It's been a rocky few days here at Video Critique HQ. Our attempts to sleep-train a precociously stubborn infant have transformed the wee small hours into a waking, wailing hellscape. At the same time, our walls are exhaling the gingery musk of somewhere between 49 and 51 shades of grey, courtesy of a full-on corrective paint job. Between the fumes and the lack of sleep, I've essentially been zombified, left wandering to and fro in a hallucinatory daze. The tree outside my office window just nodded empathetically.
So you can see how a first viewing of "Falling For You," officially billed as "A Target Style Short Film" and "the first-ever shoppable movie," might raise the addled ante even higher. Sure, some product placement is to be expected - it's what all the cool kids are doing nowadays - but who would expect a literal product parade down the right side of the computer screen? The products keep coming, one after the next, imposing themselves with the tenacity of a killer robot. I had to take a walk to clear my head, during which I wound up in a neighbor's pool.
The brackish water proved invigorating. Upon righting myself and striking a will-retrieve-garbage-cans-from-the-curb-in-a-timely-manner-in-exchange-for-a-promise-not-to-press-charges agreement, I realized that the perpetual product scroll is the whole point of "Falling For You."
I mean, sure, we're supposed to be charmed by the plight of the career-cross'd Target co-workers played by spunky-heroine-for-hire Kristen Bell and some exceptionally handsome young fellow. And absolutely, we're supposed to be hooked by the twist in the final seconds of the first installment (there are three total, with the "live event" that drives the film's plot to follow next Wednesday), which establishes a level of dramatic stakes usually absent from projects of this ilk.
But really, "Falling About You" is about selling stuff, more or less in real time. Whenever an item appears in the film, it simultaneously flashes in the aforementioned sidebar, where viewers captivated by the satchel, lipstick, watch or pants-like apparatus can click on what appears to be either a heart or a smudge of insect blood. At the conclusion of the film, viewers can buy everything they've hearted/blood-smudged and social-mediafy it to all their pals.
I'm happy to report that the technology works seamlessly; whoever coordinated the film/product synchronization did a superb job with pacing and product selection. I'm similarly impressed by the meet-cute first installment of the film itself, which transcends its generic, lonely-in-love DNA. Even the more blatant Target branding - never has a be-logo'd water bottle been more expertly positioned for maximum exposure - doesn't feel overly intrusive.
I just wonder if it's all too much. I have to remove myself from consideration, because I've got the attention span of a OMG SOMEBODY JUST SAID SOMETHING ON TWITTER. But can normally wired individuals simultaneously watch and shop? Will they want to? Granted, nobody is being asked to solve complex calculus problems while juggling chainsaws here, but maybe some people prefer a purer, more ordered viewing experience. I dunno.
Anyway, as far as content/commerce collisions go, "Falling For You" is a worthy experiment, elevated by the breezy enthusiasm of its actors and the branding savvy of its corporate benefactor. The worry, of course, is that its success could prompt marketers to go overboard with buy-this-right-effin'-now technology, which will inevitably render content even more of an afterthought. Here's hoping the first wave of imitators tread gently.