In KimiZoe Kravitz stars as Angela, a tech living in Seattle whose agoraphobia has been compounded by the pandemic to the point of being debilitating. Abandoned in her gorgeous loft, with its high ceilings and shimmering original hardwood, Angela spends her days browsing through audio collected by an Alexa-esque home assistant device called “Kimi,” and manually solving all the mistakes the AI has made in interpreting natural language.
Our inciting incident comes on a day when, after he bailed out on a date with his Hot Neighbor (he has a name, I think, but for all his character is actually fleshed out, we might as well just keep referring to him as Hot Neighbor), she stumbles upon chilling evidence of a violent crime.
Forced to confront the trauma of her past and leave her home, Angela must flee the long, clinging arm of an evil tech company to seek justice for the woman murdered by its deplorable CEO.
What Kimi Gets right about Seattle
Where else but in our beautiful city could a bottle of kombucha serve as a harbinger of impending calamity? The bottle crashes to the floor hours after Angela sets it precariously on the edge of a counter, immediately after hearing the chilling audio clip of the woman’s murder, and now I’ll never watch a Kevita ‘buch strawberry and lemon in the case drink at PCC in the same way.
While some of the interior scenes were filmed in Los Angeles, the film was actually shot on the streets of Seattle, giving it major points of accuracy over the many films in which Vancouver plays the role of Emerald City. Kimi also establishes its frame with a number of subtle but effective flourishes, such as a framed poster on Angela’s wall from a show at Benaroya Hall.
However, far more interesting are the ways in which Kimi is rooted thematically in Seattle. Surveillance is perhaps the most common motive; everyone is being watched at all times, whether by their creepy neighbor (not to be confused with Hot Neighbor, whom Angela watches on herself) or a tech giant eager to squeeze their data for profit.
Whatever naive notions Angela has of a right to privacy and protection from these insidious corporate forces, they must be disabused from the start: “But you can’t access user data with a number device,” she bleats fervently, when her Romanian hacker friend urges her to do just that to find the identity of the woman in the damning recording.
“Of course you can. Who says you can’t?” he replied.
“Someone from the company.”
“Well, they lied.”
But Angela just doesn’t get it. A number of other moments like this, which are almost too overt in their social commentary to be effective, spice up the film. Angela is shocked and dismayed to learn that her employers secretly collected a scan of her retina during virtual meetings.
“It’s in the terms and conditions of the conference software,” he is told with sufficient condescension.
“No one reads them! she protests, her eyes wide. You get the picture.
What’s particularly interesting about this lingering gullibility is that Angela is a technician; we learn that she worked for Facebook, for the love of Zuck. She should, one might say, be uncomfortably aware of the reality of her employer’s disregard for privacy, especially if we are to believe this is a world in which Cambridge Analytica and the Facebook Papers are a thing. The film even makes direct reference to the 2017 Arkansas murder case which relied on evidence collected by an Echo smart speaker. But perhaps Angela’s stubborn, almost willful ignorance is truer than we care to admit. I would certainly convince myself that my employer wasn’t abjectly evil, too, if he paid for this apartment.
What Kimi Gets Seattle wrong
Kimi portrays a socially awkward tech worker who keeps inviting his neighbor over for casual sex, but becomes squirrel-like every time he goes out on a real date. I commend the film for being progressive enough to cast this otherwise very realistic character as a woman. This is what feminism looks like, folks, take notes.
Best Evil Tech CEO™ Soundbites
“It’s going too fast.” In reference to a plot to assassinate Angela to silence her. I mean, the IPO is tomorrow! He doesn’t have time for that!
“What’s wrong with these people?” Everyone is in everyone else’s business. In reference to the protesters. So deliciously ironic. *chef’s kiss*
“Kimi understands you better today than she did yesterday thanks to our people…. It’s actually the fastest way to get better fast, if that makes sense. Tells a reporter to explain why Kimi needs to listen and keep track of your last words. No, that doesn’t make sense. Also, I thought it all happened too quickly. Make up your mind.
Is Kimi a movie from Seattle?
In all (well, a little) seriousness, Kimi does a very good job of portraying a certain, albeit rather narrow, side of the city. In two and a half hours, it comes closer to capturing Seattle – the Seattle of today, not a nostalgia-tinged tale of a grungy ’90s Seattle – than any movie I’ve seen. , with a protest against the sweeps of homeless encampments in which Angela gets entangled. Remarkably absent from the film: real homelessness.
Five sinister out of five kombuchas.