Chatroom

Movie review by Neil Sadler

Starring: Aaron Johnson, Imogen Poots, Matthew Beard
Director: Hideo Nakata

CHATROOM is a drama based on a play by the writer of HUNGER and directed by the director of the original (and remake) of THE RING, Hideo Nakata. Its lead performance is by rising star Aaron Johnson who kicked ass in KICK ASS, so it has quite a pedigree but unfortunately this film is little more than a mongrel.

CHATROOM tells the story of five teenagers who meet in a chatroom created by William, son of a well-known author. Initially they use the room to share their problems and frustrations and empower one another. However William’s motives are less than noble and the group begin to realise that he is using the group as a twisted way of exerting power.

The idea of the film is interesting and its style intriguing, but it quickly suffers from the same issues that most films that cover computers and ‘youth’ issues suffer from. The technology looks dated almost as soon as it is made and let’s face it, chatrooms may have been popular 3 or 4 years ago, but people are more likely to use Facebook and Twitter to bully and befriend now.

The film smacks of adults trying to tell young people what is wrong with their lives. There is some great drama now about being a teenager, be it SKINS, MISFITS or INBETWEENERS that manages to capture the awkwardness, the excitement and the comedy without talking down or parodying its audience. Sadly CHATROOM doesn’t feel authentic when compared with these other dramas.

CHATROOM also betrays its roots as a stage play. Like CLOSER, another play turned into film, CHATROOM is extremely wordy. Being a visual medium you expect characters to show you how they feel rather than here where they are constantly telling you and each other in great detail. CLOSER succeeded in the transformation better than here mostly because the dialogue was so smart and shocking. Here it is a bit pedestrian. None of the characters have much to say that is new or particularly interesting about their lives and their problems and you don’t really warm to any of them.

Another trick to open up a play into a film is to add more action. Plays tend to be set in the same location for long periods of time. CHATROOM goes some way to this and there are many scenes which attempt to open things up. The chatrooms themselves are well portrayed, and give you some sense of the potential of this as a play, but the visual style soon wears thin. When we leave the chatrooms the action isn’t exciting enough to make up for all the talking and the tension never really rises above lukewarm.

Aaron Johnson is a great actor, but I get the feeling this won’t be a film he includes that high up his future CV.

2 out of 6 stars

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