MovieBob Reviews SEARCHING 2018

first_imgIf you enjoyed Moviebob’s review check out last weeks’ of The HappyTime Murders. Also, see what Bob thought of the Netflix’s show Disenchantment. But you can watch all over his videos on our YouTube page or read all the reviews here.Let us know what you like about Geek by taking our survey. Stay on target Is Searching good?It’s excellent!Seriously?Yes.The one that’s like Taken but the dad is just Googling stuff?Yes, but that’s not really a fair description of the film. It’s a combination of 21st-century detective procedural, suburbanite cyber-thriller, techno-evangelist sizzle-reel and Protective Dad Empowerment Fantasy all in one. It’s also one of the most engaging, imaginative, and flat-out best films I’ve seen all year.Huh. Okay, what’s it about?John Cho plays a suburban dad who finds himself mainly communicating with his 16-year-old daughter Margot by phone. The relationship between the two became distant after the recent death of Margot’s mother, causing her to retreat into a semi-secret life of venting online. When Margot fails to come home one night, a set of closely timed missed calls leads Dad to suspect that something has gone wrong. Evidence appears pointing to possible dark implications, and the detective assigned to the missing person’s case (Debra Messing) asks that he assist by looking for clues in his daughter’s extensive digital life.Since his investigation, communication with the detective, and source of information updates on the case all play out in the digital space, we see the entire film unfold through a view fixed on computer monitors. Everything we see is either is on his or Margot’s laptops, or (at one point) her late mom’s old PC.And that work more than as a gimmick?Very much so. Partly because the “gimmick” dovetails slyly into intensely relatable human drama. Missing-person thrillers where the seeker discovers that they didn’t really know the person they’re looking are an ancient detective-story trope that gets played with by the modern conceit of (especially younger) people oversharing/recording their secret-selves in online spaces. The contrast means Cho’s character ends up not just having to reconstruct his daughter’s recent actions, but the moving and heartbreaking reality of the emotional life she was concealing from him. It’s a very potent performance.Makes sense, but did it really need to be done all on computer screens?In terms of synergy between narrative, aesthetic and subject… yes, I think it did. Searching doesn’t simply transcend the gimmick of its premise, but makes sure that “gimmick” isn’t a gimmick at all. The film takes place take within hundreds of windows across multiple computer screens not because it’s fun, but because it’s the best and maybe only way to tell a story that’s very much about the place of ubiquitous technology within our lives.For a welcome change, that doesn’t mean wall-to-wall paranoia about “losing our souls and identities to sterile consumer electronics” or similar tropes. Yes, the plot unavoidably involves and addresses the “dark side” of online life-sharing, but Searching’s story is overwhelmingly preoccupied with the idea of social media and instant communication as tools of genuine human connection. And with hard drives and The Cloud as means of preservation and security as sacrosanct as any family album or journal.Whoa – okay, elaborate on that last point?The film opens with a montage tracking the curation of Margot’s digital life from birth to the present, first by her parents then by herself. The only thing more surprisingly moving than watching an entire history play out in photos being uploaded, profiles created, calendars filled out, messages exchanged is hearing the audience laugh and gasp with genuine heartfelt nostalgia at their own memories of Instant Messenger, MySpace, and the Windows 2000 background. Getting on Facebook for the first time is fused with the digital file-curation version of birthdays, holidays, graduations, milestones. And the collective horror of everyone in the theater under 18 realizing that John Cho just gave their parents a step-by-step walkthrough of how to easily hack their passwords. That was funny!But on a technical level, doesn’t the limited perspective get old/boring?Quite the opposite! Director Aneesh Chaganty cut his teeth directing advertising for Google and other silicon valley giants, so he knows how to make everyday tech smile for the camera. He uses the digital tools to build tension and deliver emotional narrative in new ways that could only be accomplished in this context. Seeing someone convey the same information simultaneously in two radically different tones in a text chat and a live call at the same time, streaming video live-chats as a kind of expository Greek chorus, and deleting and rewording instant-messages before sending as way of doing uncertain start/stop dialogue that very seldom works outside of literature or live theater.Yes, the consistent hook is that Cho’s protagonist is a regular guy and not some master hacker, so there’s a “this-could-be-you!” power-trip to watching someone solve a mystery using copy/paste, autofill, reverse-image search and Google Maps. But it’s more the audacious simplicity of watching an emotional rollercoaster conveyed by the indecisive back-and-forth changing of the punctuation mark on an unsent text message that knocked me back in my chair with the realization that I might be seeing the language of cinematic storytelling evolve right in front of me.You must have had some problems, though.Sure, there are some imperfect spots. I imagine some may be disappointed that the actual “truth” of the mystery isn’t itself more lurid and/or tech-centric to compliment the story. I liked the deliberate “any family/any town” aspect overall, but if you’re both computer-savvy and well-versed in traditional crime thrillers you’ll probably figure out what happened quite a bit before Cho does. Still, the red herrings are solid, and predicting the arc doesn’t take away from the unexpected emotional wallop of the family-communication-breakdown story. Also, I know that basically every computer is also a television now, so it’s not technically cheating the never-leave-the-monitor rule to do a “cable news montage” exposition-dump in a YouTube window, but it still feels a little bit like cheating.But obviously it sounds like you’re still totally onboard for this one.Without question. As of right now, Searching is my number one movie this year. It’s an out-of-left-field crowd-pleaser that just might be the best “cyber-thriller” ever made, and even if I do see a better film in 2018, I doubt I’ll see a more original or game-changing one.center_img MovieBob Reviews: ‘Shadow’MovieBob Reviews: ‘The Curse of La Llorona’ last_img