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'On_Line' spins a web of Internet-age relationships

June 27, 2003|Kevin Thomas | Times Staff Writer

At heart, Jed Weintrob's "On_Line" is a classic New York romantic comedy, focusing on a group of lonely people who become caught up in a series of confusions and coincidences in their pursuit of love and sex. It is also a witty, sometimes unsettling commentary on romance in the Internet age, and it marks a sharp, amusing feature debut for Weintrob, a veteran in interactive entertainment.

Josh Hamilton stars as John, who with his roommate Moe (Harold Perrineau) runs Intercon-X, a live erotic Web site, from their apartment in an old brownstone. Pining for his lost love, John is in danger of becoming his own best customer, while the extroverted Moe definitely prefers his ladies to be up close and personal. John is captivated by the stunning Jordan Nash (Vanessa Ferlito) and spends more and more time hooked up to her Web site. But could they actually connect in each other's physical presence? Jordan is a major glamour girl, and John is an intellectual type -- seemingly not her sort of guy.

Yet Jordan seems to have become as isolated by her erotic Web site work as John has been by his business, and she seeks solace in Al (John Fleck), a middle-aged gay man who creates erotic fantasies for his own Web clients. One of his most frequent customers is Ed (Eric Millegan), a rural Ohio youth nearing 20 and eager to escape to New York. The desperate Ed spends almost as much time on the Final Exit Web site, in which subscribers try to talk one another out of committing suicide. Ed and an artist named Moira (Isabel Gillies), who has just met Moe, are especially supportive of each other.

Once Weintrob has lined up all his players, he shows them interacting with one another online and in person -- in ways that are amusing, harrowing and surprising. As clinical -- though not graphic -- as "On_Line" gets in regard to sex, it strives for a lighthearted, even sentimental touch as it explores the paradoxical power of the Internet both to allow people to isolate themselves and to bring them together. "On_Line," which is well acted by its ensemble cast, is a fine example of digital filmmaking, and Weintrob and his co-writer, Andrew Osborne, manage to raise some serious issues regarding the Internet without taking themselves too seriously.



MPAA rating: Unrated

Times guidelines: Clinical sex descriptions but not graphic sex, some strong language, adult themes

Josh Hamilton...John Roth

Harold Perrineau...Moe Curley

Isabel Gillies...Moira Ingalls

John Fleck...Al Fleming

Vanessa Ferlito...Jordan Nash

Eric Millegan...Ed Simone

An Indican Pictures release. Director Jed Weintrob. Producers Tanya Selvaratnam, Richard T. Titus. Executive producers Tavin Marin Titus, Claude Arpels, Adam Brightman. Screenplay Andrew Osborne, Jed Weintrob. Cinematographer Toshiaki Ozawa. Editor Stephanie Sterner. Music Roger Neill. Production designer Jory Adam. Visual effects supervisor Christian D. Bruun/Quantum Film. Running Time: 1 hour, 27 minutes.

Exclusively at the Sunset 5, 8000 Sunset Blvd., (323) 848-3500.

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