Sunday, March 06, 2011

My Weekend at the Movies

Or, I guess, at home, really.

This weekend, we watched two movies: Helen Hunt's directorial debut Then She Found Me and David Fincher's second attempt at defining a generation through film, The Social Network.


Then She Found Me: 3/5

I really liked Helen Hunt's directorial debut.  She cast herself as April, a late-30s urban school teacher, recently married to her long-time best friend and coworker, Ben (Matthew Broderick).  One day, she comes home from work ready to make a baby, and Ben is sitting at the kitchen table wearing a tee-shirt and sneakers.  They have a brief argument over who should stand up or sit down and who should take her coat off, and the argument ends with breakup sex.  The next day, she meets Frank (Colin Firth), a recently single father of one of her students.  They have instant chemistry, but they are both trying to get a handle on their new stations in life.  Add April's heretofore unknown birth mother, Bernice (Bette Midler), and you have a recipe for interesting drama with some spice of real world comedy.

I've already said it once, but I'll say it again.  I really liked TSFM.  You have four likable actors playing three likable roles, and you instantly have characters I care about.  This is one of those movies where I lost track of time and just enjoyed being with April and Frank as they tried to figure out how to be who they've become.  The characters are the strong point of this movie, and Director Hunt did well to avoid distracting us with stunning visuals or swelling orchestral numbers or lampshaded plot metaphors.  Instead, everything takes a backseat to the characters.  And that's OK.

If there's one thing I didn't like about the movie, it would be that the relationship between April and Ben wasn't developed enough.  At one point, April tells Bernice that Ben is the kind of guy that she knows she'll do whatever he asks.  That point becomes painfully obvious twice.  What confuses me is that I don't understand why she'll do whatever he asks.  What does he bring to the table?  I guess I just would have liked to have seen more pre-split development.

The Social Network: 3/5

David Fincher, once again, tries to define a generation.  He did it the first time (very successfully, I think) with Fight Club.  Now, he's taking a generation-defining technology and talking about it.  I think he makes a subtle point about greed and loneliness and technology that might get lost without some post-viewing thinking.

The Social Network tells the tale of the founding of Facebook.  We watch it mainly as it revolves around Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg), and we see what happens.  It's hard to say who really did who wrong, but that's not really the point.  The plot goes something like this: Zuckerberg is a brilliant computer scientist-in-training.  He gains notoriety by developing a website overnight that allows users to vote on the various girls of Harvard in one-on-one competitions.  The Winklevoss twins (played simultaneously by Armie Hammer) and their crony Divya (Max Minghella) call him up to see if he can put together a website they've dreamed up.  They call it "Harvard Connection."  He takes the idea, pitches it to his best friend, financial wizard Eduardo Saverin (Andrew Garfield), and Eduardo and he take the world by storm, making a million friends and a few enemies along the way.

My favorite thing about SN is that it tells the story through some type of legal proceeding several years down the road.  Fincher cuts in interesting ways between the legal proceeding and the events as they happen, lending an air of credibility to the speaker at the legal proceeding (usually Eduardo).  But---and this is what I like---he lampshades their incentive to lie.  After Zuckerberg accuses somebody of lying, one of the lawyers points out that she was under oath.  "Oh," he says, "then it's the first time anybody's ever lied under oath."  It's a subtler version of the Rashomon effect, and it hearkens back to Fincher's Fight Club days.  Where Kurosawa had four narrators tell the same story four times, Fincher has two narrators tell different parts of the same story.  It all vaguely fits together, but we still don't really know what happened.

[Apostrophe: I saw Passengers at Safeway today for $6.99.  Talk about untrustworthy narrators.  I thought about buying it.  And you thought you'd only get spoilers for Then She Found Me and The Social Network.  Bah.  I spoil it all.]

What did I dislike?  Well, mainly, Mark Zuckerberg.  And that's a problem.  When you have a movie revolve around a guy, he has to be sympathetic in some way.  Otherwise, you can't watch the movie.  Thankfully, Eduardo hangs around long enough to make Zuckerberg palatable.  (At least until Zuckerberg royally screws Eduardo.)  Don't tell me that that's the point of the movie.  It's not.  Fincher bookends the movie (and throws in two lines at about the 1/3 and 2/3 marks) with references to Erica Albright.  She is the only one he doesn't screw.  Tell me what you think about that.


Rent them both.

No comments: