R | 1h 24min | Comedy | 11 October 2019
Technology is forever pushing forward, for good or for worse. One of the most concerning recent technological “wonders” is software apps that supposedly make our lives better. Big Tech figured out long ago that one of the best ways to track our every move … er … I mean to help make our lives more “manageable” is to have so-called digital personal assistants installed on our cellphones. Hence, the explosive rise of AI-powered assistants, such as Siri, Google Now, and Cortana, to name a few.
When I first watched the trailer to the new rom-com film “Jexi,” co-written by filmmakers Jon Lucas and Scott Moore, I had high hopes that we’d see social commentary on this invasive technology. I imagined it tackling questions such as what are the bigger-picture implications for our futures, only couched in a fun, witty comedy. Boy, was I wrong.
The film opens by lightly sketching out the life of Phil (Adam Devine, “Pitch Perfect,” “Workaholics”), whose dream is to become a journalist. Instead, he’s settled for a gig that entails coming up with pop-culture top 10 lists.
Much of Phil’s life revolves around his ubiquitous cellphone, which seems to be a fill-in for friends and certainly for any sort of romantic interest. This is an intriguing premise that many can relate to in our increasingly isolated-from-each-other, modern society.
Soon, Phil meets bicycle store owner Cate (Alexandra Shipp, “X-Men: Apocalypse”), who somehow finds his social ineptitude and bumbling ways attractive. Cate’s character is very hands-on and has a lot of masculine energy: She’s outdoorsy, buffed out in her tank top, and has a knack for fixing things. Phil becomes so enamored of her that he accidentally breaks his cellphone.
He decides to purchase a replacement phone and chooses one that comes equipped with one of the aforementioned digital assistants pre-installed on it and ready to go. From there, the digital assistant—the titular “Jexi”—begins to gradually insinuate itself into Phil’s life.
Although naggy, domineering, and down-putting, Jexi (voiced by Rose Byrne) insists on improving his life by demanding that he make new friends, eat more healthily, and improve his employment circumstances.
Unfortunately, while this plot sounds halfway interesting on paper, at least from a technology-run-amok perspective, much of Lucas and Moore’s saggy screenplay is propped up by a plethora of crude and sleazy jokes, lots of cursing, and vulgar imagery. For instance, when Phil receives an image from Cate that includes some cleavage, he begins, in return, to snap pictures of his genitalia, much to the insulting disapproval of Jexi. This scene (disturbingly) elicited plenty of guffaws from my fellow moviegoers.
I won’t reveal any spoilers here, but when Jexi feels as though “she” is losing Phil, because his life appears to be changing, things don’t go too well for him. Engage Psycho Chick Mode.
A Missed Opportunity
“Jexi” seems like a huge missed opportunity to explore the ways in which modern society worships our AI “gods” and how increasingly dependent we are becoming on technology to solve even our most trivial issues. GPS assistance is one thing, but the recent explosion of devices and apps that are taking over is something popular media should explore.
Instead, a couple of other disturbing revelations emerge in “Jexi.” Phil plays the typical adorable sucker nice-guy type, which, in an age of pop-culture terms such as “cuck,” “incel,” “beta orbiter,” and “simp,” doesn’t exactly make for a good look at our increasingly embattled masculinity. Indeed, Phil is a poster child for today’s emasculated male.
Another irritating trope in this film is that as a male, Phil can’t become a man without the aid of a shrill, domineering female presence. This not only is a disservice to the women out there who support their men with kindness, compassion, and understanding, but also posits the erroneous philosophy that men can’t be self-sustaining and independently successful.
As a film, “Jexi” is a serious downgrade from anything remotely insightful, engaging, or entertaining.
Directors: Jon Lucas, Scott Moore
Starring: Adam Devine, Alexandra Shipp, Rose Byrne
Running Time: 1 hour, 24 minutes
Release Date: Oct. 11
Rated: 1 star out of 5