Journalist David Farrier stumbles upon a mysterious tickling competition online. As he delves deeper he comes up against fierce resistance, but that doesn’t stop him getting to the bottom of a story stranger than fiction.
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★★★★½ review by Bren Serrano on Letterboxd
Tickled is the most interesting documentary of 2016. In it that you expect it to go in one direction that would make for a light hearted tale but quickly takes a sharp left turn into something far more sinister than I could have imagined. I'd suggest going fully blind into this film. It's some of the best investigative journalism in a documentary that I've seen in recent years.
★★★★ review by Eli Hayes on Letterboxd
Very good, endlessly fascinating and darkly hilarious, but every time Carruth's Upstream Color score popped up I got so distracted, haha (probably because it's one of my favorite contemporary film scores; weird to hear it recycled like that).
★★★★ review by brat pitt on Letterboxd
when they would tie the dudes up to be tickled all i could think about was armie hammer's bdsm twitter likes
★★★★ review by Graham Williamson on Letterboxd
You should go in knowing nothing about this film, of course. But if you insist:
Tickled is a conventional piece of documentary craft, the sort of thing that shows up its directors' background in television. There are an awful lot of moody city montages and a few things that I suspect are unlabelled reconstructions - did Farrier and Reeve really have the camera running when one of their friends checked out who'd registered a particular domain name? But it also has two assets, one minor, one major. The minor one is that it's as thought-through an example as you'll see all year of the first-person documentary; Farrier narrates but only appears on camera when the story needs him to be seen. Given that a lot of the film's narrative either revolves around people who don't want to be seen on camera or Farrier receiving threats, that's still quite a lot. Even so, each appearance is justified.
The major one is that the story is insane.
There are some documentarians who are artists and some who are journalists; Farrier and Reeve are competent artists but incredible journalists. They stay with their story long after any normal person would have dropped out in the face of the overwhelming legal and personal harassment they receive from "Jane O'Brien Media", whoever they may be. The story also raises a series of questions in an unforced way. Farrier sees it primarily as an example of the insulation from reality and consequences that money can buy, and he's right. I also found myself wondering whether Jane O'Brien Media's methods are different in kind or merely degree from ordinary pornographers, and whether this whole story, with its doxxing, threats and near-Tourette level of bigoted slurs, is a kind of origin tale for internet troll culture.
Most of all, it is a story about shame. There's a scene where Farrier meets a less litigious maker of tickle fetish videos, and though Farrier and Reeve have a bit of fun at his expense (that slo-mo!) it's hard not to come away liking him. He's so honest and earnest about his kink, unlike Jane O'Brien Media, whose representatives keep angrily insisting their product is not pornography despite the erotomaniac laundry-list of qualities they look for in models ("18-23... muscular, athletic build... redheads and Asian guys preferred..."). The two models brave enough to speak out against Jane O'Brien Media both speak of how their fear of being perceived as gay was used against them, and it's to Farrier's credit that when he locates the real villain at the centre of this tale he finds a similar core of fear and embarrassment in someone who's been going all-out to make his life impossible.
Out of the two films I watched yesterday, I think this might display the greatest insight into how tyrants come to exist.
★★★½ review by YI JIAN on Letterboxd
Goes from a mildly interesting, trivial buzzfeed-tier subject into shocking, full-blown crime thriller under minutes. This is a voluntary and brave fight against a form of evil so subtle and well-hidden the easiest thing for everyone to do is to just feign ignorance. Does wonderful things to your temper and paranoia, please watch it.
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