Ever since the Internet made itself an integral part of our daily lives in the 1990s, it has increasingly appeared in films from early forays like The Net and You've Got Mail to more sophisticated use in Jason Bourne trilogy. Before Ellen Page dazzled mainstream film goers with her blogophere-speak in Juno, she lured a potential pedophile via an Internet chat room in Hard Candy. Now that the Internet has become more prominent, it was inevitable that it would eventually form the central core of a project—credit documentary filmmaker Jim Killeen for featuring its premiere search engine in Google Me.
Killeen takes a simple premise that everyone can relate to—plot your name into Google and examine the results. Many of have already done this. Mine nets 132,000 hits with a great many associated with myself primarily due to my presence as an Online Film Critics Society member along with a few other personal websites. But others with my name include a professor of Educational Psychology from Simon Fraser University, a deceased scuba diving entrepreneur, a Scientologist, a Montana lawyer, and a guy who confessed to a kidnapping in 1919.
Yesterday I caught a portion of NPR when Whad'ya Know? host Michael Feldman was conversing with a publicist namesake located via a Google search. No DNA sampling has been undertaken, but they were taken aback when they discovered that they both had ancestors from Kiev.
Thus, it's a given that Googling your name is commonplace. But that's about as far as most of us are willing to go. Not Jim Killeen, however.
He commits fully to searching, contacting, investing money—to meet his namesakes personally, obtaining a producer and film crew to record the process, clearing potential legal roadblocks, and hosting an impressive get-together of Jim Killeens from around the globe.
The resulting film is narrative heavy, but remains intriguing as the filmmaker encounters a number of obstacles. Most of the contacts are naturally suspicious of the initial phone call from the Internet stranger, just like most of us would be. Of course, the premise is far more unique than those Nigerian email scams, but we've all learned to be wary of online encounters. A major breakthrough occurs when Killeen contacts an Irish priest open to the visit, and the forces of the Internet work over time to convince other Jim Killeens that the filmmaker's motives are pure.
Some of the Jim Killeens resemble each other. Given its Scots-Irish origins (like my own), it's not surprising that all are white guys, but the personalities and backgrounds are diverse—ranging from a Catholic priest to a St. Louis advocate of a "swinging" lifestyle. A late sequence glibly having the various men state their preferences and opinions over a variety of topics is superfluous, but most of the film is engaging—the highlight occurring during the finale when the strangers all converge in Killeen, Texas and demonstrate that diverse people can find a common humanistic bond.
Appropriately, Google Me premiered on the Internet at You Tube. It should locate the proper audience—essentially anyone familiar enough with the Internet to use Google, so that is rapidly evolving into most everyone. Killeen puts a face on a concept that has likely occurred to most of us—wondering how it would be to meet our namesakes face to face. So we can pursue this if we wish to find similar truths, but at least we need not make a film about it. Killeen has already pioneered this concept, and deserves the kudos for putting himself on the line.