Diving both into the cutthroat world of journalism and the medium’s potential to garner fame off the back of manipulation and obsession, Roxine Helberg‘s Cold Copy, whilst not necessarily reinventing the wheel, still manages an air of tension throughout as it details the power dynamic between a journalism student and the media professional she aspires to be, or, more correctly, overtake.
Mia Scott (Bel Powley) is said student, someone who loves the art of journalism, but is also strongly drawn to the fame that can potentially come from breaking that one story. Her ideas are good, but it’s the execution and the right angle she seems to struggle with, something that will only be highlighted under the tutelage of Diane Hegler (Tracee Ellis Ross, a force), a renowned reporter who’s overseeing Mia’s college class and is offering one of the students that chance to have their story featured on air.
Seemingly timid, but having already expressed a certain calculation that leans into her gradual descent in morality, Mia stops at nothing to get her story ahead of the pack, and after constant rejection she finds an angle in Igor Nowak (Jacob Tremblay), a mysterious teenager who already has a profile that the media find intriguing; his famous author mother took her life under circumstances that have yet to be cemented in public knowledge.
What starts out as a genuine friendship when they meet under quite organic circumstances soon twists itself as a prime opportunity for Mia, and regardless of Igor’s evident trauma and tortured soul, she uses her “in” with him to form a profile piece that she shamelessly manipulates in her favour. It’s this throughline that Helberg utilises to examine the moral ambiguity some adopt to succeed in the field of sensationalised journalism. The script both celebrates and condemns this action, and it’s that duality of professionalism and opportunity that proves quite fascinating throughout.
Whilst the film may hold our attention, it can’t be denied that certain twists and revealing motivations feel a little too telegraphed, and some of the impact we’re meant to feel from such are lessened so, but Ross and Powley continually remain engrossing throughout, both portraying strong, flawed women who share more characteristics than they would likely care to admit. Whatever blemishes Cold Copy adheres to along the way, none are macular enough to cloud the film’s obvious entertainment value.
THREE STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
Cold Copy is now screening simultaneously in limited release in theatres in the United States and available On Demand. Vertical has acquired Australian and New Zealand rights to distribute the film at a later date.