Darren and Gerard are hanging out after Darren has bought a new phone, which features an artificial intelligence assistant that is so advanced that it’s “almost like talking to a real person.”
But the voice assistant becomes a little too real, especially when it accuses Darren of cheating on it with a competing A.I. device. Seeking vengeance, she taunts Darren with her knowledge of his most intimate and embarrassing information. The unthinkable happens, and soon the assistant holds Darren and Gerard hostage, flipping the tables on who’s in charge for once.
Co-directed by Troy Smith and lead actor Sam Lucas Smith (who also wrote the script), this short sci-fi dark comedy takes the idea of an artificial intelligence-based assistant and runs with it, pushing it in a farcical, horror-inflected direction that nevertheless sheds light on just how much personal information we entrust with our devices.
Visually polished as befitting a story about modern life and technology, the storytelling balances the antic pace and snappy dialogue of Hollywood comedy with elements of sci-fi. The verbiage suits a narrative in which an A.I. voice assistant for Google is a central character, fleshed out with an emotional motivation and an ax to grind against the humans who use her.
When she comes to life, the Google voice assistant is imagined as a kind of anti-superhero, but her superpower is the reams of knowledge she’s banked against Darren. The sheer minutiae she’s amassed is considerable, and the script has a lot of fun with just what she knows and how she uses it against Darren, who squirms as she weaponizes her knowledge against him.
Actor Rebecca Black — yes, she of the “Friday” music video that went insanely viral in 2011 when she was a young teen — commits admirably to Google’s vindictive nature. Black is both scary and funny, playing off Smith and actor Samuel David as Gerard in a clever, self-aware witty performance. She has snap comic timing but also a genuine emotional commitment to the feelings of anger, jealousy and exploitation experienced by an A.I. creation beholden to its human users.
Casting a performer whose rise to fame was in part fueled by uber-connectivity adds an unusual thought-provoking aspect to “Okay Google,” which captures just how intimately technology like voice assistants are woven into our daily lives. Their presence is almost too unobtrusive and seamless, and part of the film’s cleverness involves pulling at the thread of this smoothness and revealing just how entangled technology is with the most revealing aspects of our lives and selves.
The pulling of the curtain doesn’t get in the way of the entertainment, but it does make us question just how much we entrust with our phones. And it may just make you think twice about swearing at Alexa or Siri when she gets a request wrong… because she never forgets anything.