The following post is a discussion of the ending of Searching, so there are many spoilers!
Searching combines many of the things we love: John Cho as a Hot Anguished Dad, Debra Messing expanding The Mysteries of Laura extended universe, and a classic thriller told in a fresh way — in this case, through screens (think FaceTime, texts, photos, news clips, etc.) The premise is initially straightforward: Cho plays David Kim, who, we learn in a surprisingly emotional Up-style movie montage, becomes a single dad after his wife dies from a cancer recurrence while their only daughter Margot (Michelle La) is in high school. Margot goes off to AP Bio study group and is supposed to return that night, but when he doesn’t see her the next day, he realizes that she’s gone missing. He calls the cops, and that’s when Messing, who plays Detective Vick, comes in to lead the investigation into Margot’s disappearance. While she leads the on-the-ground search, David hacks into his daughter’s email and social-media accounts to discover that maybe he didn’t know his daughter that well after all.
Searching, which is former Google employee Aneesh Chaganty’s first feature film, opened in nine theaters last week and goes wide this weekend. As a thriller, it features the requisite plot twists and turns to sustain its narrative to the very end. For the lucky cosmopolites who have watched the movie, we’re here to dive into a discussion about the ending. For those who haven’t, come back later, unless reading about spoilers is your kink, in which case, who are we to stand in the way of your joy?
So let’s cut to the twist: Margot didn’t run away as Detective Vick originally led David to believe, but is actually lying alone at the bottom of a ravine. Bigger twist: It’s Vick who’s actively covering up the tracks of the actual culprit, her son Robert. When David gets too close to discovering the truth, she gets an ex-convict to do a taped confession and then kills him in a fake suicide. Biggest twist! Margot is still alive because a thunderstorm apparently gave her enough water to survive.
We learn from Vick’s taped confession that this was a catfishing scheme gone wrong: Her son Robert had a crush on Margot ever since they were kids, and instead of talking to her like a normal person, he catfished Margot for months over a live video-chatting app called YouCast under the username “Fish n Chips” (fishy!), using a stock photo of a friendly looking redheaded woman who goes by Hannah. He makes up a story that he needs money to pay for his mother’s medical bills, so Margot stops going to piano classes and sends him $2,500. He tries to give her the money back in person to explain the situation, but instead of doing it at school where she could publicly embarrass him for catfishing him, he asks her to meet in the forest near her favorite lake. When Margot realizes that she is actually a he, she runs away, and according to Vick (unreliable source!), her son “accidentally” pushes her down a ravine.
There are some cleverly laid clues throughout the film indicating that it was Vick all along. Of course, there’s David’s realization that something was amiss when he learns that Vick “volunteered” for the case as opposed to getting “assigned” to it as she initially says. But there are a couple of other hints earlier on, including an initial conversation between David and Vick where she tells him an anecdote about how her son once scammed the neighborhood by saying he was raising money for a charity called Moms and Dads in Blue. When a neighbor confronts her about it, instead of copping to the truth, Vick says that she started the organization and thanks her for her donation. She’s willing to do anything for her son!
The other major tip of the hand happens when Vick gets into a heated argument with David over a video chat and tells him to stay out of the investigation after he’s gotten too close (he’s the one who leads the investigators to the lake where she went missing, debunking Vick’s first “theory” that Margot had run away from home). At that moment, creepy little Robert comes into the room, and Vick yells at him to leave.
So if you were one of the ones who cracked the case, congratulations. Please submit your application to the SFPD and root out internal corruption!