Jim Killeen of "Google Me"
'It all started when I googled my name,' says Jim Killeen, a sometime actor (1999's "The Sex Monster") and pro poker player who decided to make his own film about the other Jim Killeens in the world that he found via the search engine in "Google Me."
Killeen makes the distinction right away that he is not a filmmaker but someone who is making his own film because he is financing it (along with some corporate sponsorship from the likes of Qantas Airlines). Along with a coproducer, Jeanne, from his casino massage business, Jim begins to contact all the Jim Killeens he finds around the world to persuade them to be interviewed for his film. The first surprise is how many turn him down.
Undaunted, Jim creates rules for going forward - the people of shared monikers must go by 'Jim' and not 'Jimmy' or 'James,' they must be found using Google, he will go visit them and share an activity they enjoy and they must submit to a DNA test to see if they are blood relations.
Killeen travels to Cove, Ireland, a port his ancestors travelled through on the way to the U.S., to meet Father Jim, a priest who enjoys 'having the crack' at a local pub. His next subject pulls out, but Jim and Jeanne travel from L.A. to Massachusetts anyway, in hopes he'll change his mind. No luck, but they're not too far to continue driving to meet up with the initially suspicious New York City police detective who agrees to meet only in public and with friends around him. (The Internet has sped up the way we can attain and exchange information, but also seems to have created some level of perhaps healthy paranoia.) He relaxes and shares some anecdotes which Jim strains to comment upon in standard cut from subject to interviewer format.
At this point, Killeen is advised to clear up potential legal issues with Google before he sinks any more money into his film. Google's charming VP of Engineering, Douglas Merrill, explains the technology at a very high level and comes on board, enthusing that Jim has found a use for the engine they themselves hadn't thought of. (What? Has no one heard of Korean filmmaker Grace Lee's 2005 "The Grace Lee Project?" Although she didn't promote Google, setting up gracelee.net and using personal referrals instead, this was the first thing that jumped to mind as Jim Killeen began to outline his project.)
Jim completes his group with a Denver swinger with a transvestite girlfriend, a religious father of eight in St. Louis, an amazing lookalike in Edinburgh roundabout designer Jim and an Australian social worker. Jim closes each meeting by asking 'what is man's purpose.' It is interesting to note that only the swinger cannot provide an answer. In the film's weakest segment, the director then sidesteps to allow his audience to get to know him, and yet what he does instead is interview the surviving members of his family, which include two mentally ill siblings. Back on track, there's a 'Jim Killeen' reunion which brings the whole group together, along with the director's mom Ruth, at the 125th anniversary of Killeen, Texas, where Jim is gifted with the key to the city. The group get along amazingly well, even teaming up for a chili competition. The film builds suspense to climax with the revelation of the DNA tests and winds out with an amusing montage of the various Jims replying to unheard questions, easily deduced by their answers (some may be jolted to learn the filmmaker is a Scientologist).
Killeen's film is bright and crisp. He makes use of computer animation sparingly but well. The movie starts with Google's satellite feature used to 'locate' Jim with a giant pushpin and occasional 'popups' provide informational tidbits over the action and are 'closed' via an onscreen cursor. There are times when the action feels contrived, but more often it is relaxed and often quite fun. Killeen states up front that his goal is to make connections and meet people and in that he has surely succeeded.
"Google Me" is the first film to premiere on YouTube, an apt venue for a movie about it's own maker and his exploration of how technology has changed our lives. It's also a canny bit of self promotion. Still, while it has its missteps, it's often almost as much fun as the Jim Killeens of the world appear to be having making it.
Average guy Jim Killeen did something that most all of us have done – he put his name on the Google search line and hit return. The result, for him, was 24 other Jim Killeens and he had the idea to seek out each of them and get their stories. The result is what happens when you “Google Me.”
Killeen produces a mostly interesting film as he gets in touch with all the other Jim Killeens and receives the OK from six of them to be a part of his documentary. His journies to interview each takes him to Ireland, Scotland, New York City, Denver, St. Louis and Australia where he meets and bonds with his like named brethren. Their varied stories, and the filmmaker’s, show the diversity of the lives of those with the same names.
The shortfall in “Google Me” is the inordinate amount of time the LA-based Jim spends on his own life’s story. If he kept it in context with the other segments, it would have made for a more evenly told documentary. Still, I give it a B-.
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