Give it to Jeremy — He’ll Watch Anything: “Downloading Nancy”

Ed. Note: In “Give it to Jeremy — He’ll Watch Anything,” Jeremy blindly selects a movie from Netflix using the Netflix Roulette app, watches it, and records his reaction. It’s arbitrary. It’s chaos. It’s awesome. Warning: Spoilers.

Selection

Netflix Roulette wheel, spin spin spin! Give me a movie and suck me in!

(My incantation skills need work.)

Today the big red wheel has landed on a movie called Downloading Nancy, which, let’s be honest, sounds a bit like the title of a movie that might be on Cinemax this Tuesday at midnight.

downloading_nancy

After reading the description, I’m thinking maybe it’s more likely to be on Lifetime this Tuesday at midnight? Either way, here we go.

Showtime!

1:00

Establishing shot: Rain falling on glass that turns out to be a windshield. Looks like somebody’s been reading their copy of The Big Book of Thriller Direction!

2:03

Whoops, I was wrong. Not rain; a car wash. Looks like somebody’s been reading their copy of The Big Book of Pointless Misdirects!

2:20

The opening montage was of a female character talking to her therapist about dying as we watch an angry-looking dude do everyday things angrily. I’m actually a little compelled right now by the movie, which is helping me move past how gross it was to watch that guy angrily eat cereal that clearly had too much milk in it.

dn_cereal

4:21

Weird choice by the director: We see this guy silently read a note from his wife, and over his shoulder we can only see, “Albert, I’ve gone to…”

Then, aloud, he says to himself, “…Baltimore?” I’m just saying: Weird choice.

5:38

Friendly reminder from the Department of Movie Cliches: Bus stations are where crazy people, and only crazy people, go.

5:51

The woman — Maria Bello, or Nancy, I suppose — and a man we haven’t seen before — Jason Patric, I think — are walking toward the camera from the bus station. The camera is bouncing back and forth with each step as they walk. Back and forth. Bounce, bounce. I’m going to be sick.

9:50

Weird choice by the character: Albert’s (the first guy we saw) entire basement floor is a putting green.

10:50

Okay, let’s lay out the facts of the movie so far. Albert and Nancy are married. Nancy has left Albert a note that she’s gone to Baltimore, and she’s been gone for awhile, but she hasn’t yet called to say anything like, “Hey, I made it to Baltimore, dear husband.” Albert’s upset about this. He also found a razor covered in dried blood on the bathroom floor.

What would you be doing if you were Albert? Making some phone calls? Talking to your wife’s friends? Maybe not quite calling the police yet, but at least having trouble hiding your inner panic? Albert is just moping around his house, and it’s driving me so crazy I might as well go to Baltimore too.

12:50

Wait, wait, wait. What just happened? Albert expresses his concern for the Nancy situation to his visiting friends, then it cuts to him in his bathrobe putting around on a carpet, spliced with shots of Nancy on similar carpet, sitting at a computer and pleasuring herself. Then it looks like he catches her, his phone rings, and she disappears. Did we jump back to a scene from the recent past before she left? Are we still in the present but he’s remembering something that happened in the recent past?

13:25

Nancy is clearly in Baltimore (at an arcade, because let’s have some fun before we have someone kill us?), so that last scene must have been the present with Albert remembering the recent past. Thank you, The Big Book of Needlessly Clever Storytelling.

15:40

I gotta say… nothing in this movie looks like it is from 2008. Giant tube computer monitors, rectangular silver boombox tape player. I’d guess 1998, maybe.

16:39

Albert is simultaneously sympathetic (he’s really broken up over his wife) and infuriating (he’s doing nothing about it, unless you count obsessing over golf).

18:54

I’m thrown off by the obligatory Nancy-talking-to-a-therapist scenes, because this therapist seems out of her league. I would not be shocked if we find out later that the therapist is just some woman Nancy met online and hired to pretend to be her therapist.

20:00

Flashback to Albert and Nancy at a banquet for his company. It’s incredibly sad and awkward in a sad little ballroom with sad little balloons. It’s like Debbie Downer threw a wedding. No, it’s like Debbie Downer threw up on a wedding.

banquet

21:24

There is just a sad, sad staleness over this whole movie. I think it’s intentional? It hurts to spend time in it, and it’s only been 20 minutes.

24:09

Albert says to Nancy when she wants to leave the banquet, “Can’t you just drop it for once?” I have no idea what “it” is. In fact, I have no idea what the tension is between these two. Do they hate each other? He seems to have no interest in her, and she wants to kill herself. But there aren’t compelling reasons shown for either yet.

25:56

Weird choice of question: Back in the present, Jason Patric says to Nancy, the woman who has asked him to kill her, “Something the matter?”

26:44

What is Jason Patric supposed to be exactly? A hero? A villain? Someone to trust? Someone taking advantage? His robotic performance gives me no clues.

27:04

His home is just a gigantic home video library, so… he’s a psychopath? A hit man?

28:10

Oh, I see. She asked for a Scotch and he gave her a beer, so… he’s a jerk is what he is.

28:56

Nancy is angry at Jason Patric, it seems. She wants him to kill her. But apparently they’ve also had cyber sex. And…

Ohhh-kay. She is really troubled. The scene escalates to one of sex and pain and abuse. I was wrong about Cinemax, I was definitely wrong about Lifetime. You can probably find this on HBO this Tuesday at midnight.

30:37

This movie is from 2008, and yet Albert is completely unable to keep up with his wife’s whereabouts for two whole days. I’m not buying it.

31:29

Everything is so yellow. It’s like this whole movie has jaundice.

31:33

Ok, ok. Here Albert starts to contact the police, then hangs up. So he’s at least thinking about doing something. (Curiously, though, he dialed 911 to do so. That doesn’t seem right.)

32:41

Somebody needs to tell me, is Jason Patric normally a bad actor? This is my first exposure to him, and the only description I can come up with is robo-jerk. Every line is delivered the same way. Some, I think, are sarcastic. Some aren’t?

33:37

More pain and sex and abuse. This is horrible. Move on, please.

34:58

I said, move on.

35:40

We’re learning about Nancy’s childhood, her uncle and her mother, and it’s not good at all.

36:50

I don’t like this movie. It’s not really all that poorly made, but sheeeesh it’s tough to watch.

37:25

Onward to things of a lighter nature. A man has come to Albert’s door, and I took the time to capture some of their amazing exchange.

“I’m looking for Nancy Stockwell. Server maintenance. It’s part of her online business package.”

When has this ever happened in the history of the world? A man comes to your door do to server maintenance? As part of an online business package? What would that even mean?

“Mrs. Stockwell is signed up for bi-annual server maintenance, which is virus protection…”

Oh, virus protection, good good, yeah, just slap that on that server Mr. Handyman.

“You see, her firewall’s going to expire, which means she can lose all her information…”

Does it mean that? Does it??

“Is there anyone else who may have authorization?”

“Well, I’m her husband.”

“I don’t have the fine print, but husband… satisfies our trust requirements. Or I can come back in a week.”

A man saying he’s a customer’s husband satisfies your trust requirements? I’m waiting for the back of this guy’s jacket to say, Ned Flanders Server Maintenance Co. Surely, Albert, a modern successful businessman who’s constantly on his cell phone, will sniff out the technological lunacy at play here…

“You know what… Actually, maybe we should get that done. She’s actu- um, forwarded some emails… frankly, I don’t know how to do that, so… couldja… couldja help me with that?”

“Let’s see what we can open up.”

“Right. Rock and roll.”

Oh, Albert. Ohhh, Albert. This has to be 1995, right? Not 2008? Please?

38:58

The two of them are at Nancy’s computer now.

“I’m not trying to find out what my wife is up to. I’m just trying to forward some emails.”

“Are you aware of any passwords? That would simplify things a bit. It’s usually a plain word… that means something to her… like her favorite color… flower… street name she grew up on… child’s name?”

Sure it is, Mr. Increasingly-Creepy Door-to-Door Server Maintenance Man. Sure it is. But, even if it were, Albert has no answers, which might in itself be answer to why his wife is gone. I’m just saying.

39:40

A few taps on the keyboard and “What do you know… it looks like Nancy has no passwords whatsoever, there’s no security here, just… wide open.”

This whole scene makes the “enhance… enhance… enhance” crime show scenes look like scenes from a documentary about computers.

40:35

Mr. Increasingly-Creepy Door-to-Door Server Maintenance Man has a sore on his lip, which isn’t helping his increasing creepiness.

40:38

“You’ve called 911 I’m sure, and filed a missing person’s report?” Again, are you really supposed to call 911 for that? File a missing person’s report as an EMERGENCY?

All of this nonsense has taken me completely out of the movie. Which, I suppose, is exactly what I was asking for a mere four minutes ago.

42:15

Mr. Increasingly-Creepy Door-to-Door Server Maintenance Man finds a suicide note from Nancy to Albert in her inbox (makes sense, right?). Albert reads it. Mr. Increasingly-Creepy Door-to-Door Server Maintenance Man doubles down on his creepy stance and says, “You’d be surprised what people can be. Things they do when they’re alone, people they meet.”

43:10

Welp. Bye-bye Mr. Increasingly-Creepy Door-to-Door Server Maintenance Man. Albert just ended him, and the scene, with a putter to the head.

44:42

Remember that therapist that I thought was out of her league? I still think that. She’s acting uninterested in Nancy, very interested in understanding Albert’s side, not grasping the pain Nancy is in and the danger she is to herself.

46:16

I guess all I’m trying to say is that Nancy needs better help than a therapist who just said, “I know you’re going to get better. Statistics are very promising.”

47:28

I was wrong about Mr. Increasingly-Creepy Door-to-Door Server Maintenance Man. Not dead, but bound and gagged on one of Albert’s plastic-covered couches.

48:37

Wait… is Mr. Increasingly-Creepy Door-to-Door Server Maintenance Man Jason Patric??

I need to sit down for a minute. What, I already am sitting? Embarrassment all over the place.

I’ve gone back to rewatch the scene at the door and Nancy’s computer, now seeing that it’s Jason Patric, and it’s even more ridiculous. I mean, now it’s much more understandable that the maintenance-man character says so many ridiculous things, because it’s just a ruse, but now it’s even more insane that Albert has zero clue about any of it.

This also explains the sore on his lip, from Jason Patric’s previous interactions with Nancy.

Also, I now suspect he probably knew Nancy’s password and resorted to the “oh, look, no passwords” line when Albert couldn’t come up with any of Nancy’s favorite things.

Man, how did I not get any of this.

Daisy pendant! Jason Patric is standing there in the computer room wearing the daisy pendant that Nancy was wearing earlier when he picked her up from the bus station. How in the world did I miss this? And Albert totally recognized it, which explains why he knocked him out with a golf putter. Whew.

I’m not going to beat myself up too bad, though, because I just found out that Amanda has been watching too and she had the same problem. In the earlier scenes, Jason Patric has really dark stubble, but here he is clean shaven. Somehow that makes him look like a totally different person. Two out of two people agree. Statistics are very promising.

There are only three actors filling the majority of this movie, and yet one was so unremarkable I did not recognize him out of context. That whole “I can’t tell when he’s supposed to be sarcastic” thing doesn’t sound so bad now, does it?

49:07

“She wanted to be released from the suffering you bestowed on her, Albert.” Who talks like that, Jason Patric? Bestowed on her? His lines are riddled with anachronistic goop like this.

50:08

Jason Patric and Albert are verbally sparring over their relationships with Nancy, and I think if Jason Patric’s acting were better it has the potential to be a really powerful scene. Alas, robo-jerk was bestowed on us.

51:30

Now it’s time for another edition of “What Is This Movie Supposed to be About?” with your host, Exasperated Jeremy.

What is this movie supposed to be about? Is Albert supposed to be the villain? Nancy was abused as a child and pretty clearly has a mental illness now, and Albert seems to love her, but has zero idea how to handle her mental state. Does that make him a villain? If I were in charge of their lives, I’d put BOTH of them in therapy, Nancy to get help, Albert to get help being helpful to her, and both so they can have a sane marriage. If anybody is a villain, it’s Jason Patric (his name is Lewis, by the way) (kidding! his name is robo-jerk) encouraging Nancy’s addiction to pain and tearing apart Albert. But the movie seems to want us to view Lewis as the hero, saving Nancy from Albert’s bumbling, helpless tyranny. I mean… what is this movie supposed to be about?

51:47

Judging by the rate of product placement, this movie is supposed to be about Diet Pepsi.

52:01

Cringe: Albert just got up at the dinner table to get the salt and pepper, rather than ask Nancy — the woman who is sitting right in front of it and is also his wife — for it. The salt is an inch from her hand when he puts it down. She asks for it. He nudges it. She dumps the entire container onto her dinner and begins giggling. As a damaged woman reverting to the age of her childhood trauma might. Albert does not understand. Albert, remember, also does not know her favorite color or flower or where she grew up.

54:15

Now he’s rejecting her sexual advances in bed and now the pain train rolls right through dysfunction junction.

55:27

Any thoughts on the movie to this point, Amanda?

Hard To Watch (Based on the novel Stone Cold Bummer by Manipulate).”

Thank you.

58:56

Albert asks Lewis, “Is she ok?”

“She is safe.”

“Good, that’s all I wanted to know.” I think that might mean she’s dead, Albert. Bumble on, you bumbling fool.

58:34

I’m thankful that this movie doesn’t actually show TOO much when it comes to the pain and sex and abuse. Plenty enough to imply awfulness, but not as explicit as one might fear. (I should point out, since I’ve been dodging having to share specifics in this area: This stuff is not from The Big Book of Simplified Romantic Pain/Pleasure Exploration. This is a woman we see unraveling, unstable, with a death wish, being punished over and over by a man we are to understand will eventually kill her.)

1:01:30

Now Nancy is falling for Lewis? Why? Are we to believe it’s meaningful love? She’s wanted him to be horrible to her, and he’s delivered. Just because she wants it, does that mean we should root for it?

1:02:09

Nancy: “I wish Albert could feel the profound loneliness he’s provided me for fifteen years of my life.”

That seems… stupid. Beyond the bad writing, that seems stupid because now it’s clearer than ever that the two of them should have gotten help together a long time ago. Fifteen years? And they know nothing about each other?

1:05:35

Nancy snarls at Lewis that divorce won’t change anything for her. So it’s not so much that Albert has caused her any pain, but that he hasn’t understood any of her pain? With or without him, she has the same pain, but she wants someone who can really understand it, and that’s why she feels lonely? (Does Albert know that?)

1:08:55

Hell for me is watching people hurt themselves. This movie is like riding a train through Hell’s countryside at night during a lightning storm. CRACK! There it is. BOOM! There’s some more.

1:10:40

Dawn in my Hell: Nancy cuts herself with a razor while in a hardware store with Lewis (buying his implements of death, I guess?) and there’s lots of blood and please stop.

1:11:45

Hey look, another Diet Pepsi.

1:12:28

Congratulations, winner of the Strangest Scene in a Strange Movie award: Lewis is still tied up, but no longer on the couch; Albert now has him sitting at the kitchen table, where he is feeding his captive cereal and beer.

more_cereal

1:16:29

The way this story is told, with interlocking scenes from past and present, is very much like a short story. I wonder if it’s based on one.

1:20:44

From The Big Book of Quick-Edit Indie Film Scenes, here’s Lewis smashing things while shirtless.

1:22:44

I like for the most part the way things have been ordered in this movie, but when a new scene begins it’s not always clear where and when we are. I’m too busy trying to answer questions like “What Is This Movie Supposed to be About?” to have to also guess, “Where and when are we?”

1:27:30

Robo-jerk robotically tells Nancy that he doesn’t want to kill her. She’s naturally very upset. He says, “You came to me with this idea, and it’s not real to me anymore, it’s not.”

Nancy: “You made me a promise. We had an agreement.”

Lewis: “On a fucking computer?? This is REAL.”

This movie can’t be set in 2008. It can’t. It can’t.

1:29:29

This woman needs real help, and robo-jerk is just a robo-jerk. It’s getting hard not to feel really, really sorry for her and just wish that he would go away. Please don’t let them end up together, movie. Are you listening to me, movie?

1:30:27

And please don’t let him actually kill her, movie. Movie? Do you hear me??

1:30:51

Booooo, movie. Booooo!

1:31:03

I hate this.

1:31:38

I will say this: Jason Patric performing a bit of real acting here. I’m sure it’s helping that there is no speaking.

1:32:04

He just took his shirt off, so I guess after this is when he loses his mind and smashes his computer, amongst other things.

And, apparently, after this is also when he goes to her house and, after shaving (don’t forget that), dons the disguise of his alter ego, Mr. Increasingly-Creepy Door-to-Door Server Maintenance Man? What is he hoping to get from Albert by doing this? Who is this guy, this robo-jerk? The movie is nearly over and I still have no sense of him.

1:33:58

Congratulations, winner of the Weird Jump award for weirdest jump: Albert is watching TV at home and we learn from a newscast that it is now one year later and, oh yeah, Lewis was convicted for the murder of Nancy.

1:36:40

Let’s get inside the director’s head for a moment, please, as he wraps up work on this film.

“Okay, here’s how we need to end this tour de force. Albert is sitting at his kitchen table a year after Nancy’s death, and he’s reading the emails that Lewis printed off for him (remember, when he was Mr. Increasingly-Creepy Door-to-Door Server Maintenance Man? yeah, you remember). We need to have Nancy doing a voice-over to really drive this home. In the email he’s reading now, she needs to complain to Lewis about trying to make love to Albert and about being married, and then she needs to say she’ll dream about Lewis tonight. It’ll be really effing horrible and sad and just make it feel like the movie might not have any worth.

“And then, you know what? We just end the movie. BOOM. Sad ending.

“Whaddaya think?

“Can we go ahead and get started on Downloading Nancy 2: The Upload?”

Final Thoughts

The first thing I did after finishing this movie (right before watching a cleansing, silly episode of Friends) was try to find out what it was based on and confirm when it was made. Was it based on a short story as I suspected? Was it actually made in 1995 and not 2008 as the characters’ relationship with technology suggested?

It was not based on a short story, but rather inspired by the true story of Sharon Lopatka, whom Wikipedia tells us, “was killed in a case of apparent consensual homicide… [that] became the earliest widely publicized example of a consensual homicide mediated through the use of the Internet.”

How early was that case? Why, it was 1996. So, yes, I feel good for having guessed the correct time period for the movie, but also angry for having to guess at all. There couldn’t have been one concrete piece of setting given to the audience? An unobtrusive bit of text overlay at the beginning of the movie? A casual mention of the year by a character early on? A calendar on the wall? This seems important since the Internet and computers play a role in everything. I spent too much time viewing it all with modern eyes and being suspect of everyone when I didn’t have to be. I mean, I missed that Jason Patric was Jason Patric because SERVER MAINTENANCE. That does not satisfy my trust requirements.

But I digress. Don’t watch this movie, my friends. You have the reasons laid out in 360,000 words above. It was not terrible, and there are some interesting pieces of story, some themes to ponder, a few good acting performances. But mostly it’s just incredibly difficult to watch, with almost no payoff. Unless you like yellow. Then, sure, go for it.

I’ll be performing door-to-door server maintenance on another Netflix Roulette spin soon. Stay tuned!

Read more from Jeremy here and on Twitter: @jereminate.