Sunday, October 3, 2010

A Hilarious Way To Get An Easy A

Hollywood has made hundreds of coming-of-age films, mostly told through the eyes of the films male star, on those rare occasions where the film is told through the female stars point of view, the film itself tends to have more depth, heart and is usually more believable. Although that's not to say these films are always very good, because they usually tend to be grueling to watch. This is not the case with "Easy A" a light comedy from director Will Gluck. Easy A is not just a coming of age film it is also a film of empowerment, if, as the film's major character refuses to do, you give your detractors power they will take it and use it to make themselves feel better at your expense.

Olive (Emma Stone) is not your typical high school student, she and her best friend Rhiannon (Aly Michalka) who she spends almost all of her free time with, she has what are the best on screen parents ever, Dill (Stanley Tucci) and Rosemary (Patricia Clarkson) and an adopted brother Chip (Bryce Clyde Jenkins). One day after being overheard telling Rhiannon some made up stories about a fictional boyfriend by the schools holy roller student Marianne (Amanda Bynes), Olive becomes the talk of the school. One afternoon in detention Olive befriends another student who is also the brunt of several school bullies. Brandon (Dan Byrd) is gay and everyone taunts him and he thinks that he has the perfect plan. He asks Olive to pretend to be his girlfriend at a party being thrown by one of the schools most popular girls. Thinking that nothing bad could come of this little prank Olive agrees.

When news of the episode gets around school, other boys start to ask Olive to pretend to sleep with them as well, Olive agrees reluctantly and news spreads like wild fire. Olive being the person she is refuses to let the school's gossip bring her down, so she decides to dress the part, wearing a red A on all of her outfits. This of course brings Olive to the attention principle Gibbons (Malcolm McDowell), but also to one of the schools counselors Mrs. Griffith (Lisa Kudrow) who is married to the one teacher Olive thinks is really cool, Mr. Griffith (Thomas Haden Church). Of course Olive and Marianne will come to a sort of truce and become almost the best of friends, until another misunderstanding occurs. Olive agrees to take responsibility for something in order to protect a school employee. The one guy who Olive really has a crush on is Todd, he is the schools mascot and Olive has liked him since they were young kids. Of course these types of movies will bring the two together in the end, after Olive turns the tables on those who have sided against her, even her one time best friend falls victim to Marianne and her friends.

Easy A is a very funny movie, there are several one liners that will make you laugh out loud, Olive's parents are probably the funniest twosome in the film, they make each others lines zing. Emma Stone is quickly becoming Hollywood's it girl. It is Stone's performance that definitely gives the film its best moments. Easy A takes a more honest look at teenage angst, this isn't the female version of Superbad, it is a stand alone film that is almost perfect. The films lone detraction is the cliche Hollywood ending, where every character gets exactly what is coming to them. Life's lessons are learned and everybody gets the chance to become a little bit better as a person.

I give Easy A 3 stars. The film is a joy to watch, Emma Stone is becoming a big star, she is far removed from her character from Superbad, here it is her delivery and physical comedy that really showcases her talent. Stanley Tucci seems to be the coolest father on the planet, his laid back style and his interaction with Patricia Clarkson that contain some of the movies funniest scenes, these free spirited parents help Olive overcome her anger and fears in ways that don't seem preachy, they simply tell her that she is the kind of person who isn't what others see her as but what she herself knows her to be. The film not only will make you laugh but it will make you feel good about yourself as well.

Easy A is rated PG-13 for Mature Thematic Elements Involving Teen Sexuality, Language and Some Drug Material.
Running time is 1 hr. 32 mins.
Distributed by Sony Pictures

Friday, October 1, 2010

A New Social Network That Became Facebook

When it was announced that Ben Mezrich's book The Accidental Billionaires was being made into a film recounting the creation of Facebook and the legal fallout between its founders, many people (including me) didn't hold out much hope for a movie even worth thinking about. When it was later announced that David Fincher was going to direct and that Aaron Sorkin was writing for the new film, I began to believe in the film's success. Now after having seen "The Social Network" I can only say that this is hands down the best film of 2010.

Sorkin introduces us to Harvard student Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) by letting us sit in on the creation of what is to become an internet sensation. Using different lawsuit depositions as the film's central theme, Sorkin takes us into the private life of a man who becomes the youngest billionaire in the world. After being jilted by an ex-girlfriend Erica Albright (Rooney Mara), Mark goes back to his dorm and with the help of his best friend, Eduardo Saverin (Andrew Garfield), pulls off an incredible online stunt -- breaking into all of the nearby colleges computer systems and ranking its female students. This stunt lands him in trouble with the Harvard brass, but also gains him the attention of the Winklevoss twins, Cameron (Armie Hammer) and Tyler (Josh Pence). They ask him to help them create a site for the students of Harvard, to share their experiences at school. They later sue Mark, claiming he stole their idea and turned it into a site he calls The Facebook.

Eduardo agrees to help Mark fund his attempt to create what he calls a website for every one -- that is everyone who they allow access to. Mark meets and becomes enthralled with Napster founder Sean Parker (Justin Timberlake) who would convince Mark to take his site to several Silicon Valley venture capitalists, a move that essentially pushes Eduardo out of the picture and gets his shares in the company cut to next to nothing. This action causes Eduardo to also file suit against his former friend.

Sorkin and Fincher then cut between the two lawsuits and the testimonies given in the respective cases, we see the eventual start-up of Facebook, to its combative aftermath and Zuckerberg himself told through multiple points-of-view. The movie isn't necessarily about the site Facebook itself, it is ultimately about human behavior. Social Network takes care to show all the rage, vindictiveness, pettiness and pain that can come with taking on a venture with friends and letting that friendship become less important than the venture itself.

Zuckerberg is portrayed with little to no honorable qualities. The fact that no one will feel any remorse or pity for Zuckerberg is testament to the near perfect performance by Eisenberg himself.He brilliantly showcases Zuckerberg's anger, hurt and brilliance, as well as the character's arrogance, impatience and vulnerability.

The film is told through several flashbacks and rolls smoothly to it's inevitable conclusion. It is said that the Winklevoss group got over sixty five million dollars and that Eduardo got an undisclosed sum (one billion dollars) and his name put back on the company letterheads. The smooth way that the film progresses is a sign of how good the director is and Fincher is one of the best working today. Sorkin has a way with sharp dialogue and this only enhances even the smallest characters in the film.

I give The Social Network 4 stars. This is a gripping expertly crafted film, a modern story with all of the classic themes of life. A small jealousy fuels one man's desire to be better than everyone around him. The films co-stars are near perfect and Garfield is the best amongst the lot, he brings a warmth and humanity to the role of the wounded friend seldom seen in films today. Like him or not Zuckerberg had enough business savvy to create a website that everyone in the world has heard of.

The Social Network is rated PG-13 for Sexual Content, Drug and Alcohol Use and Language.
Running time is 2 hrs.
Distributed by Columbia Pictures.