12 10 2010

Tomas Alfredson’s dark supernatural fable LET THE RIGHT ONE IN was one of the best films of 2008, but it had one glaring flaw: it was in fucking Swedish. Sure, the movie was phenomenal, if you didn’t mind reading words on the bottom of a screen for 117 minutes. As they say in Sweden, jag knullar ditt bröd! (Translation: fuck your bread!) If you’re anything like me, you don’t go to the movies to read. You go to avoid reading. Also, to avoid process servers.

Well Amurrica, seeing as you missed LET THE RIGHT ONE IN in ‘08, here’s your chance to see it on your own terms: LET ME IN, Matt Reeves’ new English language remake of Alfredson’s film, preserves the spirit, look, and plot of the original, making shockingly few missteps along the way. The adorably-named Kodi Smit McPhee stars as Owen, a child growing up in 1980’s Los Alamos, New Mexico – which is, apparently, the Stockholm of the U.S. Who knew? A spate of grizzly killings breaks out in Los Alamos, just as Owen gains a new neighbor in his apartment complex: Abby (Chloe Moretz,) a shoeless and enigmatic young lady. Is Abby somehow connected to the murders? I’ll give you two guesses.

LET THE RIGHT ONE IN: Swedish Kid, Lil' Knife

If you’ve seen neither the original film nor this one, and if you’re interested in either, the nicest thing to say about this version is, it’ll do. If it’s one of those nights when you just don’t wanna read nuthin’, LET ME IN will simulate the LET THE RIGHT ONE IN experience, without all the ümlauts. And, to “writer”/director Reeves’ credit, he makes some choices which, though not bold, are clever. An early nod to REAR WINDOW, with Owen spying on his neighbors using a telescope and opaque fright mask, is a fresh and creepy addition. Richard Jenkins, as Abby’s nameless caretaker, is even better in the role than its originator Per Ragnar (Is that even a name?!) and the mid-film sequence that puts him over the edge, so to speak, is an expansion and improvement on the sequence in the Swedish ür version. You have good ol’ American CA$H to thank for that, movie-friends.

But for each gold star, there’s a notch in the negative column too, at least according to this admirer of the first film… Elias Koteas’ detective character, another new addition, is finally redundant; the original’s Lacke, best described as ‘Van Helsing as pathetic drunk,’ was a far more interesting, and tragic character. And most egregiously, the original film’s holy-shit exhilarating climax is mussed up here. It’s a difference of degrees, a difference you may very well not give a breadfuck about – and one I won’t delve too deeply into, in case you’re eating right now – but let’s just say that the Swedes did mayhem just right, and the Americans, perhaps unsurprisingly, overdo it just a tad. But a tad’s a tad!

LET ME IN: Amurrican kid, AMURRICAN knife.

Also unsurprising about LET ME IN is the fact that after two weeks in wide release, it’s made barely $9,000,000, recouping not even half its production budget. For all the effort put into taking a cult film and instantly/slavishly adapting it for American audiences, American audiences still don’t care to make this more than a cult film. All the attention that’s clearly gone into this faithful remake, and the underlying question is ‘why?’ Why go through all this trouble, to come out with a product that’s so similar to its source, and still too strange for most of our great nation’s moviegoers? So that we don’t have to read subtitles? Give us a little credit. We did invent jazz, and The Snuggie.

If you’re looking for a smart, unsettling slice of occult fiction, head out to the theater now to see LET ME IN. Like, literally, right now. This movie will be gone in about 36 seconds, in order to maximize DVD revenue… But if you’ve got Netflix streaming, and don’t mind suffering subtitles, the original film is ready to watch, instantly, and it is still THE RIGHT ONE.


Uh huh.



Cinemark Theaters, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, U.S.A.

Saturday, October 9, 10:15pm showing


THE SOCIAL NETWORK: 1 Person Likes This

4 10 2010

Mark Zuckerberg, the world’s youngest ultra-gazillionaire, founded Facebook in his Harvard dorm room in 2003, so the tale goes. Along with his friend and bankroller Eduardo Saverin, Zuckerberg took a simple idea, that the young people these days want to waste every spare moment of their goddamned time oglin’ at swimsuit pictures of each other on the intertubes (‘intertubes’? Am I saying that right?) and he built a business that would largely re-define popular communication in the new century. So, who is Mark Zuckerberg? And what perspective could anyone have on such an important figure when he himself is barely old enough to embark on his own memoirs? What truth can we gain about a guy whose life is still, arguably, in its opening act?

Justin Timberlake and Jesse Eisenberg, in one of several scenes of people talking very very fast, in THE SOCIAL NETWORK

David Fincher’s new film artfully sidesteps this question by treating truth as springboard, not blueprint. THE SOCIAL NETWORK takes the idea of Zuckerberg, and builds around it a highly entertaining morality play for the Intertubes Age. Really, who needs truth when you’re ripping such a good yarn? In one scene, Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg,) who’s just moved to Silicon Valley, accidentally demolishes his rented house’s chimney by running a zip line over the backyard pool. There’s a knock at the door, and who’s there? Why it’s Sean Parker (Justin Timberlake,) founder of Napster, and precisely the guy Zuckerberg moved to Palo Alto to impress! Wow, California is great! Great and small. Parker was across the street, he explains, and saw the chimney explode. Yes, I’m certain that’s exactly how that happened.

Several such moments of coincidence help to propel THE SOCIAL NETWORK’s plot, even as they highlight its fast & loose relationship with reality. An early sequence in which Fincher cross-cuts between an exclusive rush party with Zuckerberg writing code for Facebook alone at his laptop, captures the momentum of the great first act of FIGHT CLUB – but where FIGHT CLUB ultimately sagged under a ludicrous finale, THE SOCIAL NETWORK’s pace never wanes, as it jumps between dueling depositions, a framing device which works much better than it might. (Look for editors Kirk Baxter and Angus Wall to collect themselves up some statues in a couple months.) FIGHT CLUB, the film closest to this one in Fincher’s CV, was an exploration of masculine self-loathing and aggression, and the director’s newest seems to come away with similar conclusions; Zuckerberg, like Sean Parker, builds his empire to take revenge on a girl. In the absence of emotional connection, the neutered protagonists of both films put into place structures to empower men by degrading others. In FIGHT CLUB, the target of the soap peddlers was a feminizing consumer culture. In THE SOCIAL NETWORK, Zuckerberg’s targets are, more directly, women.

Hahaha, I'm a poorly drawn character! Hahahahaha!

We have essentially two female characters in the whole film, Erica (Rooney Mara) and Christy (Brenda Song.) The former’s rejection of Zuckerberg is painted as the catalyst for his journey to the top. The latter lady is a Facebook “groupie” (read: slllut) who jumps Eduardo in a public restroom, becomes his girlfriend/glommer-on, and then, in the film’s most ridiculous scene, goes ballistic because his relationship status on Facebook is still ‘single.’ Oy vey. THE SOCIAL NETWORK’s approach to the fairer sex is about as complex as those found in any of Fincher’s films – which is, not complex at all. (No offense, Ripley…) Perhaps this remove is meant to convey Zuckerberg’s own mystification with women. But considering the director’s track record… Hey, the guy’s not Almodóvar.

THE SOCIAL NETWORK is about Men. And Harvard, an institution still synonymous with old world male exclusivity, turns out to be a perfect context for Fincher’s signature style. With longtime cinematographer Jeff Cronenweth, Fincher casts deep shadows on Cambridge’s plantation architecture to create a chilly, ubiquitous reminder of such institutions’ founding in an era of very unequal rights – which in turn emphasizes the weight of class ascendancy that Zuckerberg feels all around him. Zuck’s no slave certainly, but he is a shlub, obsessed with gaining access to one of Harvard’s ‘Final Clubs,’ and his Asperger’s-and-sweatshirts style is played against the blazer’d suavity of Eduardo Saverin (the winning Andrew Garfield.) Zuckerberg is portrayed as a kid with a chip on his shoulder about his lot as a Harvard Man. When he doesn’t get into Fight Final Club, he creates one of his own, and alienates everyone he knows in the process.

Joseph Mazzello (right) played Timmy in JURASSIC PARK. Run, Timmy, ruuunnnn!!!

But even as he does, Zuckerberg doesn’t change in any way. He never trades his sweats for a blazer, and Jesse Eisenberg’s performance conveys nothing of what his character might think, or even understand about the ramifications of what he’s doing. Disappointingly though, the film itself also finally draws a blank on Zuckerberg. In its last scene (urrm, spoiler alert,) a token female played by Rashida Jones spells out what we’re meant to take away about our young subject. “You’re not an asshole, Mark,” she says. “You’re just trying so hard to be one.” … The End. No, really, that is the last line of the movie. It’s reductive – not revelatory.  No matter what Peter Travers (or as I call him, Mr. Relevancy) has said about this film defining the last decade with its portrayal of a stereotypical insular narcissist blogger, there’s a big difference between this film’s beat line, and the reveal of, oh, say Rosebud. And I’m not just saying that because I’m an insular narcissist blogger myself.

Though it may ultimately miss the Mark, THE SOCIAL NETWORK is irrepressible; it’s charged with energy and crisp on every level – from the witty and often terrifically unbelievable dialogue by Aaron Sorkin, to the techno-inflected Trent Reznor score, right down to the digital splatter of champagne on a window during a scene of celebration. Each droplet lands exquisitely. It’s a perfect special effect – but it’s not real champagne. David Fincher’s got no interest in making a mess.


Cinemark Theaters, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, U.S.A.

Friday, October 1, 9:55pm showing