The Social Network. Jobs. The Dropout. “Elon Musk posting his Ls on Twitter every day.” The stories of tech founders continue to entertain and frustrate us in equal measure, and continue to give us more content to watch on the platforms and devices they created. Clearly, something about power-tripping nerds really speaks to something in our collective psyche. But over the past 15 years, Hollywood has basically mined Silicon Valley down to a Silicon Dustbowl. It’s time to turn our attention north, to Canada, and to the shoebox of old phones we keep buried in the backs of our closets because we don’t want to throw them out. It’s time to talk about BlackBerrys, the former high-school quarterbacks of smartphones, in a movie called BlackBerry.
Mike Lazaridis and Jim Basillie aren’t household names on the level of Jobs or Zuck, but in 2002, they released the world’s first smartphone, which would go on to revolutionize the way we communicate and end up “in the hands of every Fortune 500 executive you can find,” as a terrifyingly bald Glenn Howerton (playing Jim Balsillie) puts it in the trailer for BlackBerry. Balsillie is the business-minded shark who pairs up with founders Lazaridis (Jay Baruchel) and Doug Fregin (Matt Johnson, who also directs) to launch the product to world-dominating success, and the film treats their rise (and teases their iPhone-enabled fall) like a mid-’90s-to-Y2K period piece. Baruchel calls it a film about “flying too close to the sun on wings made of … smartphones?”
The film hits close to home for the BlackBerry-loyalist actor, who tells Vulture, “I had one until about three or four years ago. I adored them. But even then, it was this outdated product. It went from being the thing that created everything to being severely outdated, very, very, very quickly. And as somebody that stubbornly maintained mine, and held on to this brand loyalty — pretty much one of the only times in my life I’ve had any semblance of brand loyalty. I was othered basically instantly, like overnight. I think there’s something inherently tragic about these guys that are really significantly responsible, in a really significant way, for the way we all relate to each other. There’s a direct line from how we all communicate now, back to what these nerds did in Waterloo in 1996.”
BlackBerry opens with IFC Films in theaters on May 12, so be sure to mark the date on your iPhone or Android. Even Baruchel will have to do it that way: “At a certain point, BBM became a pretty sad scene.”