Sunday, January 30, 2011

The Rite (Mikael Håfström, 2011)

In recent years, there's been a spate of new possession films. A few have been fun, entertaining films with some seriously chilling moments (The Last Exorcism, being an example), other have been well made enough, though lacking in any good scares (The Exorcism of Emily Rose, which at least took a new approach) and the rest of them have been downright terrible (Blackwater Valley Exorcism, The Possession of David O'Reilly, Exorcism: The Possession of Gail Bowers).

The Rite doesn't really fit any of those descriptions. It was relatively entertaining while I was watching it, so I can't say it was terrible. I wasn't sitting there counting the minutes until it was over, and clocking in just short of two hours. At the same time, the minute it was over, the flaws in the film were jumping to mind like a possessed virgin getting splashed with holy water. Granted, there are a few sequences in this film that actually work well. The problem is those sequences aren't connected by the kind of character development it would have taken to make the film work, and there are some narrative elements that just don't make any sense when you consider them.

The best thing this movie has going for it is Anthony Hopkins. The man can be a towering example of what is great and majestic about acting as an art form and a profession, which is nothing to thumb one's nose at. If we're going to be honest with each other though, he's made some horrible movies. He's made a few classics as well, which is why he is Sir Anthony Hopkins, and one of the most recognizable names in the world. In this film, he's unfortunately saddled with a character the script doesn't really tell the audience enough about for them to get a full sense of who he is or why he is who he is, which in a film dealing with possession and the fate of the immortal soul, is pretty important. Sir Anthony makes the best of things though, and there are definitely a few scenes where the brilliance he can summon are glimpsed. The effect of putting this caliber of actor in this role is that the small, quiet important moments outshine the scenes that should be the equivalent of gate crashing your consciousness. It's essentially emotionally backwards. There a moments in the film where I really wanted to love and respect this character, but they are immediately thrown under the proverbial narrative bus, because the film is hurrying along to it's next plot point so the audience doesn't consider the fact that some of what's being presented to them doesn't make sense in any world, even the world the film is trying to create. This film does give me hope that Anthony Hopkins has a few incredible performances left in him if he's given or takes scripts that are interesting and well written enough to allow him to be the more relaxed and extremely warm actor that he can be.

The sad thing is that it has a really strong opening. The first twenty minutes to half hour had me. It's not shocking to reflect that ninety-five percent of the films character development takes place in that time. The problem is that it's all one character, and the other characters who become central to the narrative don't show up until the film is already in a hurry to slap you with it's next plot point. There's a surprise scene in the beginning of the film that gave me some real hope that we might be about to take the kind of bumpy, uncomfortable ride I hope to get from horror films, especially supernatural horror films. Unfortunately, my good will was wasted on what more or less devolves into non-sense. There are central plot elements that either aren't explained enough to make sense in the world the film is trying to immerse us in, or worse, they're just thrown in there to keep things moving because they somehow tangentially relate to the other events in the narrative.

When the super natural is central to a film's narrative, there is a relatively fine line to walk. The writer and the film makers have to be able to develop the "rules" or the reality of the world they're creating without over explaining and getting into the kind of horrid exposition that completely kills narrative pacing. At the same time, they can't be so lazy as to just say, "it's the super natural, so of course it doesn't make sense." A writer or film maker might be able to get away with that if they specifically choose to never even allude to something resembling "rules" or a reality for the narrative that is somehow different from the one in which the audience lives in on a daily basis. Find me that film, where the writer and film makers pull it off, and I bet you've found something that is in the least interesting in it's ambition. This film seems to be completely lacking in any ambition, except possibly to get Anthony Hopkins on screen trying to out Hannibal Lecter himself for twenty minutes.

The other thing that succeeds in making this film unsuccessful, and pretty unsatisfying when reconsidered, is the lead actor. I'm not familiar with Colin O'Donoghue from anything else. That's usually not a problem for me, but in this case I didn't even have familiarity to fall back on. A million things can go wrong in the production of a film, which is why we get so many really bad movies every year. This seems to have been either a horrible case of miscasting or a director who just wasn't able to get a good performance out of his lead. Don't get me wrong, he's not terrible. There was never a point at which I sat back and marveled at the horrendous nature of the performance I was watching. But an hour into the film, I didn't really care about his character very much at all, and I wasn't really interested in what he was doing, why he was doing it or anything. Again, this could be a failure in the writing (which, I find a distinct possibility) or any number of other things, but it doesn't change the final result. The film makers spent the first twenty minutes of the movie on developing this guys character, and twenty minutes after that, I just didn't care anymore.

The film begins with him explaining to a friend (we're led to assume it's his best friend) that he's decided to join the seminary to get away from the family business. His father is a mortician, and he's old enough to be helping out these days. I can't blame him for trying to get away. The only explanation given for choosing seminary as that escape route is "In my family, you're either a priest or a mortician, and that's it." He further explains to his friend that he'll at least be able to get a four year degree, and then he can always choose not to take the vows to become a priest. Fast forward four years, and our boy is done with his undergraduate degree, and writing a letter to the equivalent of college headmaster to explain that he's not taking his vows, he lacks faith etc. Our intrepid young hero is then told there's a new program at The Vatican which is supposed to be training a new generation of exorcists, and Mr. Head Priest has always thought he'd be perfect for it, not to mention that the seminary can legally call his four year scholarship a student loan if he doesn't take his vows. And off he goes to Rome.

I think there could be some really good material in those class rooms and that training. Exactly what does The Vatican do to train an exorcist? How do they handle questions of modern psychology in relation to possession etc.? A few of these ideas get grazed, but none of them really land on the bulls eye. There could also be an entire movie of some value in understanding how Anthony Hopkins character comes to be the "unorthodox" priest our young skeptic is sent to, basically in order to cure his skepticism. "Unorthodox" in Hopkins case seems to mean "has many cats living in the courtyard outside of his living quarters, because nothing else here seems all that unorthodox as it relates to either Church teachings on exorcism and possession or films dealing with exorcism and possession. Then Alice Braga gets introduced as a third character in the film, and really, that's all there is to her. They may as well have decided to forgo giving her character a name at all and called her either "third major character" or "pretty female character meant to slightly suggest sexual tension." Then there's all the possession, exorcism, faith versus doubt stuff. It's thin. It's really, really thin. And really, this is more a religiously toned drama than a horror film. Yes, there are some of the requisite scenes of demonic possession etc, but they're not very scary and the sense of threat to the characters isn't great enough to create the sense of ever present dread the subject matter should suggest.

When it's all said and done, I can't really recommend seeing this film in theaters. If I'd have found myself with an afternoon free, and nothing to do, I'd be looking at this as a harmless distraction that filled a few hours of time. I wouldn't have been bothered by seeing this on Netflix or some other variety of rental, because at that price, it would have been worth it. It's not worth full ticket price at a theater though. This is one of those that I'm kicking myself for because I know there are a number of good films out I could have devoted that time and money to. I still haven't seen 127 Hours or The King's Speech and I can basically rely on them being well made, even if they don't quite live up to the Oscar hype. The Rite is the kind of completely vanilla film that results from either a complete lack of ambition to make something of real quality or too many cooks spoiling the broth (as so many studio films suffer from). I can see the skeleton of a good film in there, but it would have to have been thirty to forty minutes longer in order to flesh out the characters and the reality of this presentation of the super natural and it probably would have had to have a different lead.

If for some reason you feel you have to see this in theaters or you've found that if I dislike something you are almost guaranteed to enjoy it (there are reviewers out there whom I feel that way about) you can find the showings near you on Fandango. If you completely disagree with my review or you just want to be swell you can pre-order The Rite [Blu-ray] or The Rite on DVD at my Amazon store. Maybe the book from which the movie is "suggested" (and yes, the credits actually said suggested) is more interesting, The Rite: The Making of a Modern Exorcist, and you can grab that from the Amazon Store as well.

If you're one of those crazy kids who doesn't like to have you're time wasted, but can still enjoy possession/exorcism films, snag a copy of any of the following:
The Last Exorcism [Blu-ray]
The Last Exorcism
The Exorcism of Emily Rose - Unrated (Special Edition),
The Exorcism of Emily Rose (+ BD Live) [Blu-ray].

There's also a film based on the same case that Emily Rose was, that takes an extremely different tact on the material, but is still very good: Requiem. And of course, there's the mother of all exorcism films, the one, the only, the classic: The Exorcist (Extended Director's Cut & Original Theatrical Edition) [Blu-ray], The Exorcist

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Kevin Smith Does The Right Thing; Internet Loses It's Mind

Last night was the very first screening of Kevin Smith's Red State. If you read my original post about Smith's plans, you know that Smith had said he was going to auction off the rights to the films distribution. In that piece, I suggested Kevin Smith might very well be blazing a new path for the future of film distribution and as a result, financing. Last night, he auctioned the film off to himself, buying distribution rights from his producer for $20.

At the screening and then through a very long Twitter feed (collected here at /Film) he explained that he is going to "take it on the road," meaning he will be taking the film, from venue to venue, personally. One suggested venue is Radio City Music Hall. Going to see a film by a major film maker, with that film maker present, whether it's taking questions or signing autographs or just in this case, being Kevin Smith, the possibilities for ticket costs would be extremely attractive.

Essentially, Smith could possibly make back the 4 million it cost to make the movie, just by "taking it on the road," and then as buzz for the film is sufficiently strong and demand has been increased even further, he could possibly sell it for national distribution to one of the major distributors. This is not something we've seen attempted in the age of modern film by a film maker who already has a real following, which Smith does.

The internet film press is in the process of having a psychotic break over all of this. The truth is that Kevin Smith has pulled a new media William Castle style marketing trick and the internet film press were both the engine for it, and the butt of the joke. If they were planning to give his well documented criticisms of their industry some credence, they couldn't have planned a better reaction. For a year or maybe a bit more Brad Mishka over at Bloody Disgusting has been lobbing rhetorical and insulting fire bombs at Smith. Though, this time, he seems to have gone schizophrenic having posted one relatively positive story about it, and then the following day after the rest of the internet film press threw a fit, he posted another scathing attack against Smith.

Devin Faraci has started his own site Bad Ass Digest, after leaving, Faraci wrote an equally scathing piece claiming that Smith is spitting in the face of independent cinema. Drew Mcweeney, veteran of Ain't It Cool News and who has found a real home at Hitflix, wrote a less than favorable piece on Smith's practical joke on his industry.

The list is much, much longer. It's a bit strange to see so much of the internet film press turning into a large gossip circle.

From the outside looking in, this is all sour grapes. These are people who have been making a living by covering the film industry. The film industry is not unlike politics in that the media which cover it and those covered have a symbiotic relationship. The industry needs the press to get the word out about their movies. The press needs the movie industry to cooperate to some degree for them to exist. They need each other, and especially where the internet media is concerned, this rocky relationship has often erupted in one way or another. It's not unusual for a film site to get hold of some piece of information that the film maker or the studio does not want public yet, and publish it, specifically because it is good for them. If they can get to the story first, they get the most site visits, and they are therefore getting paid more, etc... etc... etc. And, when somebody with a camera somewhere gets some video of a film shooting in progress or a clip from a film that has yet to be released and posts it on YouTube, these same internet journalists always whine when it gets removed, because it hurts that same visitorship. And, let's be very clear, the internet film community is absolutely, unflinchingly brutal when it comes to films, film makers, studios and practices they don't agree with or just plainly dislike. This is not generally a group of people who are very good at civilly and respectfully expressing their distaste. I can say I'm often in that same category when it comes to films I don't like, and studio practices I find outmoded or ineffective. I tend to be blatantly honest when I see a film I not only seriously dislike, but have no respect for (I submit my Clash of the Titans review as evidence). I don't tend to personally insult film makers though. I am, after all, just a guy writing on a website about things that I like. For the most part, it's not really worth being uncivil toward anyone about. They are, after all, just movies, no matter how passionate I may get. I may not feel that way about all things, I do feel that way about film. We should be sharing our enjoyment of this wonderful, enjoyable art form. Otherwise, none of us are any better than Armond White.

The other thing it's probably necessary to point out is that many of these websites (especially Bloody Disgusting and other horror sites) have more consistently complained about the studio model of film making and distribution. I can not count the number of times I've read pieces by different writers who are complaining about the fact that something they love is being watered down, dumbed down, and dulled because some studio executive thinks that they might get a few thousand asses in seats if they can appeal to the "widest possible audience." If I had a penny for every time I read the sentence, "What about the horror fans, we aren't enough?"I would be fascinatingly rich. These "journalists"will complain about how they know there's an audience for this or that, without it being watered down and mass appealed. Now, they're taking shots at Kevin Smith, specifically because he is turning to his fan base, catering to and relying on them.

If it would be good enough for you when you want it, why isn't it good enough for Smith and his fans?

Ultimately, if this works out for Smith it could provide a completely new way for an established film maker to distribute his films. Consider someone like David Fincher, who has consistently made challenging films over which he has had to fight with various studios to get the film he wanted to make released. Fincher may not always deliver a blockbuster, but his films always make money, and he has made some incredibly beloved and popular films. How many of these films does he have to deliver before they finally stop arguing with him? My love for Fincher and his films is no secret, but I'm going out on a limb and saying now that I believe Fincher has within him the ability to make one of the greatest American films of all time. The question is, will that movie, the movie he makes be the one that gets released? Will we ever get a chance to see it? If this little experiment works for Smith, the model might just be perfect for someone like David Fincher (though admittedly, Fincher is notoriously press shy).

I can understand feeling hurt by having been hoodwinked. But at the same time, here in the world of internet film journalism, which started as the folks on the outside looking in and applauding every possible practical joke played on the industry. If nothing else, Kevin Smith's practical joke has proven the internet film press are no longer on the outside looking in. They are now part of the established order. And it seems, they have forgotten that the degree to which they fight to protect that position is the exact degree to which those who aren't on the inside will fight to unseat them from their place in the ecosystem that exists between the press and film industries.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Buried (Rodrigo Cortes, 2010)

Buried is a technical marvel. Ryan Reynolds plays Paul Conroy, a truck driver who's taken a contract in Iraq. He wakes up buried in a coffin with a lighter and a cellphone. And then, if you can believe it, things get worse. 

This is an entire feature length film, clocking in at right around ninety minutes, during which every single shot takes place in the coffin. It's a testament to director Rodrigo Cortes talent and imagination that even under those constraints, the film is never, for even one second, boring. I don't think it would be giving too much of the plot away to say that during the course of the film, Conroy finds he has also been buried with two of the large, industrial variety glow sticks and a flashlight. The changes in lighting, due to the different light sources help the keep the image interesting, but even that doesn't do justice to the genius Cortes brings to the table. There is a fluidity to the camera work that is gives the film an extremely dynamic feel while always keeping the integrity of the narrative foremost. I can only describe it as a feat of engineering and architecture. This should be something that comes across very much like a student film, but instead it comes across like the kind of grand experiments Hitchcock executed with Rope, Rear Window and Lifeboat.

Another thing that has to be mentioned is the fact that Ryan Reynolds is the only actor who is actually in the film. He is absolutely convincing as Paul Conroy, a man trapped in a coffin, somewhere in Iraq, who is desperately, frantically trying to find someone on the other end of that cellphone who can help save him. The thing which has helped to make Ryan Reynolds popular has been his ability to play everyman in relatively lighthearted, sometimes juvenile comedies. Here, that same trait, talent, characteristic or however you'd refer to it, comes to have much fuller expression in a much more dramatic and meaningful performance. He does a great job with this character and gives a performance that will probably open doors to a variety of characters he wouldn't have otherwise had the opportunity to play. His terror, frustration, exhaustion and bewilderment are contagious as he attempts to get himself out of the situation he's woken up in. I have to say that I was honestly surprised by how well he carries this off. I haven't actively disliked Ryan Reynolds to this point, but I haven't really given him much credit for being a pretty talented young actor, and he is just that. If becoming a "movie star"doesn't get in the way, he might actually become a great actor.

I really enjoyed this movie, and spent a good deal of it being blown away by the kind of virtuosity it effortlessly displays. Though I think it's a very good movie, there are one or two beats in the script I found a touch on the ham handed side. There's a situation and conversation between Conroy and the company which has hired him to go to Iraq and drive a truck which just comes across a little too much. I don't think it's an implausible situation, at all, but I do think the timing and the nature of the conversation feel like they've been thrown in specifically to either make a point or to drive home even more forcefully that even as he's stuck in a coffin, in the middle of the desert, things are still getting worse for Paul.

If it weren't already taken, an alternate title for this film could very easily be "Do You Like Hitchcock?"(had the name not been used already). It definitely comes across as a film that is heavily influenced by the Master of Suspense, an homage to him, and an attempt to keep the kind of film making which he spent his career dedicated to alive and well and a part of the film going consciousness. Luckily for movie lovers, even as it is so heavily influenced by Hitchcock, it also never comes off as being a cheap imitation. It's definitely it's own film, with it's own style, but it's obvious the film makers know the Masters films through and through.

The other thing about Buried that is particularly striking is that for a film completely encapsulated in such confined quarters, it doesn't evoke a sense of claustrophobia, but instead the sensation of falling, which for the story, actually makes more sense. I didn't immediately zero in on that until a few hours after I'd seen it, but it begins feeling very claustrophobic and then because of it's pace, it's dynamic camera work and Ryan Reynolds performance, it moves quickly toward the kind of out of control feeling that can only be called free fall. 

The only other problem I have with Buried is related to the score. It's not a bad score, but it is pretty typical and somewhat clichéd. For a film as innovative and unique as this one, a score equally unique would add something extra to it. Luckily, it doesn't overpower the film and stays away from swelling string flourishes, and the editor was smart enough to keep the score toned down and in the background. Composer Victor Reyes may be extremely talented, and he may even have a long future ahead of him in scoring films, but those things aren't at all evident here.

If you're a Hitchcock fan, you should check this one out. If you're a Ryan Reynolds fan, you should check this film out. If you can appreciate technical mastery that doesn't involve pyrotechnics, then you should give this film a shot. The only people I don't think will appreciate this film at all are those who either don't like movies at all or only really like the direct to DVD Steven Siegal films. 

Rodrigo Cortes is a film maker who seems to have a bright future ahead of him, and with another success like this under his belt, we may get the opportunity to see him extend what seems to be a formidable imagination to it's fullest extent.

Grab copies of Buried, Rope, Rear Window, Lifeboat, and Do You Like Hitchcock? on Amazon, if you are so inclined. 

Friday, January 14, 2011

The Social Network (David Fincher, 2010)

There are many people in the film press, and who fancy themselves cinematic snobs who have taken their fare share of swipes at David Fincher. His detractors have basically suggested (repeatedly) that his directing is all style and no substance.

Strangely enough, The Social Network is the film that should put this argument to rest. A film about Facebook, of all things, has more substance and depth than the majority of films I saw in 2010, and probably more than the majority of films released in 2010. 

Fincher takes a story that in many ways is as old as either celebrity or wealth, and creates a spellbinding narrative. Considering the subject matter, Mark Zuckerberg and the creation of what is probably the most visited website on the planet, and which has truly brought the digital age into it's next era, it could have easily been a film specifically about a very dynamic visual style. But it's not. This isn't to say it's not beautifully shot, because it is, but that's not the central aspect of the film, by any means. It is to say that it's not attempting to simply impress you with it's visual style. It's attempting to impress you by being a damned good, possibly great film.

The central aspect of this film is character. Two characters specifically, Mark Zuckerberg and Eduardo Severin, who cofound Facebook. It's really about these two very different people, who begin as friends, and the journey that friendship takes during the founding and initial success of Facebook. That probably doesn't sound like a very compelling narrative, but it's absolutely spellbinding. I do want to say that the veracity of the story of the film has always been in question. It's based on a book called The Accidental Billionaires by Ben Mezrick. Mark Zuckerberg gave no cooperation to the author in writing the book and has suggested a good deal of it is exaggerated, and some of it is completely false. Because of the way the events are portrayed, at least in the film, it would be easy to see why Mr. Zuckerberg might not want the world to think this is how the founding of Facebook actually happened. The character portrayed in the film would probably say exactly the same thing, which is interesting, because the question the film essentially leaves you with is, "what do you think about this guy?" And Fincher does this in such a way that I don't really care whether or not it's a true story, because it's a great story, and as far as this film is concerned, that's really all I care about. I'm considering it fiction, and that still doesn't change that it's a great story, told with the utmost skill.

The film doesn't fully come down on either side of what kind of guy we should think Zuckerberg is. There are a number of decisions made and actions taken which could very easily make Zuckerberg seem like a cold hearted, mean spirited jerk. At the same time, when you take into account the fact that he did start the most successful website in the internet's short history, and you consider that he may possibly have at least believed, if not been extremely sure that it was going to be exactly that, then he may have just been making very shrewd, but very good business decisions. It doesn't portray Zuckerberg as an innocent, but it does leave room for the  fact that he may just have been intellectually gifted enough to have created this cultural and social phenomenon, but socially and emotionally immature enough to not fully understand the degree to which his actions were effecting other people. He seems very much like a truly gifted, but almost tragically arrogant and insecure kid who created something as large as his gifts possibly could, and did so with exactly the degree of maturity appropriate for someone barely twenty. The particular problem for this twenty year old with a lack of social skills is that he's often the smartest person in the room, and knows it.

The story isn't something I'm going to recount here. Many of us already know it, and if not it's easy enough to find out what it is. That's actually one of the reasons this was a somewhat risky film to make. For the audience the film would seem to be intended for, those with some interest in the evolution of the internet and it's advances that have most effected us culturally, there's nothing at all new here. But Fincher finds a way to tell the story which focuses so much more on the characters, and the emotional reality that it doesn't exactly seem new, but it completely sucks the audience in within the first few minutes.

This is a very talky film. There really isn't a whole lot of dazzling visual spectacle to distract from that either, and I have to say that as much as I was excited about Aaron Sorkin having written the script, I was a little worried that I was going to be sitting down for a two hour episode of The West Wing only set in Harvard and the offices of Facebook. That isn't at all what I got. There are a few flourishes of the kind of dialogue one would expect from an Aaron Sorkin script, but in the context, given who the characters are, it makes perfect sense and is never a distraction from the focus on character. There are two particular characters in the film, Mark Zuckerberg and Sean Parker, who ultimately seem like they really couldn't have been written by anyone but Sorkin. His gift for dialogue that snaps and snarls helps to make both of those characters extremely interesting to watch and compelling to listen to. There are a few scenes centering around Zuckerberg's impatience and Parker's huckster temptations that make the characters iconic, and also demonstrate why there is no one better to have written this script.

The performances in the film are all dead on. There is real subtlety to every one of the major characters, and lesser actors would have made much of this into an overblown soap opera. Jesse Eisenberg has played geeky in basically every single film he's been in. But I've never seen him play this particular kind of role. The Zuckerberg of this film has an axe to grind, and it's not very funny. There's a sharp edge to this character that none of the characters he's played before have gotten anywhere near. This isn't a different ballgame for Eisenberg, this is a completely different sport, and it may be that this is the best role he's had the chance to play so far, but it's definitely his best performance. There's a lot to his performance, and much of it is very small, but very, very savory. Andrew Garfield gives a heart rending performance as Severin. He's Zuckerberg's only friend, and to him, that friendship is the center of everything else. He doesn't portray the character as being naive to Zuckerberg's faults, at all. There are moments when you can literally see on his face that he recognizes that something questionable has just happened, and then you can see the kind of reserved forgiveness that happens between friends who understand and have lived with each others faults. After having seen Garfield at work here, I completely understand why he was cast as Peter Parker in the Spider-man reboot, and I might honestly be looking forward to that now. Armie Hammer plays twins, convincingly. The digital effects do a great job because you actually do believe there are two people existing in that space, but it's Hammer who really makes you believe they are two people. Twins on screen, portrayed by the same actor is in many ways the kind of thing which has been beaten to death, but here it's not played for laughs and it's not played for show, and Hammer does a really great job of not getting into that kind of side show aspect, but just presenting these two characters who are very similar in many ways, but also very different in others. 

Then there are the shockers in the film. Justin Timberlake. I've seen a few of his other roles, and he has always been at least passable, though never really more than above average. Maybe some of it is the character (though I'm sure some of it is the writing), but he is electric as the founder of Napster, Sean Parker, who becomes a part of the Facebook story halfway through the film. Granted, he's got a few of the most actor friendly scenes, but even when he's not ripping through Sorkin's superb dialogue, he still seems to be crackling with energy and the kind of charisma that can convince people of just about anything. I'm honestly shocked at just how well he carries this role off. I was working in record stores when Nsync hit, and for that I thought I would never forgive the likes of Justin Timberlake, but if he keeps choosing projects as good as this one, and turning in performances as good as this one, I just might. Let's just say that after seeing him in this, I'm willing to give him a chance. And Rooney Mara, who has the least amount of screen time in comparison to the rest of the people who are essential to the story, but makes quite an impact with that short time. She's the only person in the film who's entire life is not consumed by either the internet or the events surrounding Facebook, and she's also the character in the film who is most honest in her dealings with the others. She is absolutely real as Erica Albright, in every sense of the word. She brings reality to the character and her character is very real in her interactions. I'm not familiar with her other work, but she is someone I'll be looking forward to seeing in the future. She's been cast in Fincher's next film, as the titular Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and as a fan of the the original novel, it's going to be exciting to see her bring the character to life. 

The score for this film is oddly perfect. I say oddly perfect, instead of perfect, because it's not the kind of wispy, weepy orchestral score you'd expect from a character drama. Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails fame, paired again with frequent collaborator Atticus Ross, creates an ambiance with the kind of textured mix of electronic and traditional instruments which has been so much a part of Reznor's catalog. It has the kind of haunting, isolated quality that has made so much of Reznor's lesser known work brilliant, effective and heartbreaking. Zuckerberg is in many ways a very isolated and haunted character in the film, and as such, the score they have developed works perfectly. It also never overwhelms the film. I always find it distracting and somewhat annoying when the score for a film not only overwhelms the action onscreen, but also seems to be screaming at me to get across exactly how I should feel. Swelling strings tend to just piss me off. Here, it's percolating under the surface of the film, and never seems to be telling the audience how they should feel, but is an added expression of what the characters are feeling or thinking in that particular scene. It's Trent's first score, and because so much of his work has been very grand in scale, even as a loyal fan, I was worried that he might not be able to really nail the subtlety of creating a good score. That worry was completely unnecessary, and I'll be downloading the score from iTunes as soon as I'm done writing this review.

All in all, I understand exactly why this film is making so many of the "ten best" lists for last year. It really shouldn't work, at all. It doesn't just work, it manages to make it's characters intriguing and human and it's narrative spellbinding. David Fincher has done the nearly impossible both by creating such an entertaining and engrossing narrative out of a story many of us already know well, and by proving that his detractors have been dead wrong. My only complaint about this film is the number of people I know who have had no interest in it specifically because it is, "that Facebook movie." Even some of my more cinematically inclined friends have had no real interest in it, and that's extremely unfortunate, because this film is not really about Facebook. It's about a few very young, incredibly intelligent people who are essentially trying to navigate the kinds of relationships which force us to grow up. The only difference is that these relationships happen to be tied to the founding of Facebook and it's phenomenal success.

As of 1/14/11, Amazon was still offering The Social Network on Blu Ray for $16.99, and on DVD for $12.99.

Update: I just got free shipping on the Blu Ray, so you might too.

Update II: The Blu Ray arrived yesterday. The packaging and extras are equivalent with that of a Criterion Blu Ray release. There are two commentaries, one being David Fincher, the other being Aaron Sorkin and a number of cast members including Jesse Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield and Justin Timberland. I'm listening to the Fincher commentary right now, and so far it's as good as the previous commentaries he's done.