When Strangers Click Movie Review: Dialup Desire

Has the classic ordeal of say, a lovelorn and less than appealing 17th century Cyrano de Bergerac in courting an elusive Roxanne been resolved nicely through the miracle of modern science via online romance, and somewhat beyond the reach of global immigration regulations and quotas? According to When Strangers Click: Five Stories From The Internet filmmaker, Robert Kenner, yes and no.

The director of the Oscar nominated mealtime muckraking Food, Inc., though confessing to never having dabbled in Internet dating (“It was before my time”), delivers food for thought here. And was fascinated enough with the topic – which makes unexplored claims of nearly a quarter of heterosexual couples having met online – to seek out and recruit five such lovebirds from dating websites for his film.

And while such virtual attraction tends to thrive on mystery, so do movies. So without giving too much away about what transpires in these lives after meeting up in person with their chat room objects of desire, let’s just say that there are an assortment of happy endings, as well as disappointments. Though even the matches seemingly made in heaven, have their share of at least one convenient initial deception. And with one couple actually opting to resume their cyberspace romance over the real thing.

So is mating online a case of expediency or addiction, therapeutic or pathological, a quest for intimacy or avoidance, and possibly indulgence in fantasy, obsession, self-entertainment, infidelity, stranger sex, multiple personality turn-ons, withdrawal from the real world, or even just plain emotional shopaholic tendencies? Kenner delights viewers with tantalizing tidbits more in the nature of his subjects venturing into analyzing themselves, than the filmmaker probing deeper issues.

Why, for instance, the lure of the Internet that has led so many prominent politicians and religious leaders looking for lust, to destroy their careers and marriages in some sort of mindless collateral damage. From New York’s notorious Luv Gov Eliot Spitzer, to just resigned in disgrace NY Congressman Christopher Lee. Though neither would seem to have been better off doing the real life footsie thing at their local john, an old school approach to undercover courtship favored by former Idaho Senator Larry Craig.

And while this documentary is not into serving up innovative dating tips, or likely to entice additional hordes of lonelyhearts on the prowl to web flirtations, When Strangers Click has its own unique pleasures and surprises. And totally vicarious ones too, minus the pitfalls of close encounters of virtual kind.

When Strangers Click: Five Stories From The Internet debuts on HBO2 on Valentines Day, and will air again throughout February.

Robert Kenner Films/HBO2 Secondlife.com Unrated 3 stars