Fantasia Festival 2018: Searching (2018)

Searching (2018)

Searching

Director (co-writer): Aneesh Chaganty

Cast: John Cho, Debra Messing, Joseph Lee, Michelle La, Sara Sohn

After his 16-year-old daughter goes missing, a desperate father breaks into her laptop to look for clues to find her. – IMDB

Whatever your digital footprint is, almost all of us has one. That is central focus on this new subgenre of online found footage films produced (and at times directed) by Timur Bebmambetov now called “screen life”. No one knew this was the grand vision when Unfriended (Reviewhit theatres with mixed reviews but there is no doubt this is a project of Bebmambetov as this year’s Fantasia Festival saw the next three films telling different stories using screen life as its basis: Unfriended: Dark Web, Profile and Searching.

Searching

Searching is a family drama mixed into a thriller. The film starts with the endearing (and of course dated) screen of Windows XP as a new user profile is added for his wife. Through this we see the Kim family grow through the years with key moments of the couple and their hardships and milestones. The main two being the daughter Margot’s (Michelle La) first days of school and mom Pam’s (Sara Sohn) diagnosis and fight with cancer. Eventually, its gets the present with messaging and facetime as dad David (John Cho) messages Margot about her not doing chores. Things take a plunge for the worse when Margot never comes home from her study group but called him three times in the dead of night. Realizing something has gone wrong, he files a missing persons report and Detective Rosemary Vick (Debra Messing) is assigned to his case but his assignment is to try to figure out his daughter’s friends and other contacts to pinpoint where she was last seen. With that, he takes the dive into her laptop and learns that her daughter’s has been hiding a few things from him.

Screen life here is used incredibly well here. The idea of our digital footprint being the source to tracking down anyone and getting hints of their life is an idea that feels real. Searching uses it incredibly well. Right from the blocks of protected emails and trying to set up recovery passwords to the first time discovery of what extends for the clueless parent  navigating outside of Facebook and Instagram, like Tumblr and more. Using these real life applications is the key to making it even more realistic, instead of the fictional ones that we usually see in movies. David is a parent who is stuck in his worst nightmare. After the loss of his wife, he realizes that he has no idea what Margot has been up to. The truths he ends up learning leads him to some clues and some dead ends. It is the way that Searching sets it up that makes it both logical and engaging. It takes no time to be invested in recovering this missing teenage girl and wondering whether she had ran away or something worse had happened.

 

Searching

John Cho takes on this dad role impressively. Searching gives him moments of comedy as his cluelessness for the modern social media makes him do silly things relatable for most of the younger generation to probably what parents would respond. At the same time, while Margot’s story highlights the lack of communication in their relationship and makes us think how much fault each of them have in this matter. Michelle La also takes on the role of Margot in a convincing way especially as she is a good kid going through a hard time.  Debra Messing plays the decorated detective, Rosemary Vick who is assigned to this case and seems set on the fact that Margot has run away but also very human from the standpoint of a mother.

Searching might seem like a straightforward idea but the application of screen life is one of the most outstanding used to date. Different from Unfriended, it takes us for a personal journey through the life of the Kim family and a father and daughter relationship while putting us into the worst nightmare of any parent. What is worse in the end: his lack of knowledge of his daughter or whether she will come home. Both equally important and yet helpless thoughts making the development of David a journey in itself as he tackles the assumptions from the world as the case grows public with each discovery. Being a thriller, it takes an incredible approach to put you at the edge of your seat (and I literally was) and adds in the perfect moments to give some clues one step at a time. Searching is full of twists and turns and drops them in a well-paced manner. Its one that comes highly recommended and the wait for this film isn’t long for wide release. It lands in theatres on August 3rd.

Double Feature: The Women (2008) & Storks (2016)

And we’re back with another Double Feature!

These two have been sitting in backlog forever. Maybe Storks is a newer watch since that was the last rental I had a few weeks ago. I saw The Women over a month ago so if details seem hazy on my end, it isn’t intentional. However, I do want to still write about it. Animated movies and Meg Ryan sounds like a great double feature to me since they are two of my favorite things ever.

The Women (2008)

Director: Diane English

Cast: Meg Ryan, Annette Bening, Eva Mendes, Debra Messing, Jada Pinkett Smith, Bette Midler, Candice Bergen, Carrie Fisher

A wealthy New Yorker wrestles with the decision to leave her cheating husband, as she and her friends discover that women really can have it all. – IMDB

The Women is the centre of what female empowerment strives to be. It has pretty much a complete women cast. In fact, I really can’t remember any men except for perhaps passerbys in the scenes whether they were someone the characters were talking to just a husband or partner mentioned. It is pretty amazing to watch a movie that is done in this particular way since it highlights different types of ladies and their different values and aspirations coming into their own and learning how to be themselves. While I do acknowledge that this movie has many flaws and I actually found it a little tiresome to watch, the cast here does great with the material. It helps that I’m a huge fan of Meg Ryan. I remember really loving Debra Messing before although I’m not sure what she’s doing now and of course Jada Pinkett Smith. There are some smaller supporting roles like Candice Bergen who shows another generation of women as well as Bette Middler who really can do no wrong in my books.

The Women has its moments mostly from these charming women however, it never seems to get above from being average. I think I loved watching the actress more than actually grasping a lot about the story. After a few weeks, the details are a little blurry right now and as I watched it again to refresh my memory, things started coming back to me. It seems that The Women does try to get a lot in there about relationships and friendships of all sorts while also talking about all these women who are trying to embrace who they want to be, whether it is setting a positive image for other women via media (like Annette Bening’s character, Sylvie) or setting a good example about strong women role models for the younger generation (like Meg Ryan’s Mary).

Storks (2016)

Storks poster

Director: Nicholas Stoller (writer) & Doug Sweetland

Voice cast: Andy Samberg, Katie Crown, Kelsey Grammer, Jennifer Aniston, Ty Burrell, Anton Starkman, Danny Trejo, Stephen Kramer Glickman

Storks have moved on from delivering babies to packages. But when an order for a baby appears, the best delivery stork must scramble to fix the error by delivering the baby. – IMDB

Storks came out in a year with a plot that seemed a little odd and far-fetched and it didn’t appeal at all to myself when it was released in theatres. Sure, it looked cute and the idea of storks delivering babies came from the Dumbo days. Plus, I never caught on to Brooklyn Ninety-Nine because I’m not exactly sure I grasp Andy Samberg’s sort of humor. It feels a tad stupid but then I don’t know, maybe I’ve changed as well since I didn’t really like Big Bang Theory before and I do now. However, back to Storks, the moment I turned on Storks, it set the stage that this was a charming and funny little animated film. The voice cast and the characters and the dialogue was amazingly fun. I’m sure if I wanted to, there are holes in the whole story but it highlights so many fun things plus it is geared towards children by the way the talk or address issues. The voice cast is also quite impressive. While Junior (voiced by Adam Samberg) is the  main character and its really his character development that highlights this movie a lot, my favorite moments come with Tulip and moments with both Tulip and Junior. Plus, since my friend, Phoebe (aka Starry Traveler’s Road) hangs out quite a bit and she has her little bunbun, the baby in this one reminded me so much of bunbun and I actually texted her to see this movie ASAP.

Storks

Storks was a pleasant surprise for me and I think that makes it stand out even more. We had a good many laughs. Its colorful and entertaining. There are some solid jokes and even the more silly ones will spark at least a giggle or chuckle depending on what you like to do. Its never too violent or vulgar or sexual. In fact, its really about the storks and what it means to be a family and to have a family and to not be alone. The courage to do what is right and not let manipulation and sometimes to just follow your nature and instincts. Storks is a ton of fun and definitely worth a viewing.

That’s it for the double feature!
Have you seen these movies?