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Entries in The Social Network (2)

Friday
Mar182011

Limitless

Limitless is a film that merely exists. It doesn’t impress. It doesn’t offend. It’s just there. It spends an hour and 45 minutes moving neither forward nor backward. It creates a feeling of apathy among its viewers, disconnected from what’s happening onscreen and ready to depart from the theater and experience something more exciting. It’s a movie that has an interesting idea, but never does anything interesting with it. It’s not a waste of time, but it’s also not worth it. The strange crossroads Limitless finds itself in is one of equal mix hatred and admiration. If that’s the best it can do, despite some positive aspects, I’m going to have to advise you to skip it.

Bradley Cooper plays Eddie, a struggling writer who is in the middle of a block, unable to find anything in his mind that is worth putting on the page. After months of producing nothing, he runs into his ex brother-in-law, Vernon, played by Johnny Whitworth, who gives him a drug that allows him to use all of his brain rather than the small percentage humankind has been limited to. The drug is called NZT-48 and, rather than use it to further pursue a literary career, he makes a name for himself in the finance world, catching the eye of big business mogul, Carl Van Loon, played by Robert De Niro. Unfortunately, there are side effects that Vernon didn’t mention and Eddie quickly finds himself wondering if it was all worth it.

Limitless is a film that reminds one of The Social Network, only to a lesser degree. Its comparative dialogue, which is fast moving and quick witted, makes it seem like it’s aiming for something smart, but that aim seems to be in the wrong direction. It may use big words, but without proper implementation of them, they are nothing more than psychobabble. And its script relies on ridiculous scenarios and contrived happenstances to move the plot along, like an early scene when Eddie is looking for the drug in his now dead brother-in-law’s apartment. After an unsuccessful search, he says that without the drug, he’s “cooked,” which naturally leads him to finding a secret compartment inside the oven.

Essentially, Limitless is a story about a drug addict. Eddie takes the drug, becomes addicted to its intoxicating, feel good effects and then finds himself in dire straits as it begins to take his life. Given the subject matter and the path Eddie goes down after taking the drug, it would be easy to assume that there is some type of anti-drug message, but that’s not the case. In fact, the end result of the film, which will not be revealed, shows that prolonged drug usage can have a positive effect, as long as you can work through the initial negative side effects. It’s an ending of questionable morals and it comes off as more than a little irresponsible.

But when it all comes down to it, it’s not the contrivances or the problematic message that kills Limitless. It’s that it’s just kind of boring. While a technically solid film, it fails to capitalize on its intriguing premise. Surely if we could use our brains to their full extent, it would be more interesting than this. An idea ripe for the picking is wasted on a screenplay that has no idea what to do with it. It’s ironic really. The characters in Limitless are brilliant, but the story they are forced to trudge through is dumb as a rock.

Limitless receives 2/5

Friday
Oct012010

The Social Network

It’s a bold move to compare a movie to The Godfather or Citizen Kane, two of the most revered films in cinematic history. But that’s precisely what some critics have been doing with The Social Network and, surprisingly enough, they aren’t wrong in doing so. Simply put, The Social Network is a work of pure genius, impeccably crafted to tell a tale that defines a generation. It’s one of the most important works of art to emerge out of Hollywood in many years and, like The Godfather and Citizen Kane, I have no problem stating that The Social Network is one of the best movies I’ve ever seen.

Known as “The Facebook movie,” The Social Network chronicles the rise of Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg), creator and co-founder of Facebook, as he creates and adapts his website into becoming one of society’s most used online tools. However, as the terrific tagline from the poster states, “You don’t get to 500 million friends without making a few enemies,” and Mark soon finds himself wrapped in two simultaneous lawsuits, one accusing him of stealing the idea and the other, brought on by his best friend and partner, only asking to be treated fairly and receive his share of the wealth.

Although other social networking websites like MySpace and Friendster existed on the Internet prior to Zuckerberg's creation, there's no arguing that Facebook popularized it. Beginning as a site specifically for college students, it gradually branched out and is now available to everybody. Parents and grandparents now share the same virtual space as their children and grandchildren, much to the younger set’s dismay, I’m sure. Our society has become so overwhelmed with the site that when we meet new people and ask for their contact information, the reply is usually, “I’ll Facebook you.” We have even gotten to the point where a romantic relationship isn’t official until it’s “Facebook official.” Facebook rules our lives and the sad part is those of us who use it, know it.

The other recent Facebook movie, Catfish, effectively showed how people can falsify information online and become who they want to be, but The Social Network does much more. Future generations of film students will look back at this movie as a cinematic landmark, serving as the definitive example of how the Internet won, when our lives became consumed by status updates and our thoughts limited to 140 characters.

The Social Network is extremely relevant today and is guaranteed to be just as, if not more, relevant in the future. But it’s grandeur means nothing without solid production values and it’s as finely tuned a film as you’re likely to ever see. Director David Fincher, the man behind Se7en, Zodiac and Fight Club, has created a beautiful and cerebral, though almost certainly highly fictionalized, tale that takes every aspect of what makes a good film and slams them together effortlessly. The cinematography is dark and eerie, making monsters of all the characters. The score from Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross is pounding and foreboding, perfectly setting the tone for the tale of betrayal and greed that followed. The script, which should and most likely will be nominated for an Oscar, is brilliant, with sharp, believable dialogue and a dry, sarcastic sense of humor.

And the acting is pitch perfect. Armie Hammer’s performance is award worthy, especially considering the fact that for the majority of the movie, he’s acting opposite himself, playing a dual role as twin brothers. Even Jesse Eisenberg, who has up to this point been typecast as the socially awkward, bumbling loser, breaks out here as the smart, fast talking, no nonsense protagonist. His fascinating portrayal of Zuckerberg as an emotionally empty man is riveting.

I suspect the actual Zuckerberg may disagree, however. The Social Network paints him in an unfavorable light and he’s not happy about it. Don’t think his recent decision to donate $100 million to the public school system in New Jersey is simply out of the kindness of his heart. He knows what this movie will do to his (some would argue already tarnished) reputation, but my concern isn’t with that. Fictionalized or not, The Social Network is an astounding feat that demands multiple viewings. If you pass up this film, you’ll be missing out on one of the best movies to be released in the last 40 years. It’s simply that good.

The Social Network receives 5/5