Wifelike walks a thin line around sci-fi sleaze

Wifelike walks a thin line around sci-fi sleaze ...

Meredith (Elena Kampouris) from the unsatisfactory new streaming film Wifelike is a sort of a clone-robot hybrid, a person who provides companions for grieving men (and seemingly only men) who have lost their spouses. These customizable, programmable robots have all the qualities of a real person, although it isn't clear how much of a woman's personality can be transferred over to an artificial body.

Kampouris plays Meredith for a few minutes throughout the film; most of the time, she inhabits the robo-companion version, with seemingly zero computer improvements to aid her performance. She only requires oddly awkward posture and body language, augmented by makeup and excessively tidy costuming, to appear truly uncanny, like an action-figure reproduction of a well-known actress.

The appearance of Meredith and the other companions in Wifelike is striking. If only the film could make the world around them equally believable. From the movie's opening fake advertisement, the concept of companions is immediately muddled. Theyre somehow sold as both fantastically detailed sex dolls and a treatment for agonizing grief, purposes that seem at odds with each other. Companions don't appear intelligent enough to elicit the violent liberation movement seen in the film.

The number of protestors does not seem to be large enough to justify a fleet of agents like William (Jonathan Rhys Meyers), who are tasked with defying errant sex dolls like a low-rent Blade Runner. But she is offered more as a loss treatment rather than an employment benefit.

The perversity would be the focus in a better film. Perhaps it is in this one, too; it's hard to tell when Williams' obtuse case is the audience's only consistent window into the practice of doling out companions early on; Meredith does have a funny moment to herself when exploring the possibility of self-pleasure.

Meredith learns to write her own opinions through strange sci-fi effects, such as her dream mode, which allows her to simulate human sleep. First-person statements are a neat concept for such a vastly advanced system, though it's a strange programming bug.

There is a funny moment when Meredith must request a waiver in order to provide William some health-threatening bacon, but occasionally Meredith must be taught terms that a computer would likely be able to recognize easily. Whats the benefit of that slower learning curve for a grieving widower or a horny loser, though? In the 2004 remake of The Stepford Wives, the filmmaker is unsure about the exact steps that make companions.

Merediths awareness widens, becoming drawn into the confrontation between the Williams company and anti-companion forces, uncovering hidden secrets, hidden memories, and so on. After 30 minutes, Wifelike begins with the sinking feeling that writer-director James Bird intends to peel back layers of male decorousness. But these qualities are equally apparent as the low-key clothes that the companions all seem to wear as accessories.

Wifelike exposes a barely concealed subtext and proudly lays it out as text: Men subjugate women, and if their attempts to do that are stymied, theyll invent new women to subjugate others. There are moments when the film seems prepared to include major characters who are really sorry, but Bird backs away from it.

Kampouris is open to either attempting to assimilate into a cloistered domestic life or wandering through a dreamscape that functions as a virtual reality. It's the low-rent cop-movie-level material with William and his co-worker buddy Jack (Doron Bell) that ultimately pushes Wifelike past the point of no return, into its own strange valley. What's supposed to be a smart, unnerving sci-fi film is a

Wifelike will be available for streaming on Amazon, Vudu, and other digital rental and purchase platforms on August 12 in a limited theatrical release.