Combustible Celluloid
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With: Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Imogen Poots, Matthew Beard, Hannah Murray, Daniel Kaluuya, Megan Dodds, Michelle Fairley, Nicholas Gleaves, Jacob Anderson, Tuppence Middleton, Ophelia Lovibond, Richard Madden
Written by: Enda Walsh, based on her play
Directed by: Hideo Nakata
MPAA Rating: R for disturbing violent content, some sexual material and brief language
Running Time: 97
Date: 06/14/2011

Chatroom (2011)

2 Stars (out of 4)

Online Flatline

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Based on a play by Irish writer Enda Walsh and directed by Hideo Nakata, the Japanese director of the original Ring movie (Ringu), Chatroom looks like it might have been a good idea on paper. But as a movie it quickly falters.

In it, a troubled teen, William (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), decides to open an Internet chat room called "Chelsea Teens!" Though he doesn't really have an agenda, four other teens quickly join in. The movie depicts them together in an actual room, though it's only an imaginary representation.

Eva (Imogen Poots) is a model who is teased by her co-workers. Jim (Matthew Beard) takes anti-depressants. Emily (Hannah Murray) is a goody-two-shoes. And Mo (Daniel Kaluuya) feels guilty about being attracted to his friend's 11 year-old sister.

Eventually William begins encouraging his new "friends" to take risks and start trouble. When Jim considers suicide, William encourages him. But when the others find out, it becomes a race to save Jim's life.

The scenes inside the room are brightly colored, more artificial looking than the rest, but the dialogue never sounds realistic; it doesn't replicate the feel of an online environment or of a connection between the users.

The "real-life" sequences are shown in muted, drab colors, but since the movie's 97 minutes are spread across five characters, none of them really comes to life. Their problems are not emotional or organic; they seem created for the story, simplistic and easily described.

The movie can't find a connection between love and pain, or need and denial. It's more interested in being shocked by the characters' activities than understanding them. It's a shallow, disappointing effort.

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