At The Movies

The Social Network

Directed by David Fincher
Last week we wrote about reality at the movies and the dominance of social media in the current crop of releases. The logical culmination of that is found in this week’s release of the (unauthorized) story behind Facebook.

“The Social Network” has an interesting pedigree: Directed by David Fincher (“The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” “Zodiac,” “Fight Club” ), with a screenplay by Aaron Sorkin (“The West Wing,” “A Few Good Men”), based on a book by Ben Mezrich (who also wrote the book behind “21” – about the students who counted cards in casinos). Mezrich’s book is titled “The Accidental Billionaires: The Founding of Facebook: A Tale of Sex, Money, Genius, and Betrayal” – a title which could arguably call for a spoiler alert.

This movie has been getting rave reviews. It’s an interesting story to watch unfold, despite Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg’s claims of inaccuracy. At its core it’s the story of a group of friends who founded a company and then fell out over the direction they wanted to take it. The story also has an interesting structure that seems to add to the unveiling of events: There are three separate plotlines, each told linearly but cut together, detailing the alleged events themselves as well as the testimony given in two lawsuits relating to those events. It’s likely that focusing on any one of them to the exclusion of the others would seem dull by comparison, but the combination works very well.

As told here, Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) was a coding genius who took an idea pitched to him by another group of Harvard students and ran with it. One of the lawsuits features that other group demanding a piece of the action. But Zuckerberg and his own friends also ended up in a legal fight over who owned what percentage of the company. Much of this involves his one-time best friend Eduardo Saverin (Andrew Garfield – the new Spider-Man) who clashed with Sean Parker (Justin Timberlake), the founder of Napster. All of the performances are appealing, which certainly helps in a story where not all the actions themselves are.

The direction is neat, for the most part, although there is one scene in the middle of the movie that centers around a college boat race that is disorientingly different in style and felt out of place. That said, it’s easy to recommend for Facebook users and others who are familiar with the site (rapidly becoming a web within the web) or social media in general, and who will probably get a big kick out of it.  But I’m not convinced that others will find it equally appealing.

Let Me In

Directed by Matt Reeves
One of the other trends in the film industry is the propensity to remake good and great films. For better or worse, today’s young audiences seem to have an aversion to films that are older than they are and films that were originally made in a foreign language. This may be film’s “if I wanted to read, I’d buy a book” generation.

Two years ago (CW 12/4/08), we described “Let the Right One In” (note the more complex and subtle title) as “…one of the freshest and best of the genre.” However, that adaptation of the vampire novel was shot in its native Swedish and was not widely seen, despite enthusiastic reviews. Which is why, just a couple of years later, we’re getting the same story again, but shot here and in English. Just as we’re about to get an English language version of “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo,” coincidentally being made by David Fincher (see above).  

“Let Me In” is directed by Matt Reeves (who wrote most of TV’s “Felicity” and directed “Cloverfield”) and is at times a virtual shot for shot remake of the original, while also diverging from the original’s story in other moments and details, at least some of which will be debated by ardent fans. The basic story still revolves around a young, lonely boy who lives with his mother in a small apartment complex and who befriends an enigmatic young neighbor who arrives in the dead of night/winter and just happens to drink blood. These fundamental plot elements still work, but the outcome doesn’t feel quite the same.

Part of the problem, for me at least, is the setting. There simply isn’t the same bitterly chilling atmosphere in a winter in New Mexico as there is in a winter in Sweden. The performances are strong, but the settings seem vaguely artificial, with too-perfectly groomed snow, for example.  And the outcome leads me to recommend the original more than the remake, although the remake is worth it if you hold the subtitle adversity mentioned earlier. I’d certainly recommend seeing at least one of them.

Indie Notes

Two indie releases this week are also noteworthy: “Jack Goes Boating” is the modest but effective directorial debut of the consummate character actor Philip Seymour Hoffman, and tells the tale of a quiet and lonely man as he embarks on a new relationship. Meanwhile, “Lovely, Still” is a showcase for veteran actors Martin Landau and Ellyn Burstyn, in a similar tale in a quiet and lonely man who embarks on a new-again relationship. Neither is perfect, but both are worthwhile.

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