In a world infatuated with technology we can miss a thing or too. Maybe we don’t realize when we are letting someone know too much. Or perhaps we miss that those closest to us might be in pain and need someone to help them. A computer is a fascinating invention and, like all creations, someone will come along and try to ruin it for everyone. In this case everyone is sort of the culprit by taking a tool like the internet and using it for their own gain at the cost of hurting others. Whether it’s computer fraud, humiliating photos spread around or something as simple as being a major distraction from those around us, people are the problem.
A husband comes home for dinner but he really isn’t present. His phone never leaves his hand and this leads to resentment from his family. A boy is lonely and has nothing more than music so he dives head first into his keyboard. He plays piano, sings and records every day and does nothing to hurt anyone else. Unfortunately this boy comes across two other boys of the same age who don’t like the way he looks or something. They really have no provocation for doing what they do to this pour soul. High school is hard enough speaking of the academic aspect. Then of course there is the ugly side of high school, the popularity contest. It’s bullshit, but that’s why stupid teens engage in it, it’s stupid and they feel important because of it. Often this contest leads to outcasts who are deemed unpopular by the “cool” kids and slowly these loners become bitter. Not only do they become bitter but they are also willing to be friends with anyone who is willing to pay attention. Two bullies see this as opportunity to hurt this young man’s reputation and end up causing irreversible damage in ways they could never have seen coming through a computer screen.
A woman in the world of new media wants her chance to prove herself and finds the story she believes will be her big break. As she peruses the internet for a spark of creativity she comes across a sex website that offers one-on-ones for a price. She realizes as she chooses a boy that he is very young and believes that maybe he could have been duped into joining this seedy world. She convinces this young man to do an interview and creates a chain reaction that leads to a severe outcome that only makes things worse. She wanted nothing more than to help and to get her story, but in the end she never stopped to think if she should.
I think the moral of these stories is that life should not be lived on the internet. Sure it’s fun but just like in real life it can hurt you. The difference is on the internet your guard is down and so an innocent face can turn your life into a nightmare. Real life should be lived, not viewed through a screen. Unfortunately some don’t realize this until it’s too late. With a wonderful cast featuring Jason Bateman, Hope Davis and Paula Patton, this is a powerful drama about too much connection in the wrong places. This is a very in-your-face commentary on modern life and its effects on people. The positives that come with it are always accompanied with the negatives and this film faces that fact head on. As it says, look up sometimes.
Second Review- Spoilers Ahead!
When I write my reviews I do so with my computer. Phones, computers, iPads and so on can serve a great purpose. They can also be used to create damage whether it’s by theft of information or embarrassing, humiliating pictures spread to your peers. These things happen every day and sometimes result in tragedy. We forget that our actions have consequences, even with a computer. Just because your face isn’t seen doesn’t mean that you are not very much “out there” and most often you are in the virtual sense, easily accessible by pretty much anyone. With these devices in our faces nearly 24/7 we tend to miss things happening all around us. When we finally look up we see the damage to those closest to us with no real ability to help them. You can’t save everyone, but at the very least if we just look up, we might be able to try.
We all have problems and sometimes those problems can collide into a giant cluster. In one story, a boy lonely and outcast in high school puts everything into his music. Walking somewhere at the wrong moment he sees some other kids his age and they lock eyes momentarily. For some idiots this is all the excuse they need to hurt someone. They find this kind boy’s Facebook profile and begin communicating with a false profile disguising themselves as an interested young lady. After several days of conversing with this “girl” via Facebook, it becomes quite clear this boy is becoming smitten. This is when everyone knows that a problem is on the horizon and it is coming fast. After a devastating turn of events tragedy strikes and these kids who thought it would be funny to mess with someone end up ruining a life in the process. This event forces the boy’s father (Jason Bateman) into a tunnel like focus with nothing on his mind other than finding who caused this to happen to his son. If the dad wasn’t focused much on his family before he certainly doesn’t see them through his immense hatred now. He has hate but he doesn’t know who to aim it at and this leads to trouble.
In another part of this tale a man and his wife are grief stricken by the recent loss of their baby boy. The husband won’t talk about it thus ignoring the wife nearly altogether. She feels abandoned and turns to digital help through a support group website chat room. It’s here she becomes close with an online stranger who recently lost his wife to cancer. Both of them feel the immense burden of loss and immediately connect. In their talks the wife (Paula Patton) reveals entirely too much information about herself. As she vents to this man, her husband (Alexander Skarsgard) vents through online gambling. Here he must enter his credit card information and by her revealing things and his constant credit card use through the internet, their information along with all their money is stolen. They then turn to a private detective who specializes in internet fraud. It just turns out this man is the father of one of the punks that ruined a boy’s life by spreading a picture of him over texts and Facebook. I think the concept here is that we are all connected in some way. Through his investigation things come to light such as the wife’s obvious resentment toward her husband because he doesn’t even notice her anymore. The husband never talks to her and she feels responsible, which is why she reached out to a complete stranger. She wanted someone to talk to and through her vulnerability someone took advantage and stole everything. In a way, though, this terrible situation forced a husband and wife to finally talk to one another. Maybe, just maybe they can make it.
And now the third part of this tale: A reporter is tired of the “fluff” pieces she keeps getting and really wants a hard hitting story. One night she comes across a website that offers virtual companionship, usually involving sexual acts. She sees this as an opportunity to break open a world of underage kids being forced into the world of sex over the internet. She finds a young man offering private time to her if she is willing to pay. After convincing him to just talk she starts to learn of the manipulation of this young man by someone who said they were willing to “help”. This individual lures young homeless kids with nowhere to go with the promise of some quick cash. Most see this as an offer they simply can’t pass up. The reporter (Andrea Riseborough) convinces this young man into doing an anonymous interview about his life in this seedy world of virtual sex. It isn’t long before her interview catches the eye of CNN and they offer the opportunity of having her interview aired nationally. After CNN shows the piece the FBI catches wind of it and they approach the reporter for information on this operation of illegal sex crimes. She faces temporary suspension until she cooperates or more severe consequences will come her way. She reluctantly complies with the FBI and gives them information pertaining to the location of these crimes. This young man saw a way out and tried to take it but ends up only getting into more and more trouble and it’s all because of this one reporter. Her only intention was to help but in the end she ruined pretty much everything not only for herself but for this young man as well.
All of this pain created by the use of a computer. Like I said it can be either a great tool or a terrible weapon. Much like a gun, the device itself isn’t the problem; it’s certain people and their harmful nature. Some people live to harm others and the internet has become a very easy way of doing this. It doesn’t have to be a stranger either; it can be someone who is closest to you. This surpassed my expectations and that’s all I can ask of a film. I thought it was going to be a run of the mill drama and in some ways it is, but more often than not it really asks the tough questions and doesn’t let up until an answer is given. Unfortunately not everything in this life has an answer and so some parts of this are left unfinished. Look up and you might catch something beautiful or even see someone in need of help. Just beware that not everyone can be helped and that fact is a tragedy all its own.
Rated R for: sexual content, some graphic nudity, language, violence and drug use- some involving teens
Runtime: 115 minutes
After Credits Scene: None
Starring: Jason Bateman, Hope Davis, Paula Patton, Alexander Skarsgard, Frank Grillo, Andrea Riseborough
Directed By: Henry Alex Rubin
Out of 5 Nerdskulls
Story: 4/ Acting: 4.5/ Directing: 5/ Visuals: 3
OVERALL: 4 Nerdskulls