When we’re fully connected in our online world, it can be difficult to reconnect when the power goes out.
Directed by Debra Neil-Fisher, the new comedy Unplugging tells the story of Dan and Jeanine (Eva Longoria and Matt Walsh), a couple who are plugging away at the daily grind. While Dan stays home taking care of their daughter and workin on his hot sauce business, Jeanine works tirelessly in her office to keep them financially afloat. But, living a life fueled by emails and online orders, their marriage has been struggling. So, when the opportunity arises, the two venture out into the country for a weekend of digital detox. However, what begins as the perfect getaway begins to slide into madness and the two must figure out what it means to work together offline.
What keeps the power on in Unplugging the most is its cast. Longoria and Walsh are no strangers to comedy and their ease with one another keeps their characters believable and relatable. Although they’re in heightened circumstances, the two stars manage to ground their characters in the realities of everyday life. In Unplugging, Jeanine and Dan aren’t wild exaggerations. They’re your neighbours across the street.
Despite moments that include mysterious drones, broken chickens and attempted felonies, Longoria and Walsh bring an authenticity to their performances that feel honest to the daily experiences of marriage.
But, while the film may be led by Longoria and Walsh, the entire cast is solid. Including some of comedies most unsung veterans like Keith David, Nicole Byer and more, it’s the strength of its team that keeps Unplugging plugging along with humour and silliness. However, it’s worth noting that the brightest light here is easily veteran Lea Thompson as the town’s bitter conspiracy theorist. With fire and fury, Thompson goes full Sarah Connor in the role and, frankly, it’s a joy to see her bring this sort of energy to the project.
Of course, the driving force of the story in Unplugging is our (over)reliance on technology and the damage that it can cause in our relationships. As Dan and Jeanine step into country living, they discover that their love of email, phone calls, Uber and more have built up walls in their relationship. Somewhere along the way, authentic communication has been replaced with social networking. For them to truly rediscover who they truly are (both as a couple and as individuals), some forced digital downtime may be required. Again, herein lies the joy of Unplugging.
Unplugging isn’t a film that despises technology. Instead, it’s a comedy that acknowledges how easy it is for it our screens to become the primary way that we interact with the world and each other. We can laugh at Jeanine and Dan because we recognize their world. Responding to work emails at 3am because you can’t fall asleep? Attempting to make ends meet with an online business? All of these scenarios are simply part of our daily lives. (In fact, the most unbelievable part of the film’s opening is an office that demands you kick against that lack of boundaries.)
With that in mind, Unplugging becomes an opportunity for us to explore those same issues within our own home and relationships. Anchored by natural ease between Longoria and Walsh, it becomes easier to see ourselves in the lives of these characters, even in their strangest of circumstances. They’re struggling to find intimacy in a screen-infused world in the same way that we are on a daily basis. Their journey together challenges us of the importance of reconnecting offline and, maybe, missing an email or two in the process.
Unplugging is available on VOD on Tuesday, January 17, 2023.