Every once in a while when I’m simply too tired to go out to the theaters I decide to instead watch for review a new Netflix flick. Sometimes I like them, as was the case with What Happened to Monday. Sometimes I’m excited to see how much of a trainwreck they’re going to end up being, as with the case with Death Note, which I covered in that same review. Sometimes I just plain out forget that I ever watched them, as was the case with Little Evil, which I genuinely forgot I watched until I started thinking about this review. Likewise I imagine that a few months down the line, when I’m writing another Netflix review, I will suddenly recall that I actually sat and watched all of Ibiza.
The thing with Netflix is they don’t have to produce movies that actually put butts in the seats. Movies in theaters actually need people to get up and go to the theater and spend money on a ticket. I’m not going to pretend to fully understand Netflix’s business model, but I understand in some sense I’ve already bought the ticket. They steadfastly refuse to release viewership, so really all they have to do to be a viable business model is ensure people stay subscribed. To do that they need to make some quality content, which they absolutely do, but they also need to make sure there’s a constant stream of new content — they can’t all be winners, so sometimes it’s best just to go with quantity. There’s a reason they advertise “21 new programs added to Netflix this week” at the top of the site. You want to know you have options, even if some of those options are totally forgettable fare.
Which I guess is a pretty roundabout way to start to talk about Ibiza, but in truth I feel like I could just copy and paste most of my review of Little Evil and call it a day. This is a film about nothing that doesn’t aspire to be about anything. The plot is threadbare. Harper (Gillian Jacobs) works at a PR firm where her boss Sarah (Michaela Watkins) speaks at her loudly and therefore is the villain of the film. Harper doesn’t like her job, which we know because she tells us that a few times, though we don’t spend nearly enough time with her in New York to establish it visually or storywise. We see her take one subway ride where she is tired and squished, which isn’t so much a character trait and more just the actual experience of riding the subway in NYC. When Sarah offers to fly Harper to Barcelona for a meeting friends Nikki (Vanessa Bayer) and Leah (Phoebe Robinson) decide to tag along. They have even fewer character traits and character goals than Harper. Nikki is a dentist. Leah is a “freelancer”. In Barcelona Harper meets DJ Leo West (Richard Madden) and they share a “moment”. Harper spends the rest of the film trying to track him down because she’s not been having a lot of romantic luck recently (we know this because she tells us it as well). That’s… well, that’s it, to be honest.
Even more so than Little Evil, which at least seemed to believe it was about something, Ibiza has absolutely nothing at its center. It could have been about growing up, or finding what truly makes you happy, or getting the right work/life balance. They’re all cliches, but at least they’re something to hang a movie on. Ibiza, to it’s credit, doesn’t bother to even feint at developing any sort of thread or opinion about the world. It’s almost impressive. So little time is spent at Harper’s job that I am actually totally, totally unable to tell you if we should celebrate or condemn her shirking of responsibility. Is too much being asked of her at work? Or is she just a truly shit employee? Does her work make her unhappy and she’s finally allowing herself to let go? Does her work make her happy, but her boss is too demanding? Is she good at her job? Bad at her job? Does any of this have to do with her love life, which the movie continues to pivot to? Is her predicament her fault? Her boss’ fault? Should 30 year olds abuse work trips in order to track down a DJ they shared a “moment” with? Are we being told that’s okay? If so, why? Has Harper worked her whole life and she’s finally letting her hair down? Why would this one weekend convince Leah it’s time to start a family? Why are these people friends? Are they a good influence on each other? Bad? What does Nikki want? Like… in life? Or even just in any one scene? I don’t know. The film appears to have no opinion any which way on literally any of this issues.
Even the comedy fails to build on itself in any meaningful way. One gag, featured prominently in the trailer, sees a bird pooping on Nikki’s face while she’s standing out of a sun roof of a limo. It’s not a particularly funny gag to me (to each their own, comedy is subjective if you found the joke funny who am I to judge) but nothing comes of it afterward. Though the film makes an explicit mention that she does not shower or change after that no one, including her friends who witnessed it happen, ever brings it back up. She goes to a club where no one mentions it, and she seems to have a pretty good time! Later, she falls asleep in a bathtub, still unshowered, and doesn’t think twice about it. The joke, like the various plot points, just sort of happens in isolation and then everyone moves right along.
There are a few strong points. I will forever watch anything with Gillian Jacobs in it, and she, Robinson, and Bayer make the most of the material their given. Bayer in particular seems to rise above the material — while the gags fail to truly build on each other everything she does it pure gold, and nearly every joke she delivers worked well for me (especially a sequence where she works out in a private gym while on adderall leaving a drunk voicemail at 4:30 AM). She builds Nikki into a confident, goofy, and endearing character through sheer force of will.
Sometimes it’s sort of exhausting to write a negative review. I’d agree with anyone who says that overall it doesn’t help. Ibiza may be soulless, and I may want more from entertainment, but since it doesn’t take much of a stance on anything I didn’t find any of the ideas it espoused (or failed to espouse) offensive in any particular way. I wish everyone involved the best with their careers. It’s harmless. Maybe this just wasn’t my movie. If you want to kill about an hour and a half, give it a whirl, but just expect to have forgotten it within a day or two (fun fact: I had to watch the first 45 minutes of this movie twice because I started it one day and four days later when I tried to finish it I legitimately couldn’t recall what happened at the beginning). It’s just a vehicle to help you pass through time without weighing you down by having to remember it, and to get you to keep your Netflix subscription.
I give Ibiza 4 drunk voicemails out of 10 club scenes.
- While searching for this film on Netflix (yes, I searched for it, I wanted to watch it, as I said I will always watch anything with Gillian Jacobs in it) I discovered Netflix has both a 2013 film and 2013 TV series called Loving Ibiza and I’m sort of curious about the two programs and their connection now?
- Apparently Ibiza, the island, is planning to sue this film for not shooting on Ibiza, which is obviously hilarious.
- It’s possible that one of the reasons I find Venessa Bayer so impossibly funny is that she reminds me 100% of a person I know.