Do you like solving mysteries? So do I. Shot in this new “Windows” format (all computer screens, iPhone screens, text messages, video surveillance footage, etc), nothing is filmed with a regular camera, so to speak. This gives you a feeling of real-time adventure and claustrophobia as you are only permitted to see a small fraction of the action.
Parents, beware! After seeing this movie, you may not look at your kids the same way anymore! That’s because single dad David Kim (John Cho), who we see in flashbacks with his precious little girl Margot and his wife, Pamela (Sara Sohn), has collected all his memories of them on his computer. Video snippets, pictures, and random vines tell us their happy times together then the sad days leading up to Pamela’s last moments and Margot’s (Michelle La) spiraling depression over it. Her attention to her piano recital has even wavered. David has taken it hard too, getting help from his pot-smoking brother Peter (Joseph Lee) and work. Then it happens.
Margot, supposedly gone with some friends on a camping trip, disappears. Calls to her cellphone go unanswered, friends don’t know where she is, and her piano instructor reveals that she canceled her lessons six months ago! Panicking, David contacts the police and Det. Rosemary Vick (Deborah Messing) takes the case. But while she is handling stuff on her end, David goes into detective mode on his. Hacking into Margot’s Facebook, Instagram, bank account, and YouCast accounts, he soon learns more and more about his daughter… and it doesn’t paint her as the daughter he knows.
Vick and David discover that Margot had a fake ID, left town with money, and made many despondent YouCast videos where she chatted with someone called “fish_n_chips”. But who is this person? Why did they trace Margot’s car only partly out of town? And is Peter being so hush-hush about her disappearance for a reason? The answers come quickly and solve a bigger picture (one that I kinda figured out half-way during the movie), but nonetheless packs a nice punch.
Written by first-time theatrical director/writer Aneesh Chaganty and Sev Ohanian (My Big Fat Armenian Family), Chaganty really knows how to piece together a story that strikes at the core of any parent that thinks this exact nightmare scenario in their head. It’s riveting, scary, brutal, honest, and resonates with a frightening “what if” premise. Even though it’s “shot” with nothing but videos, screens, etc, it doesn’t lose any of its intensity. The writing is crisp and real, so much so, sometimes you’d swear this isn’t a movie after all, but you’re eavesdropping on actual videos.
However, you’ve got to hand it to the cast for selling it, and sell it they do! Cho does a remarkable job as the father who is at his breaking point in grief, pain, and fear, all of which Cho emotes all too well on camera. Not to be outdone is Messing who, leaving the make-up and hair-care of her Will & Grace persona behind, proves this lady can ACT! In fact, the whole cast are just wonderful and don’t dissolve into the silliness of those other “computer screen” movies like Unfriended, The Den, and ChatRoom. Highly recommended.
A Midwest father. An innocent daughter. An unscrupulous detective. And the world of pornography. What do all these things have in common? A 1979 odd little film written & directed by Paul Schrader, who gave us the staggering Raging Bull and American Gigolo. Looks like Paul must’ve made a left turn while making this film.
We begin in rural, snowy Grand Rapids where prosperous and easy-going local businessman (and single dad) Jake VanDorn (George C. Scott), has let his seemingly quiet and conservative teenage daughter, Kristen (Ilah Davis) go on a church-sponsored trip to California. But soon he gets that dreaded phone call all parents fear; his daughter is missing! Jetting out to L.A., Jake meets a sleazy and cynical private dick named Andy Mast (Peter Boyle) who he hires to find her. Eventually Jake turns up a lead, but it’s a doozie! Kristen’s on an 8mm porn film banging two guys. *gulp!* Needless to say, daddy goes nuts.
The police won’t help and Jake fears the worst: his daughter’s been kidnapped and forced to join California’s growing underworld porn market. Andy isn’t doing his job, so Jake decides to take matters in his own hands: going out at night and searching all the slimy adult subculture of L.A. himself. Dressing like a pimp, he introduces himself as a Mr. Devries to Bill Ramada (Leonard Gaines), a huge porn movie producer. Lying about wanting to produce a stag film, Jake now has access to porn actors and soon finds the guy that ‘starred’ with his daughter. More tips and clues lead him to Niki (Season Hubley), a wasted pay-to-see-me nudie showgirl that finally gets him hooked-up with horrible S&M “snuff film” players and… his daughter!
The ending, while weird and bizarre, takes some twists and turns that I’m still trying to figure out. IF his daughter wasn’t kidnapped, then why does she go home willingly after she says she hates her dad? Wait… what? One thing is for sure, this is one very loooooong movie; clocking in at 2 hours and 16 minutes, it overstays it’s welcome with all the incessant running around and looking for Kristen. Okay, I’m all for character development, but Geez Louise, there is so MUCH of it here you want to hurt someone. Just rescue the dumb kid and GO HOME!
Thank goodness the acting is good: Scott is tremendous, as usual (save for that rather silly fake wig and mustache he wears in one scene), and Boyle is just perfect. Season Hubley is great as the drugged-out hippy, and look for Dick Sargent (from TV’s Bewitched) in a small role.