One eternal, annoying trope of grown-ups writing about kids is that the new generation is unfathomably alien and probably, like, some whole different species with weird new chemical spurs shooting out of their DNA architecture.
Often condescendingly framed as pseudo-anthropological curiosity, it is straight-up old-people horseshit. Emoticon 😉, a vanity project written, directed, starring, and sung by Livia De Paolis, is a grown-up’s weird idea of how kids behave.
It concerns Elena, the world’s most unimaginative anthropology Ph.D. candidate, who begins dating Walter (Michael Cristofer), the sexagenarian father of two adopted teens. In De Paolis’s world, kids spontaneously burst into dance, spit the planet’s worst freestyle rap, and play a lot of douchebag-style acoustic guitar.
They say things like, “I guess I’ll see you around. Like, virtually.” Carol Kane is wasted as Elena’s mentor, spouting throw-pillow embroidery like, “Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans,” and “It’s your life, Elena, you have to live your life.” Ugh.
Elena learns to connect with the kids through social media, and they laugh, live, eat, pray, and love through a script that lacks a story arc — it’s more of a story sine-wave: Elena is happy; Elena is sad; Elena is happy again. Oh, well, that’s life, it’s what happens when you’re busy making other plans, just dance like nobody’s watching, seize the day, and pay it forward.