Posted: 04/19/2008


Google Me


by Elaine Hegwood Bowen

A fraternity of strangers strengthens in Google Me

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What do you get when you join four American men, one Scotsman, one Irishman and one Aussie? For the answer to this, plus a great movie based on a mere “surf of the web,” you’ll have to watch YouTube’s April 25th premiere of Google Me.

Google Me stars none other than Jim Killeen, Jim Killeen, Jim Killeen, Jim Killeen, Jim Killeen, Jim Killeen, and wait!, there’s one more, Jim Killeen.

The movie is directed by a Los Angeles actor named Jim Killeen, a Detroit transplant who’s sort of watching life pass him by when he decides to find himself. And boy did he go all the way, with his discovery leading him to Google and search for those “brothers” with whom he shares a name.

“My name is Jim Killeen, and I am a filmmaker and it all started when I Googled my name,” the L.A. Killeen says at the end of Google Me.

But his late night “ego search” is much more than a “Google.” After some initial rejection, he uncovers countless stories within the lives of the other six Jim Killeens, (seven if you count Jim Killeen, Jr.), who range in ages from 38 to 58 and live in Ireland, Australia, Scotland, New York, St. Louis and Denver.

His adventure sends him around the globe, ironically beginning in Ireland, where it’s noted that his Irish ancestors left that country during the Irish Potato Famine to seek better lives in America.

The director travels from Los Angeles to meet 50-year-old Fr. Jim Killeen. He hangs out with the priest, even attending a party at one of Fr. Killeen’s favorite Irish pubs. Fr. Killeen has been a priest for 21 years, and he says man’s purpose is “to love.”

The phrase “having the craic” means to enjoy yourself, according to Fr. Killeen. And the L.A. Killeen had fun with a “play on words” regarding this expression saying, “I never thought I’d share good crack with a priest.”

In Denver, the L.A. Killeen meets thrice-divorced Jim Killeen the swinger, who now finds comfort and love with a woman named Eryn, who at birth was named David. He takes the director to meet some of his fellow swingers, who describes their parties—which occur in the dark of the night—as people “kissing, romping and playing with one another.”

It’s ironic, but these two Jim Killeens have a bit in common, as the L.A. Killeen’s odyssey began with the Internet and the Denver swinger’s introduction to an alternative lifestyle also began as he was “surfing the Net.”

Just to see the director and producer Jeannie Roshar’s faces when told about the swinger lifestyle is another good reason to see the movie.

This expression, however, pales in comparison to the one on the L.A. Killeen’s face, while he’s in Edinburgh, Scotland, with yet another Jim Killeen, eating Haggis, which is sheep’s stomach stuffed with a sheep’s heart, liver and lungs. The native Scottish dish, which resembles hash and whose derivative reminds me of the Southern dish made from pig-intestine—chitterlings—was quickly chased with a big glass of water.

The Scottish Jim Killeen is 31 years old; designs roads in Edinburgh; has a four-year-old daughter and also entertains the L.A. Killeen by having him don a kilt and tam, and playing a bagpipe.

The L.A. Killeen notices great similarities with and ultimately hopes he is related to the Scottish Killeen. (Each participant has agreed to DNA testing to determine any possible kinship). You’ll have to watch the movie in order to find out whether his hopes are realized.

St. Louis family guy and businessman, a Jim Killeen with eight children, appears to be the happiest of the bunch. This Jim Killeen recalls how he almost didn’t get married, and his wife of 20 years, Julie, describes him as being “very well loved by a lot of people.” The two Jim Killeens make pancakes during the morning routine as well as listen to a “young Jim Killeen’s” band.

“His is a warm and loving family, like a Norman Rockwell painting and Jimmy Stewart is your dad,” said the L.A. Killeen.

Next, there is the ex-cop from New York, who had also worked in the film industry in the piracy department. This Jim Killeen tells stories of finding criminals in a console TV and in a fold-up bed. He also recounts the famous Happy Land Social Club blaze in 1990, which was an arson that left 87 people dead. And true to cop form, he and his buddies admit to “Googling” the director after their initial emails about the documentary.

In Australia, the L.A. Killeen attends an Australia Football League game and eats Vegemite, a Kraft food that’s concentrated yeast extract, with his namesake. After a short visit, with kangaroos hopping in the background, the two Killeens say their farewells.

While Google executives say they never thought of such an idea, this was a delightful movie, and you’ll have to see it to read the director’s appeal to others, which aims to stir up the adventurous soul in all of us.

But wait, there’s one last Killeen. What about the L.A Killeen’s life and family? He is originally from Detroit and worked as an actor, as well as ventured into other business endeavors.

A poignant part of the movie was the interviews with his family, two of whom struggle with mental illness. His father died at 93, and the film shows the son and widow spreading ashes in a lake. “His passing was the inspiration for this film,” the director says.

As an extra treat, during its 125th anniversary in May, 2007, the town of Killeen, TX, sponsored an international visit for the seven men, crew and the L.A. Killeen’s mother. They were given keys to the city by Mayor Timothy Hancock, during none other than “Jim Killeen Day,” when they also attended a rodeo.

The movie shows what can happen when we let our imaginations run wild. It shows “the impact of modern technology on people,” says the director with the famous name.

“I don’t think of Jim Killeen as a noun but as a concept,” says Google Vice President of Engineering Douglas Merrill.

Sky Dayton, Earthlink founder, says that he’s met everyone he has worked with through the Internet in one way or the other. “It’s a big leap in communications’ technology that led to a big leap in civilization,” he says.

Throughout the documentary, there’s a sense that the director is being entertained as well as schooled in many areas, as he learns much about his cultural history.

“People are basically good, and I had the most remarkable experience of my life,” says the L.A. Killeen.

Google Me, which was financed with Jim Killeen’s own money, poker earnings and in-kind gifts from Quantas, and Shilo Inn in Killeen, TX, among other benefactors, will have a free, worldwide Internet stream on Friday, April 25, with a DVD release to follow Tuesday, April 29.

For more info about Google Me, visit the movie website.

Elaine Hegwood Bowen is a film critic living in Chicago.

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