Your Social Weekend at the Movies

10/01/2010 8:55 AM |

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The Social Network: Shit. Sometime in the past few weeks, my anticipation for this movie reached a point where if it’s not a masterpiece, I might be a little disappointed. To keep my mind off of the stress, I’m going to go through and let you know what I think of past endeavors of David Fincher, since a good chunk of this column is just me telling you what I think of movies that already came out anyway.

I saw Alien 3 when I was eleven, so the awesomeness that my dad was taking me to see Alien 3 did a formidable job of patching over the movie’s flaws as compared to the near-flawless first two Alien movies, though I do remember thinking, wow, that was fucking depressing, only maybe I didn’t say “fucking.”

I saw Seven when I was fifteen and my friend lied to his mom and told her we saw Hackers. Hey, actually, my dominant memory of watching Seven is finding it really depressing, too.

When The Game came out a couple of years later, I enjoyed it, but felt pretty confident that Fincher was a stylish thriller director, not much more. Fight Club challenged that two years later, and while that movie has been embraced by some of the people it’s supposed to be satirizing, and I have no use for Chuck Palahniuk as a writer, Fight Club, the movie starring Edward Norton and Brad Pitt, is a lot of fun and full of awesome show-offy filmmaker stuff. Then Panic Room came out, and I was pretty much back to thinking of Fincher as a talented thriller engineer, only now maybe a semi-overrated one.

I saw Zodiac when I was twenty-six and it was the best movie I saw that year and one of the best movies I’ve seen in the past ten years and a just plain great movie that made me go back and completely rethink Fincher and adjust my expectations for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. In retrospect, that was a bad idea, not because I hated Benjamin Button; in fact, I find parts of that movie stunningly beautiful and admire its differences from the rest of the Fincher filmography. But still, Benjamin Button wasn’t the movie I wanted it to be, because I wanted it to be a movie as good as Zodiac. Which brings us to The Social Network.

If we figure it’s been a roughly every-other situation with this guy (Seven, Fight Club, and Zodiac being the standouts), maybe that masterpiece talk is real (not that Seven is a masterpiece, but it sure is better than Copycat!). I’m hoping Fincher and obsessive idiot savant screenwriter Aaron Sorkin cancel out each other’s weaknesses and if they don’t, I will probably (a.) be annoyed for a few days, (b.) blame Sorkin, and (c.) form an unhealthy attachment to the Black Swan trailer.

Let Me In: Like every other horror nerd in the known world, I loved Tomas Alfredson’s Let the Right One In, based on the book of the same name. Matt Reeves, the J.J. Abrams associate who made Cloverfield, has stepped in for the English-language remake, and suspicious as I was, I must admit that the retitled Let Me In is a beautifully made imitation of the Swedish original, matching its snowy streetlamp eeriness. Owen (Kodi Smit-McPhee) is, like his counterpart Oskar, a lonely kid, harassed by bullies, who makes friends with a new girl in his apartment complex. Abby, played by Chloe Moretz, walks around barefoot, doesn’t attend school, and lives with a man who looks like a father (Richard Jenkins) but does an awful lot of shuffling around at night. You’d forgive a policeman (Elias Koteas) for assuming cult involvement, but turns out little Abby is an occasionally bloodthirsty vampire. Moretz has become Hollywood’s go-to pre-teen superhuman, whether her powers manifest in killing and swearing (in this year’s Kick Ass) or simply beyond-her-years wisdom (most irritating in 500 Days of Summer). But while eternally-twelve Abby has fearsome strength and teeth, shown off in unconvincing special-effects attacks, Moretz manages to suppress the child-star affectation that’s undermined her past performances. She and Smit-McPhee are affecting together, sharing Now and Laters and, later, horrible gory secrets, and Reeves chronicles their adult-free relationship sensitively but without turning away from horror—as with the earlier version, long takes abound.

In fact, Reeves avoids just about every pitfall of The American Version: needless modernization (the story moves to New Mexico but stays in the eighties, where everyone, apparently, is listening to “Let’s Dance”), dumbed-down dialogue (sometimes it sounds so close to the original’s subtitles that it’s almost distracting), and cranked-up pace (this is as arty a horror movie as will open on thousands of screens this year). Still, there are limits to this kind of fidelity. Any changes, however few, tend to soften the story, however slightly; Abby’s vampirism, for example, is treated a little more like an alternate personality, a convenient beast within rather than a monster-human hybrid. Michael Giacchino’s score tugs on more heartstrings when it repeatedly recalls his drawn-out music for tender moments on Lost. No matter how quiet is tries to keep, Let Me In can’t out-hush the original. But if fans don’t have much new to discover apart from long takes of slightly different stuff and a little more suspense, there’s plenty to enjoy again. Plus, they can take comfort in the thought of any subtitle-averse Twilight kids stumbling upon superficially similar material with such abiding, thorough, gratifying superiority.

Case 39: This movie has been kicking around since Renee Zellweger was getting leads in studio movies! Zing(weger)! It’s a horror movie starring the semi-insufferable Zellweger and the mostly insufferable Bradley Cooper. I give the marketing the tiniest bit of credit for making me unsure of whether it’s a creepy-kid horror movie or a good-kid-haunted-by-evil-spirits movie. I may never find out.