Hey, who wouldn't want to check out a movie about webcam sex? But the internet world is just the setting for On_Line - what this movie is really about is loneliness, and how the lonely people who occupy this movie are able to have relationships with those who they chat with online, but can't have relationships with people that they see every day.
John Roth (Josh Hamilton) and Moe Curley (Harold Perrineau, Jr.) are college buddies who decided to get into the world of internet porn (which I hear is quite profitable, but wouldn't know anything about!) and set up a site similar to iFriends where people can chat with each other for a price, and basically have online sex with each other.
Throughout the movie, we get to know a number of different characters: John, who fantasizes about a girl on another webcam site; Moe, who has a girlfriend with mood swings so severe that she risks overdosing on pills almost every night; Ed, a 20-year-old gay youth from Ohio who is considering suicide because he can't find someone else of his lifestyle to love him; and Al, an older gay man who is a sex worker for the website and finds himself falling in love with Ed.
I've never spent a lot of time chatting with webcams or even in chat rooms, but I do e-mail a lot of people whom I've never met and it is odd how you can sometimes better relate to a person over the net than you can people you work with in your everyday life. On_Line addresses those ideas, and I found it to be an enjoyable film that I think many DVD Talk regulars would like and could relate to quite a bit. Yes, the sex tends to get very edgy at times (although the amount of nudity is actually quite reserved), but assuming you wouldn't be put-off by the subject material, On_Line makes for a fun and quite moving experience.
One side note: Be sure to make note of the websites as you watch them appear in the movie...then go check them out on the Web! The makers of this film have set up the same websites you see in the movie online for your enjoyment!
The movie appears to have been shot entirely on video, and even though we get a 1.85:1 anamorphic transfer here, the picture is really grainy and not very sharp or colorful at all. It basically looks about as good as anything you or I would film with our own home equipment. That's not to say the camera work by the director is poor it's just to say the quality of the picture looks very substandard.
The audio is presented in 5.1 Dolby and sounds fine, although it's not particularly aggressive, nor does it stand out in any way. But since the film is dialogue-heavy, the audio is about the best you could expect with no evidence of drop-outs, and no problems with the voices sounding "tinny" or having an "echo" quality to them.
For a relatively small movie, this DVD comes with a nice about of bonus material.
First there are two separate feature-length Commentary Tracks, one entitled the "Artistic Commentary" and the other called the "Technical Commentary". The only problem is that the selection is screwed up in the bonus menu. When you select the "Artistic Commentary" you'll actually wind up hearing the technical one with director/co-writer Jed Weintrob, sound editor Coll Anderson, director of photography Toshiaki Ozawa and visual effects supervisor Christian D. Bruun. When you select the "Technical Commentary", you'll hear the artistic one with Jed Weintrob, Josh Hamilton (John Roth), Eric Millegan (Ed Simone), John Fleck (Al Fleming), producer Tanya Selvaratnam and co-writer Andrew Osborne. It's a tiny menu mix-up, but one worth noting.
Other bonus material includes a 14-minute featurette entitled Sex, Tech and VideoScenes which takes the viewer behind the scenes and goes into a little about how the webcam stuff featured in the movie was filmed. There's a 3 ½ minute interview with Tim Dorcy called History of Webcam that tells about how webcam technology came about; a 2 ½ minute music montage of behind the scenes clips entitled Making of On_Line; eight Deleted Scenes from the movie; a Poster Slideshow featuring the different poster art made for the movie; plus four Trailers for other Wolfe Video releases.
THE BOTTOM LINE
One of those pleasant surprises that reviewers sometimes find themselves coming across, I actually expected On_Line to be a somewhat exploitative movie about internet sex. Instead, it turned out to be a quite moving tale about the relationships that can be made in cyberspace and about how sometimes you can only tell your true feelings to a complete stranger. I enjoyed this one quite a bit and I have a feeling most of you will too.