The written word can’t always convey meaning, particularly when speed and brevity are involved and so in this fast-moving world of Tweets, twits, Facebook and Internet chatting, sometimes intention and intonation can be conveyed by an emoticon. Sometimes, all that’s needed is a simple emoticon to express a smile or a frown.

Some emoticons can be quite elaborate, taking up several lines, imaginative usage of the keyboard. Imagination and emotional depth is exactly was is lacking in the movie “Emoticon,” a story about blended families, research and love.

The movie lacks the care of those messages and is as simplistic and ordinary as the common 🙂 or ;).

The story follows an Italian anthropology graduate student, Elena Gallenti (Livia De Paolis) who is struggling to complete her thesis on the modern means of communication even though, as her advisor (Carol Kane) points out, she barely can manage the old-fashioned means of just talking. Granted Elena communicates in what must be her second or third language, English. Not an easy task. You’d think a natural inclination would be a comparison between Italian and American communication, but no matter.

Elena is a slender, tall, handsome woman with long brown hair and settles, and I do means settles, for a relationship with a doctor, Walter Nevins (Michael Cristofer),  who is  64 and has two high school aged kids, Luke (Miles Chandler) and Amanda (Diane Guerrero). Luke and Amanda were adopted by Walter and his ex-wife Julia Christine Ebersole) and they flit from one house to the next or that’s what stated at the beginning but toward the end it seems Julia is out of town too much to take Amanda in after Amanda suffers from I don’t like my dad seeing a much younger woman syndrome.

Luke and Amanda’s resistance to Elena is easily overcome. For Luke, they share of joint. For Amanda, Elena volunteers to take them to Mexico. Ah, the life of the rich. Just how much angst can there be with the prep schools, the nice clothes and the spacious living quarters, including Elena’s apartment. That’s like no real New York City I know, but my friends aren’t so wealthy.

Walter is also either the coolest father or the stupidest. He’s not worried if his kids stay out overnight. Amanda wanders off to be with a Latina girl she just met. Luke gets to know Amanda’s faux friend, Jackie (Allie Gallerani) who was only getting close to her, it seems, to get much closer to Luke.

The tagline almost makes no sense: “Can 140 characters represent me?” That reference is to Twitter, but there seems to be very little tweeting involved. There’s IM and Facebook posting. Neither teen has that texting while walking, drinking, talking and driving problem. Neither teen takes selfies ad naseum. Even the emoticon usage and the dialogue don’t seem to be overconnected with virtual friending.

Paolis directed and co-wrote the script with Sarah Neboso. The cast is attractive and the acting isn’t bad. The production values are all there, but the depth of research, the layers of meaning and nuanced emotion aren’t there. If I were to rate it with an emoticon, I’d give it this:  :-\

This movie has made the festival rounds and won the Cast Collaboration Award that the 2013 Gen Art Film Festival and was an official selection at the Dances With Films 2013 Festival.

Emoticon 😉” is distributed by Indican Pictures and will screen at the Laemmle Music Hall in Beverly Hills starting 30 May 2014.

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