Release Date: 22nd December 2010

Director: Hideo Nakata:  (The Ring / Dark Water)

Cast: Aaron Johnson-Taylor, Imogen Poots, Matthew Beard, Daniel Kuluuya, Hannah Murray, Megan Dodds, Nicholas Gleaves, Jacob Anderson, Ophelia Lovibond and Tuppence Middleton

Writer: Enda Walsh





One thought on “CHATROOM

  1. CHATROOM by Matt Usher aka Joe Pesci II

    Ever since it came along, this internet-thing has caused all sorts of problems, the most important of which (as far as the present article is concerned) is to do with the movies. In short, what can movies do with the internet? The answer seems to be ‘not much’ (except I suppose for THE SOCIAL NETWORK and the deathless Sandra Bullock vehicle THE NET). But, by and large, cinema just has no idea how to deal with the biggest mass media development since cinema itself. If you need any proof of my quite incredibly under-researched assumption, look no further than this dull Britpic.

    According to CHATROOM, the internet is a bad place full of people pretending to be nice when really they’re nasty and are trying to kill you. That is the message of this old-fashioned morality tale dressed up as something modern for the kids.

    CHATROOM is based on a play which had some good reviews a few years back. Maybe the film has taken a few too many liberties, or maybe those theatre critics were easily beguiled by a clever concept built on sand. But CHATROOM fails the leap to the big screen. How does one dramatise the sending and reading of emails (or whatever they might be known as in a chatroom, do they even still have chatrooms?)? The simple device dreamed up by author Enda Walsh is to simply put the characters in a real room. It’s a decent idea. But the design of the rooms here is like a particularly garish cheap hotel last decorated in 1973. Is this a deliberate attempt to physicalise the ultimately meaningless and anonymous nature of the online experience? Or was the designer given a bad brief? (As well as their hideous chatroom, all the characters have their own personal spaces – Facebookrooms – which are equally dreadful: we know that one character is posh and boring because she’s got pictures of aspirational right-wing feminist icons (Condoleeza Rice and Angela Merkel) adorning her walls whilst opera is heard gently wafting around. The film’s idea of brightening such a space up is to add balloons, which is so much more exciting.) The main benefit of the conceit (other than the audience not having to read the film) is that it enables the characters to display themselves in the chatroom as they would wish to be seen, rather than as they really are. Unfortunately the characters who congregate at Chelsea Teens are an unimaginative bunch for whom a change of image means brushing their hair. And what sort of ridiculous name is Chelsea Teens anyway? Mind you, I misread it as Chelsea Hens. After that, I was at a bit of a disadvantage for a while until the penny dropped.

    So who are the Chelsea Hens? Well, there are a couple of girls, basically there to keep the numbers up and add a spot of decoration and a smidgeon of subplot, played by Imogen Poots (aspiring model who has already seen glamour for what it really is) and Hannah Murray (moderately rich kid with a bored family). And here’s the token black kid, Daniel Kaluuya, as a kind of nice proto-paedophile who isn’t really. But the film revolves around Jim (Matthew Beard) and William (Aaron Johnson). I’m sure it’s just me, but Beard and Johnson looked like twins to me so I was never quite sure which one I was watching. Anyway Jim’s sad because his dad threw himself to the penguins at the zoo one day (or something) so he’s taking lots of pills and is generally depressed, depressing and in need of help. Unfortunately for him (and you can see this coming from miles off can’t you?) William turns out to be the help. And yes, William is clever and manipulative, and is an Evil Internet Person, and he uses the internet to cleverly manipulate Jim into a hopeless situation…

    But William has failed to reckon on two things. The first is that the other chatroom internet chatters might have something to say about his nefarious misdeeds. And the other is that this is a kids’ film, and there’s no way these kids aren’t going to band together and do the right thing even though they don’t know what they look like.

    So why is evil William being so evil? Because he has an inferiority complex because his older brother has a good job and is by some margin their mother’s favourite. How do we know this? Why, because she has written a series of hugely successful novels about her firstborn, who is some sort of time-travelling adventurer (in the novels that is). All the Chelsea Hens seem to be fans of these books, so maybe that annoys our William a bit.

    This is a poorly executed film. The opening scene where the Teens / Hens meet is acted in such a way that it screams ‘this is a film of a play!’ The unreal online scenes lack credibility, and so too do the scenes set in the real world. Maybe that’s the point, that the characters cannot tell one from the other? Even the plasticine bits (don’t ask) fail to add any life to the proceedings. The climactic scenes in London Zoo and the subsequent chase into Camden reminded me of Grange Hill more than anything, and were the only real signifiers that this is meant to be a film about children getting involved in things they don’t understand. The film has a lot of ‘issues’ that it wants to ‘deal’ with (peer pressure, suicide, addiction, fancying your best friend’s slightly too young sister) but is stymied by its idiotic thriller plot. It is not just some film about the Evil Internet, nor even about Evil Teenage Psychopaths. It is a film about the intense and frankly stupid pressures we put on ourselves and each other. I expect. Or it should have been. In the end though, it is just a film saying the Evil Internet is full of Evil Teenage Psychopaths.

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