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The App

Movie review by
Brian Costello, Common Sense Media
The App Movie Poster Image
Sex, language in drab, disjointed Italian drama.
  • NR
  • 2019
  • 78 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Movie shows a man's life unraveling as he gets more and more absorbed with a dating app and a mystery woman with whom he frequently texts. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Stalking; a character follows the lead character, looking through his things and his hotel room, and getting into a dating app he uses on his laptop and scaring a woman away by using a wire clamp around her thigh that causes her to bleed.  

Violence

A woman straps a wire clamp around her upper thigh and tightens it until she starts to draw blood. 

Sex

Movie centered on a dating app that begins to absorb the lead character. On the app, the lead character meets women who may or may not be of legal age, who tell him how aroused they are, and ask him questions like "Do you like it when I touch myself?" while lying in bed in lingerie. In the opening scene, the lead character and his girlfriend are shown having sex -- brief nudity (breasts, buttocks). There's a later sex scene; no nudity, with sexual moans. In a seemingly gratuitous scene, a woman undresses in her bedroom, and reads a book on her bed while wearing only her bra and panties. 

Language

Infrequent profanity: "f--k," "s--t," "piss," "hell." 

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The App is a 2019 Italian drama about a man's gradual descent into madness after downloading a dating app. When the lead character first downloads the dating app, women begin to appear who may or may not be of legal age, scantily clad and talking of how "turned on" they are. The opening scene is a sex scene between the lead character and his girlfriend with brief nudity (breasts, male buttocks). Some gratuitous scenes in which women appear in lingerie in bed. The head of housekeeping in the hotel where the lead character is staying is a devout Catholic who stalks the lead character (who is cast to play Jesus Christ in a movie in which filming is about to begin), even going into his laptop when he's not in his room and scaring off a woman making sexual suggestions on the dating app by strapping a wire clamp around her thigh until she draws blood. Infrequent profanity, including "f--k." 

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What's the story?

In THE APP, Niccolo lives in Los Angeles with his beautiful grad school girlfriend Eva. He's an heir to a large fortune and an actor trying to make it on his own who has just landed his "big break," playing Jesus Christ in a movie to be filmed in his home country of Italy. As he makes the preparations to leave for Italy, Eva asks Niccolo to help him with her PhD thesis by downloading a popular dating app called "Us." He reluctantly agrees, and joins the app under the alias "Lorenzo." As he arrives in Italy, checks into his hotel suite, and makes preparations for filming, Niccolo gradually gets sucked in more and more into "Us." He tries to delete the app, but is talked out of it by a mystery woman who stands out from the other sex-centered women he had met up to that point, seeming to know Niccolo a little too well. Niccolo becomes obsessed with meeting the woman, constantly distracted by her texts even when trying to prepare for the movie, and even when Eva arrives in Italy to tell him that she's two months pregnant. He tries to meet with the mystery woman, but they can't seem to connect in person, and she seems to be avoiding him. As Niccolo's life and career begins to unravel around him, the mystery woman finally agrees to reveal her real identity. 

Is it any good?

If anything, this movie shows how difficult it is to make a film centered on text-only relationships. It's incredibly boring to watch people walking around texting -- in real-life or in movies -- and no matter how many sex scenes, garish sets, and religious undertones The App throws at the viewer, the biggest "action" is the lead character lost in his phone in hotel hallways, on city sidewalks, or stepping away from work meetings or his girlfriend under some pretense in order text with a mystery woman he has met on a dating app. While the movie is less than eighty minutes, all this texting makes The App seem so much longer. 

By the time we get to the "big reveal," it's difficult to really care one way or the other. This plot twist at the end, while somewhat interesting and unexpected, essentially makes the movie feel like a failed Black Mirror episode. This story is further muddied by confusing themes and needless complications. In addition to rather obvious comments on technology, smartphones, and dating apps, there's some comment about religion, and something about pursuing one's dreams instead of simply living one's life as a young heir to a multimillion fortune. The result is a plodding and pretentious mess, the kind where you might find yourself checking your own smartphone as the lead character plays around on his. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the themes of the movie. How doesThe App explore themes like technology, the overreliance of some on their smartphones, dating apps, religion, the ways in which we connect or are disconnected from each other? 

  • How was sex and sexuality presented in the movie? Did it seem necessary to the story, or did it come across as gratuitous?

  • What would be the challenges in making a movie interesting when it's centered on smartphones and texting? 

Movie details

For kids who love foreign films

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