It's hard to imagine that there are many who lie awake at night panicked that the humble emoticon represents yet another degeneration of human communication. Nonetheless, director-star Livia De Paolis sets out to reassure everybody that the Internet won't destroy all relationships in her agreeable but unnecessary family drama "Emoticon ;)."
De Paolis plays Elena, an Italian anthropology doctoral student in her early 30s who has a fling with a much older man (Michael Cristofer) and ends up forging deeper connections with Amanda (Diane Guerrero) and Luke (Miles Chandler), the boyfriend's benignly neglected adopted children. Amanda's sudden interest in her Latin heritage and Luke's new romance with a popular girl (Allie Gallerani) provide opportunities for Elena to insert herself in their lives, both on- and off-line, and her quiet observations of how social media subtly shape the teens' lives become fodder for her ever-forestalled dissertation.
In wildly disparate plot lines, Guerrero and Chandler easily command sympathy, but De Paolis doesn't let the sibling characters roam very far. Through Elena, the film makes a few awkwardly integrated pronouncements about how the Internet generation uses Facebook and Twitter. But these ideas aren't broached, let alone explored, by the core story, which narrowly focuses on Elena's destabilizing presence within her boyfriend's family.
MPAA rating: None.
Running time: 1 hour, 19 minutes.
Playing: Laemmle's Music Hall 3, Beverly Hills.