Sunday, October 24, 2010

The Social Network

My review of The Social Network will be pedestrian. I am immune to the film's flaws. I am in awe of Aaron Sorkin's script.

The script is one of the best I've ever seen on screen. His words have a cadence outside my experience. People don't talk like that. I mean, they do. I don't. Not that quickly and with such complex sentence and paragraph structuring. These legitimate brilliant characters might. I'm glad they do. I expected the script to be entertaining. I didn't expect it to be so smart, though. Your attention is rewarded. You're not going to follow all of it, but you will get it.

The Internet coding and legal jargons aren't important. They are to the characters, they don't have to be us laymen. What's better is watching them say these things. Language and intelligence are weapons in a battle of social interaction Mark Zuckerberg is ill-equipped for.

The film is largely about men. To say the film is misogynistic misses something. There's hardly any women in the movie. Two of the only women present (Zuckerberg's ex-girlfriend and legal aide respectively) put him in his place. Yes, some of the other women are portrayed as sexual and/or status objects. I'd argue it's less so than any teen or frat comedy doled out year after year.

Yes, back to the men. To say Zuckerberg is a self-absorbed, egotistical, socially-inept asshole misses the point. He's fascinating. How could someone like THIS become the world's youngest billionaire? Show me. Thank you. That's interesting. Jesse Eisenberg has been pegged as the poor man's Michael Cera. He destroys that comparison. Cera never could have done this. Eisenberg rules the gatling gun dialogue while simultaneously conveying intense layers underneath. There is literally ALWAYS something going on with his Zuckerberg. I loathe and pity the character all at the same time he is loathed and pitied by those caught up in his rise.

The supporting performances are less...flashy (?), but uniformly solid. Andrew Garfield serves as the audience's POV. He's clearly smart, but is always trying to play catch up to these geniuses running circles around him. While he's loyal, his frustration is our frustration. Garfield was twitchy (?) in Boy A and Never Let Me Go, lost and crazy eyed in Red Riding 1974. He's doing something more understated here. Justin Timberlake plays to his strengths. His charismatic Sean Parker carries JT's charisma with him. Only in the third act when he becomes a too obvious villain does the film falter.

It's cliche to say that The Social Network is the film of our time. Up in the Air held that moniker just last year. But the Social Network does capture the new media in a way that no other film has before it. Young people has been shown to be awkward, status-obsessed, and self-absorbed before, but never in this context.

Andrew Gates is now friends with The Social Network.

Never Let Me Go

Never Let Me Go is a cold film. It's beautiful, sure. But it's cold. The only warmth and tenderness (quite intentionally) comes from the interaction between Kathy and Tommy. Circumstances both familiar and strange keep them circling each other, but their affection is always readily recognizable. This is a film of subtlety. Even when you long for it to smack you over the head with grandstanding bravado, it takes its time to simmer slowly. The first act echoes this. It should be slimmer. We spend time with the three leads as children. Even though the adult trio of Carey Mulligan, Andrew Garfield, and Keira Knightly easily overshadow their younger counterparts, the film holds fast to the story and character development.

The story's science and politics didn't interest me. I wonder if they even interested the writers. What kept me involved was that warmth and tenderness in the performances that conveyed those feelings in the midst of cold beauty. Carey Mulligan and Andrew Garfield are real talents. These two can win Oscars (the new Spiderman be damned). Their work here isn't flashy enough to stick in the minds of the Academy, but it stuck with me. Love found too late, but found nonetheless is the crux here. Its because the science and the politics are secondary issues to their relationships that the film works.


It's Kind of a Funny Story

It's Kind of a Funny Story's chief draw was its writers/directors (the same team that did Half Nelson). That film was raw, immediate, and wonderfully ambiguous. That's mostly lost in their new film.

What it does have going for it is Zach Galifianakis. His performance is actually amazing. It appears effortless in the best way. He slides from quirk to poignancy without showing the seams. He steals the show. Poor Emma Roberts gets a good character only to be slighted with screentime. The impression her Noelle makes on the audience pales in comparison to the one she makes on the film's protagonist.

I related quite a bit to the story the first time through, recognizing bits and pieces from my own life. The story treats mental health issues with heft without ignoring an audience's need to be entertained. If the ending fails to continue that commitment, oh well. That's Hollywood. I smiled. I felt my heart swell. The second time through, the nostalgia had diminished. I saw the flaws. IKOAFS strives for that independent film spirit while trying to straddle the mainstream. I wish I hadn't read a review where the film was likened to the films of John Hughes prior to seeing the movie. Once that seed was planted, some of the film's originality was lost to me.

The fantasy sequences/freeze frames/narration largely don't work. They try too hard. When the film relaxes and lets the characters interact on a real playing field, it hits its stride. Good movie, but I wonder what the writers/directors of a film like Half Nelson could do with this material. Oh...wait...