John Cho, best known for his roles as Sulu and Harold in the Star Trek and Harold & Kumar films, gets to headline co-writer and helmsman Aneesh Chaganty’s gimmicky thriller in the ilk of Unfriended: Dark Web. The first for an Asian-American in a Hollywood film.
Searching is privy about how many take advantage of the computer technology at their fingertips in pointing towards the Kim family – in prosperous and, sadly, dire ways. Webcams, browsers, Reddit, Instagram, Tumblr, Facebook, FaceTime, GPS apps, Google Maps, not to mention Texts are among the digital portals/platforms set largely through a ‘Screen Life’ technique via the home laptop of father David (a tireless Cho).
The early montage (very similar in effect to Up) uses photos and videos as David is in a high-end business though wife Pam (Sara Sohn) is afflicted with inoperable cancer. His daughter Margot (Michelle La), a propitious pianist, has fallen into severe despondency which David doesn’t accept.
The frame is divided into as much as six screens at once for David’s monitor where news, music, and pictures are induced from a search/chat so Chaganty can dole out hints and bends as necessary. Distress gravitates for David after Margot disappears during a study binge with fellow students – though she wasn’t. David needs his ultraportable to find out what has occurred with the aid of detective Rosemary Vick (Debra Messing of “The Wedding Date” and “The Women”).
The storytelling and characterizations, not to mention the cheapened visuals and smug air as the ‘fake news’ coverage just heights how the medium is limited in this format until the last act when predictability is even more prevalent. David is oblivious to his forlorn daughter and the attempts to exact some kind of savvy, timely potboiler is really a mystery. Especially when considering inexplicable turns, acts of the law enforcement and foolish fortuity.
It’s surprising how sentient Searching thinks it is and a game Cho (who deserves better like Columbus and Better Luck Tomorrow as part of his varied métier going back to Wag The Dog and American Pie) who apparently was misled by what was unearthed like superannuated systems and overreliance on what proves to be terminally viral.
Searching has a solid thriller, mystery script that is limited by a presentation that uses computer images through out. The process in which social media and other computer, PC applications are used as the visuals for the entire film, present a feel that is narrow in scope, unlike what we expect to view on a large screen in a theatre.
We believe John Cho as a father in anguish when his daughter (Michelle La) doesn’t return home after an evening of partying. Adding to his pain, he has lost his wife (Sara Sohn) leaving him a single parent. His images of his daughter are presented in visuals and pictures of the young girl growing up initially with two parents and later only with her father.
What appears to be a happy carefree young woman is masked by her secret actions which dad is not aware of. When she disappears he begins to follow her life through systems on his and her apple. The story becomes more and more intriguing as one fact is trumped by another and we are moved from one suspicion to another as facts and situations pop out on his phone and computer screens.
Debra Messing has an interesting part as the detective who is assigned to solve the confusing case. The two main characters work together and battle over direction as time passes. Each having more information than the other from time to time.
Writers: Aneesh Changanty and Sev Ohanian lay out a fine worthy mystery for us to follow, but the format makes little sense, we go to move houses to see large screens not to view the limited screens we have at home. The use of small screens, even when projected on a large screen limit the scope of the landscape and diminish what is a solid mystery movie.