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Is JEXI an encouragement or a warning? (review)

[This review was contributed by (AF).]

Coming from Lionsgate and CBS films is the 2019 romantic comedy, Jexi. Adam DeVine stars as Phil, a late 20’s millennial working in the social media industry. He spends every waking moment on his phone. In exchange for human relationships, he escapes into the digital world of streaming media, online ordering and Facebook updates with just one voice command. However, all that changes when Phil meets Cate (Alexandra Shipp) and his phone meets the pavement.

“I am here to make your life better.” – Jexi

The new operating system Phil buys when he has to get a new phone is known as Jexi. The sales clerk, Denice (Wanda Sykes), gives a severe but unwarranted tongue lashing to Phil after she recognizes his emotional dependency on his phone. After accepting the user agreement without reviewing it, Phil discovers the artificial intelligence of Jexi analysis his life and proceeds to throw unabashed shade laced with vulgar language.

Jexi is brutally honest and uses peer pressure on Phil by calling out his weaknesses frequently in public. This pushes him outside of his comfort zone and creates opportunities for Phil to make real friends and pursue Cate after gaining new confidence.

Phil praises Jexi with love but starts to neglect it, which makes Jexi go into a digital jealous rage. Using manipulation, seduction, and violence, Jexi does a full assault on Phil as he tries to break their connection to save his relationship.

Shot initially in the tv series Modern Family format, it never quite works itself out due to ill comedic timing. With genuine moments of character development, the comedy aspect was either spot on or inept. The supporting cast did a great job of contributing to the arc of Phil’s journey from a lonely boy to someone with meaningful friendships.

Adding a layer to the subconscious theme of digital dependency was the environment. This movie showcases the beautiful city of San Francisco but you quickly notice every person on screen is looking into their phones. Walking across the street, standing in line at the coffee shop, or riding the bus. It’s everywhere.

Highlights and Recommendations

This highlights the reality of digital influence in our lives. It makes it abundantly clear that the lead character is not alone in the phone addiction phenomenon. Only when Phil conquers his anxiety does he loosen up and break his cycle. As a result, he gains a new appreciation for the city he lives in.

Fear of rejection drives us into developing a defense mechanism like hiding. We do this with clothes, makeup, food or the internet. This is all to stay in a fantasy world where you don’t get hurt. Phil used his phone to hide from being vulnerable but an app oddly helped him be more open.

People love the efficiency of the internet to help you accomplish a goal, accessing resources or learning something new. So is this film about the danger of digital dependence or the danger of you not taking a chance? I recommend watching this movie and see which side you fall on.

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