Empathy Inc is probably best described as an indie sci-fi flick. The story follows Joel, Zack Robidas, (“Friends From College (TV)”), as he’s unceremoniously ‘let go’ from his current employer and has to face the reality of moving in with the overbearing in-laws who think because they’re old they have the answers to everything.
Joel might be down on his luck but it doesn’t take much to bring him around to seeing dollar signs when an interesting venture crossed his path. Enter Eric Berryman (“”After Louie) as Nicolaus, the face of Empathy Inc.
Despite being warned off by his wife, Jessica, Kathy Searle (“Baby Mama”, “LI Diva”), Joel’s greed gets the better on him and he hands over loads of money (his father-in-laws no less) to the smooth talking Nicolaus.
To be honest, if I were in Joel’s position I might well have done the same – Empathy Inc does sound like quite a cool idea. I was never sure though if Nicolaus meeting Joel was purely coincidence or pre-planned.
Cool idea or not though things aren’t quite as they seem, Nicolaus is blatantly hiding something and before long Joel is out of pocket and out of luck.
The movie continues to follow Joel as he attempts to right the wrongs, redeem himself and get the money back. The storyline is quite an original one and the director, Yedidya Gorsetman has done well to tell it without blowing the budget on special effects.
The pacing of Empathy Inc is a bit off and noticeably slows in the later third before picking up again for an interesting ending – though for me they could have shaved 5 minutes completely off the end and not lost anything.
From the outset Empathy Inc is clearly not what it’s cracked up to be but it doesn’t take much imagination to leap ahead and figure out what it’s about. The movie twists and turns as it progresses though and some of the developments are gloriously unexpected whilst others are a little more predictable.
Whilst the film is clever in many ways and the twists will keep you entertained, it isn’t all positive.
*Spoiler Alert* There seemed to me to be one or two quite substantial holes in the movies’ logic; if another person needs to be present to switch, who was there when Joel broke in and used the system alone and how did the person Joel switch into end up back in their apartment if there was no-one there to move him? Oh, and what triggers a switchback?
One of the most obvious visual aspects of Empathy Inc is that it’s shot in black and white, there’s a bit of a film noir feel to it but it’s not heavily stylised and ultimately I’m not entirely sure why it was shot sans colour.
Parts of the film seem to hint towards an early 90’s setting with chunky keyboards, ancient screens and hardware that looks like it came from the lost and found bin at PC World.
Then on the other hand the characters use iPhones and there are new cars visible everywhere; it makes me wonder if the 90’s was what they were aiming for but didn’t have the budget to pull it off, or alternatively ancient computers were all they could afford.
As the end rolls closer I did wonder why Les, Jay Klaitz, “GTA (games)”) decided to once again hunt down Joel and Jessica and not just go off into the sunset. If he had it certainly would have shortened the film and made it arguably less interesting but I’m just not sure showing up again if would have been something the character would have done.
Empathy Inc is a good enough film but it’s not without it’s faults. I’d would have liked a bit more to happen in the middle where it slows but it’s a good idea and generally well acted.