Friday, October 8, 2010

Facing up

I liked Jesse Eisenberg in "The Squid and the Whale," and I adored him in "Adventureland." Even more than Michael Cera (especially in "Scott Pilgrim vs. the World"), he owns the market in playing the cute nerd - slightly scruffy, slightly hippie, slightly punk. So it was a bit of a surprise and a real treat to see him doing such a fine, fine job in playing an arrogant asshole as Mark Zuckerberg, the Facebook co-founder, in "The Social Network.

Whether or not this portrayal is completely accurate and fair, Eisenberg is mesmerizing, contributing to the film being a terrific, absorbing two hours, with zippy direction by David Fincher, crackling dialogue by Aaron Sorkin and driving music by Trent Resnor (the new Danny Elfman?) of Nine Inch Nails. Making a heady intellectual property dispute downright thrilling, with intriguing characters, this is an old-fashioned, good, adult drama - the kind Hollywood used to be so good at making but rarely does anymore.

What I like best about the movie is the way it sharply evokes college life, especially on the east coast - running through a freezing midnight drizzle in a hoodie and flip-flops, studying alone under a bare florescent light in a tiny dorm room, riotous partying in centuries-old, stately, stained-oak rooms. Reznor’s steely music adds to the sense of loneliness and alienation felt even at the heart of this exclusive, clubby setting. This is one of the best depictions of the strange, protected, suspended life in academia since Mike Nichol’s production of "Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolff?"

The film and all its publicity made me think of how much Facebook has changed our world. A few days before its released, in a most bitter irony, a gay Ruttgers University student committed suicide after being filmed on-line, for all the world to see, having sex with another man. Although the roommate and friend who did the broadcasting saw it as a lark, it strikes me that this is the 2010 2.0 version of what happened to Matthew Shepherd.

I have to say that I suck at Facebook. I have heard about thousands of people going off Facebook because of it eating up time and being a substitute for face-to-face contact, but I hardly get on it.
Yes, it is good for getting the word out, like when I have a new blog post, and I’m sure I’m missing out on some things, but I don’t really care that Jane is enjoying a nice bowl of homemade asparagus soup, and I don’t want to spend hours playing games with animals. I understand all those people wanting face-to-face contact rather than Facebook.

Then again, on the day I saw "The Social Network," I had the extraordinary, moving experience of going to visit a friend I had been out of touch with for 25 years - half my lifetime. He had found me on Facebook.

Now, that’s a status update worth sharing.

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