A small joy of KimiSteven Soderbergh has created a new Steven Soderbergh film called “The Style of Being You” and it shows how effortless that was done. Soderbergh still loves movies after 33 years spent making all kinds of pictures, including spy thrillers, romcoms, and mega-budget star products and semi-improvisational whatchamacallits. Soderbergh could easily have produced a budget-friendly film such as “The Last of the Mob.” KimiDuring nap time. But no naps were taken—the movie is alive with the director’s customary wit and concentration, and the making of it (under difficult lockdown conditions) clearly had his full attention.
Techno-paranoia is the story, which is fun and always entertaining, with references to such classics like Coppola. The Conversation, De Palma’s Get OutAntonioni’s BlowupTogether with grateful thanks to Alfred Hitchcock Rear window. Cliff Martinez (who composed the score) does an admirable job of suggesting the dark themes Bernard Herrmann had written for Hitchcock films such as “The Birds” and “The Man in the Mirror.” Psycho Vertigo.) David Koepp wrote the clever script. It looks at cultural moments in flux without becoming too dramatic. We might.
The film’s focus is on Angela Childs (Zoë Kravitz), a Seattle computer hermit employed by the ominously named Amygdala Corporation to help perfect a Siri-like household gadget called Kimi. Angela is a mess, a woman so hobbled by agoraphobia—and the drugs she’s given to fight it—that she can’t bear to leave her loft apartment (which is actually okay, it’s huge, and totally deluxe). Her life is one long zoom call—to her bosses, to her mom (Robin Givens)—and the only people with whom she regularly interacts in the real world are two men who live in the building across the street from her own: Terry (Byron Bowers), whom she uses for occasional taco-truck companionship and no-strings booty calls, and a beardy guy we later learn is named Kevin (Devin Ratray), who spends a lot of time at his window with a pair of binoculars and is thus barely on anybody’s radar.
Angela has the job of monitoring misunderstandings between Kimis and their owners and flagging them for technical attention. An alarming conversation was heard in a Kimi audio recording. Angela begins to analyze it. And where is it? But where? Angela informs Holloway, her immediate supervisor (Andy Daly), of her concerns and tells him to delete the recording. Angela informs Holloway that she thought the recording might be a crime. He states, “Our policy says it’s our business.”
Isolated as she is—by the pandemic, by the atomization of online life—Angela has no idea what deadly trouble she’s suddenly in. Soon, we see that her corporate bosses are all creeps. We also soon learn of a shameless liar called Chowdhury (Rita Wilson), as well as a smarmy exec Bradley (Derek DelGaudio), all who seem determined to make millions from the upcoming IPO.
Zoë Kravitz uses her natural quiet and watchfulness to turn the hollowed-out Angela into an affecting character. As we watch her shuffle around her apartment or scurry along the street, (on rare visits to the outside world), Kravitz manages to make us feel her modern version of pain. The movie’s ending might seem a bit too cinematic (it takes the story into an Abel Ferrara film), but everything before it does a great job at building tension and diminishing any faith we may have in humanity and kindness. Angela is a cramped place and the last thing that you’d want to hear someone say is “You’ve called precisely the right person.”