Now that Google has clicked its way into the dictionary, the world’s most spectacular search engine has taken on an extra degree of legitimacy and self-fulfilled its own ranking supremacy (just try googling on “google” for over 2 billion results). Accordingly, it was only a matter of time before the power of worldwide reach became the premise for film’s first “searchumentary.”
Sometime actor, professional gambler Jim Killeen has “scripted” his début feature based on a late-night search on his own name. With two dozen hits as a starting point, it seemed that contacting his namesakes, offering to travel to their neck of the woods with a crew in tow to do an interview, would provide more material than he could possibly use. But in the early going, he and producer Jeannie Roshar are surprised at the number of rejections: seems that many JKs are not at all interested in having their 15 minutes of fame (and a mandatory DNA test to establish if there is an actual long-lost relative in his top ten list).
But before you can say “It’s like talking to myself,” Father Jim Killeen, ministering to his Irish flock for twenty-one years, agrees (“He’s coming here, so I’ve nothing to lose.”) and the name game is afoot.
Their time together is awash in beautiful shots of the church and countryside. As is the case in most of the segments, a musical reinforcement (Geoff Levin, composer) that complements the setting is employed. Yet the neophyte questioner lacks the killer instinct to knock down some closed doors during theon-camera chats (here, the global issue of sex abuse vanishes as quickly as it’s raised; later, just what did or did not happen at the swingers party remains a mystery). The cliché, “What is man’s purpose?” seems too “on the nose” resulting in one embarrassed non-answer and a series of stock replies that acknowledge the elephant (camera) in the room.
The journey of Jims winds its way through New York City (a retired cop—on scene at the infamous 1990 Happy Land blaze: more, please), Denver (home to “a tranny chaser”), St. Louis (this Jim has spawned eight kids, is a highly paid executive and worships at the altar of Bush), Melbourne (the Aussie CEO of a large social services agency loves his beer and football—don’t miss the hometown team’s song set to a melody stolen from Carmen) and Scotland (where the Jim du jour could easily pass as a brother and the required haggis taste and kilt fitting slip more into travelogue than inner-discovery mode).
Between trips, cash is raised at the casino and corporate Google comes aboard (don’t mess with their name without asking) only to “inspire” the man-in-the-street “Have you ever googled your name?” fillers that add little to Killeen’s stated purpose: “the goal is to connect.”
Just when it appears the quest will teach much about the newly found Jims and little about the director, Killeen turns the camera on himself and his own troubled past. The revelations are honest (two of his siblings—diagnosed by psychiatrists in the ‘70s—were sent to the pharmaceutical grocery store and have yet to return; dropping his 93-year-old dad’s ashes, stoic mother at his side, into a river will resonate with millions), his anger real, yet the “mystery” of the DNA remained so more frames had to follow.
From here, through to the Jim Killeen reunion (you’ll never guess which small Texas town got that honour, the star of which turns out to be the reception clerk at the motel as all of the Killeens check in and out), filmmaker Killeen loses the earlier flow and—save and except for the rapid-fire Jim poll of 6 talking-heads: questions ranging from favourite colour to Iraq—the production finds rather than makes its way to the finish, still searching for some insight that, tantalizingly, is just one more edit away. JWR