as a thriller aside, Clickbait also pricks the conscience a fair bit, since a lot of its characters' troubles are the all-too-familiar result of concealing the truth, looking the other way, blindly trusting the wrong people, and sometimes lying to ourselves with such intensity that those untruths become our reality.

Amidst all the slices of humanity on show here, a few rays of light do shine through – altruistic individuals who rise above their flaws and are just, well, genuine about things.

And then you wonder why they are so few in number.

All eight episodes of Clickbait are available on Netflix.

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Summary:

Consider us baited... er, hooked

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