The heavily-fictionalized founding of Facebook places Mark Zuckerberg against wealthy enemies and old friends.
Directed by David Fincher
Starring Jesse Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield, and Armie Hammer
Review by Jon Kissel
Biopics or historical dramas always leave themselves open to some amount of accuracy bashing, whether by what’s left in or what’s kept out. The kilts in Braveheart weren’t commonplace for decades after the events of the film and the Battle of Stirling was fought over a bridge. The protagonist of A Beautiful Mind had a gay lover who doesn’t make it into the movie. The events in The Death of Stalin happened over months, instead of days. The Social Network knows its place within this tradition and chooses not to care. In its heavily fictionalized account of the founding days of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg’s motivation is distilled into a grasping misogyny due to his inability to get girls to like him, and no mention is made of his actual college girlfriend and eventual wife. Writer Aaron Sorkin takes the bulk of his research from a book which heavily relied on jilted founder Eduardo Saverin, a tax-cheating expatriate who is heavily motivated to see things in the worst light possible. Director David Fincher, exactly the type of controlling filmmaker needed to get Sorkin under control, makes what was likely a bunch of overcaffeinated computer geeks writing code into the end-all Shakespearean origin story, a saga that runs so far away from accuracy that it ultimately gets all the way back around to it. The Zuckerberg of Fincher’s imagination might be nothing like the real one, but he foreshadows the exact kind of type who’ll eventually rule the internet and empower humanity’s worst instincts. To paraphrase Roger Ebert, the truth of The Social Network is what it’s about and not how it’s about it.
Charlie Kaufman seems like exactly the person that streaming services and their no-strings-attached bonanza of cash were made for. If I’m a studio executive and I need movies to gross deep into nine-figure territory, the first things that get cut are idiosyncratic representations of this or that decaying mental state. A more depressed, less funny, less creepy version of Woody Allen, Kaufman’s neuroticism has infected half a dozen movies over a couple decades, most very good to great. The greatest Kaufman films, namely the first three that he only wrote for, are the unquestioned best in comparison to the three that he directed. The latest of these latter three, I’m Thinking of Ending Things, is the epitome of a filmmaker left completely to his own creative devices. For most, Kaufman’s new film is going to be an indulgent and impenetrable exercise, but he’s been too good for too long to just dismiss this outright. The equivalent of a difficult crossword puzzle, I’m Thinking of Ending Things is probably worth it for those who really want to do the work and decipher it: I just don’t think I’m in that group.
Into the canon of movies that could only be directed by a black person, we welcome Juice. This film requires a level of lived-in experience, sure, but it also takes such wild and potentially stereotypic swings with its characters, that a white director taking those same swings would generate a lot of controversy. As the directorial debut of Ernest Dickerson, Spike Lee’s former classmate and cinematographer, Juice starts as one movie and becomes something wildly different. Though both halves work independent of each other, the connective thread uniting the two is frayed and weak. Perhaps most notable for serving as the acting debut of Tupac Shakur, Juice contains a lot of promise both in front of and behind the camera, but it needed the most work on the page.
A surprisingly appropriate movie for the immediate moment, Blue Chips scratches the surface of an exploitative and racially divided system, but falls into a familiar trap. The great William Friedkin can’t direct a film that contains the backing of the NCAA and fully indict the system it profits from. Blue Chips is plagued by half measures, doubly so because it’s apparent what the film wants to say and pulls its punches anyway. That’s not to say that there isn’t an entertaining film here. Friedkin gets plenty of mileage out of a cast loaded with non-professionals, while also turning Nick Nolte loose for a wild performance in the lead. Blue Chips gets the feel of the thing that it’s about correct, even if it doesn’t analyze it as sharply as it could.
Bong Joon-ho is a kind of South Korean jack-of-all-trades, in that his movies defy easy classification. His contemporaries are more easily put into boxes, between the psycho-sexual extremity of Park Chan-wook or the mysterious morality plays of Lee Chang-dong or the low-key romance of Hong Sang-soo. Bong is all over the place, often within the same film. His breakout film, Memories of Murder, is a police farce, a ground-level satire, and a deadly serious serial killer chase. He followed that with a comedic monster film, a murder mystery, a post-apocalyptic class metaphor, and an ET-homage, if the government had been trying to eat ET. By being unpredictable for so long, the unpredictability has become his trademark. Wherever a Bong Joon-ho film starts, it’s never clear where it’s going to end. This remains true for his latest and most impactful film, Parasite. The first foreign-language Best Picture winner, Parasite has also ridden a wave of ecstatic critical acclaim, and perhaps recency bias, to feature heavily on end-of-decade lists, all while making a tremendous amount of money over its modest budget. Like all of Bong’s other films, Parasite doesn’t quite fit with what’s come before, but that dissonance doesn’t stop it from being an enthralling exploration of class in a package that is wound like clockwork.
JUST SOME IDIOTS GIVING SURPRISINGLY AVERAGE MOVIE REVIEWS.
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