' ' Cinema Romantico: Kimi

Wednesday, April 13, 2022


As an agoraphobic snoop, Angela Childs (Zoë Kravitz), the heroine of Steven Soderbergh’s HBOMax affair “Kimi”, will draw comparisons to both Anna Fox (Amy Adams) of last year’s “The Woman in the Window” and, of course, the illustrious Jeff Jefferies (Jimmy Stewart) of “Rear Window.” Angela, though, both in terms of her character and  Kravitz’s accompanying performance is much less loopily fragile than Adams’s Fox while the people she spies on through her apartment window prove more like allies than Jeff’s emergent enemies. No, in “Kimi” the enemy is within – the apartment, that is – in the form of the eponymous Alexa-like virtual assistant where, in a nod to “The Conversation”, Angela discovers a disturbing recording. That recording connects to the usual corporate malfeasance and murder, of course, and though Soderbergh renders those familiar machinations with substantial verve, he even more acutely ties Angela and the ensuing murder mystery plight to our present. If paranoid thrillers of the 70s were products of their paranoid time so, too, is “Kimi.” Because even if Angela’s agoraphobia stems from past trauma, her plight proves analogous to our post-vaccination, post-Omicron COVID present, where re-entering the world can feel to a person of a certain disposition like entering the void. 

Though the first 45 minutes of “Kimi” takes place almost exclusively within Angela’s apartment, Soderbergh is less inclined to predictably induce claustrophobia than to open things up, both through the airiness of the windows, the expansiveness of the loft, and the big bank of computers that Angela deftly navigates in her job correcting errors for the Kimi corporation in their device’s algorithm. True, the character is deliberately set up as having O.C.D, in the way she makes her bed and brushes her teeth, and yes, scenes of a noisy construction crew upstairs and an off-kilter coworker (Alex Dobrenko) are clearly thriller seeds being planted by David Koepp’s script. But what Soderbergh most demonstrates throughout these fluidly rendered sequences are the control Angela has – or at least feels – over her own life. Then again, Soderbergh’s camera is not exactly yoked to Angela’s point-of-view here, freely darting around the apartment, zooming in around the desk, laying a subtle vibe of the outside world’s intrusion. And it is only when she goes to her door to go downstairs to meet her handsome neighbor (Byron Bowers) for coffee that we suddenly glean all is not well. The tone of the movie and Kravitz’s performance suddenly shift as she cannot make herself unlock the door to leave, recalibrating her control as less than.  

Eventually Angela discovers audio and video evidence of a murder buried within the logs she checks, and when her direct supervisor stresses she destroy it, she becomes determined to deliver it to Kimi headquarters instead, necessitating a terrifying excursion outside. The ensuing quest is at once urgent and urgently awkward. Soderbergh opts for canted angles, suggesting a world off balance, echoed in Kravitz’s indelible movement in these moments, rushed but rigid, head-down, seeming to walk a kind of metaphorical tightrope between all those around her. Together it brews an incredible sense of tension from nothing more than being in the world, which, given her mask and the conspicuous lack of masks on those around her, epitomizes a specific sort of present-day nightmare, a zombie apocalypse among the living. 

At Kimi headquarters, Angela meets with a corporate muckety-muck, Natalie Chowdhury, a tremendous performance by Rita Wilson who slyly deploys her usual inherent sunny disposition to devilish effect by skewering the I-Hear-You, I-See-You, We’re-All-In-This-Together of the moment corporate credos as so much horse hockey. The character even references Angela’s trauma, only magnifying it as an empty gesture - “I’m with you, ya know,” Natalie says as a way to let you know she is not with Angela at all. Rather than act as an ally, Natalie sicks a couple henchmen wolves on her underling, transforming the back half of the movie into a game of survival cat and mouse in which the crisp editing illuminates Angela’s quick-thinking.

Even with such quick thinking, however, she remains stricken by Climbing Killer Syndrome (coinage: Roger Ebert) in so far as she leads the bad guys right back to her own front door. But rather than mere dumb plotting, this proves emotionally revelatory. Because Angela thinks once she’s inside her apartment with the door locked, in her contained world, she’s safe. She isn’t, of course. And yet even as the bad guys compromise her inner sanctum, Angela finds unexpected support in the outside world. A little too neatly, perhaps, to suggest her agoraphobia has been conquered, though as a metaphor for overcoming the perpetual dread of Right Now, “Kimi” proves pretty damn potent. 

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