Dog’s Movie House: “Searching” An Effective, Insightful Thriller

Howdy Folks!  It’s The Kendog with a look at the new film “Searching!”

John Cho is looking for his missing daughter in “Searching”




I know it’s a big “duh” but social media is everywhere, shaping our opinions until it often seems as though we have no valid train of thought unless it’s first filtered through the online pipeline.  The court of public opinion holds almost, if not more, sway than the actual court of law.   The #MeToo movement is a perfect example of this.  In the world of cinema, the online component has played a role in many thrillers, with the Unfriended series being the latest example.  However, Aneesh Chaganty’s “Searching” is a different and delightful animal altogether.  

David Kim (an excellent John Cho) is a doting father to his high school daughter Margot (Michelle La), trying his best to raise her after the tragic death of Margot’s mother Pam (Sara Sohn).  When Margot goes missing, John is forced to reevaluate what he thinks he knows about his daughter and when events seem to take a dark turn, he enlists the aid of police detective Vick (Debra Messing) to not only find Margot, but to find out the truth of why she went missing in the first place.

Now that sounds like a plot to a fairly standard thriller, right?  What sets “Searching” apart from other thrillers is that the narrative device is filtered almost entirely through a computer screen, with David mostly on camera via Facetime or Skype or some other camera-based technology.   Many of the films more suspenseful sequences take place in the realm of internet searches or messages left on David’s computer.  Sometimes the film skips to David’s phone or even the news coverage, but everything feels consistent.  It also gives director Chaganty (who also co-wrote the script) to through in some timely social commentary about online behavior.  In one scene that is equal parts repulsive and emotionally satisfying, David reads one of the lewd comments by someone claiming to know Margot and confronts the teenage moron in a movie theater lobby, effectively kicking his ass in defense of his missing daughter.  Anyone who has ever read the comment section of any website knows that feeling of impotent rage when douche canoes hiding under the comfortable blanket of anonymity spew hateful bile on the internet.  It happens all the time.

Props to the performers for giving nuanced performances with this different presentation of the narrative.  Let’s face it: if you don’t care about the characters then no amount of trickery will save the film.  Cho is excellent as the father who discovers too late that he doesn’t know his daughter as well has he thinks he does.  Messing is equally good as the cop trying to solve the case under an increasing swell of publicity both real and online.  La also resonates, particularly late in the film, as the daughter who’s having a great deal of trouble getting over the death of her mother.

On top of everything else, “Searching” has a couple of twists and turns I didn’t see coming along with one corker of an ending.  “Searching” is a film the deserves to be seen not only for it’s unique storytelling format, but for a story that at its core resonates with both thrills and emotion.  A first rate moviegoing experience.  4 1/2 Out Of 5 On Kendog’s Barkometer!  So Sayeth The Kendog! 

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