This movie produced a visceral reaction
in me like few others. If you have a
young daughter, or granddaughter, it will make you want to spit nails.
Or go strangle somebody. Or put
burkhas on any girl you know under 21. And
maybe all the ones you don’t know, too.
Annie Cameron (Liana Liberato) seems to
be a perfectly normal high schooler: she
spends much of her time on electronic devices of some type.
She seems to have a nice, normal suburban family:
Mom (Catherine Keener), Dad (Clive Owen), big brother about to go off
to college, little sister. She tries
out for the volleyball team, and is happy she made it.
She has a best friend who works in the mall, and she’s been chatting
with Charlie, a cool guy she met in a teen chat room.
Charlie represents all her adolescent yearning for a cute boyfriend:
he listens to her, he has a sense of humor, he asks her about her
friends and family, he asks her how volleyball is going.
Annie finds herself texting him frequently, even late at night, after
her parents have gone to bed. He asks
for a picture, and tells her she’s gorgeous.
And because she’s so insecure and needy, she falls for it.
Is the hair standing up on the back of
your neck yet? Sure, “Charlie” is a
fake. He’s a grown man posing as a
teen, seeking girls just like Annie---to befriend, to get them to trust him,
and then he sets up the meeting. Before
he does that, of course, he has to tell her, by stages, that he’s not the
age he said he was at first. No, I’m
not 16, I’m really 20, and a sophomore in college, but I was afraid you
wouldn’t talk to me if you knew that right away.
Well, actually, I’m 25, and the reason I didn’t tell you at first
is because age isn’t important, anyway, it’s the fact that we’re
connecting. Soul mates aren’t tied to
a particular age, anyway. Well,
actually, I’m not 25….
We anticipate with dread where there is
headed. The unexpected part is not that
he was, in fact, a middle-aged man seeking to seduce an underage teen, it’s
that when he did, there was a part of her that still wanted to believe it was
love. She felt betrayed by her best
friend who turned her in to the school counselor, who turned her in to the
police, who notified her parents, who told everyone else in the family.
Now she’s confused and angry, but still insists she’s in love. Her
counselor (Viola Davis) goes very slowly with her, but her angry Dad is ready
to go pummel someone. He gets so
obsessed with catching the creep that he ignores his daughter’s pain, as
well as his wife’s. Annie, slowly
realizing that she’d been merely victimized, and not sincerely romanced,
quickly dissolves into self-loathing. “How
could I be so stupid?” Everyone here
is in agony. And this is a family that
used to wear costumes to dinner on Halloween, just for fun.
Now nothing seems to be fun any more.
This is an emotional wringer of a film,
but it’s done marvelously well (hooray for David Schwimmer’s deft
direction). There’s some fine acting
supported by a wrenching story, and though many genteel folks seeking
light-hearted entertainment will stay away in droves, they’ll be missing a
very powerful film.
Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, Co-Pastor, United