★★★ / ★★★★
Yaniv “Nev” Schulman’s friend and brother, Henry Joost and Ariel “Rel” Schulman, decided to make a documentary about Nev’s communication, through Facebook and occasional phone calls, with a family in Michigan. Abby, the youngest of the family, e-mailed Nev claiming that she loved his photographs so much that she decided to make a painting off one of them. Apparently, her paintings were being sold for thousands of dollars. Eventually, Nev and Megan, Abby’s older sister, began to Facebook, text, and call each other. Everything seemed to be going well; Nev was especially happy because he genuinely believed that he found someone he could be in a serious relationship with despite the fact that they haven’t met in person. However, after discovering pieces of information that did not quite add up, the trio surmised that Megan might not be telling the truth. Nev, Henry, and Rel went on a road trip to Michigan to get to the bottom of things which was tantamount to opening Pandora’s box. “Catfish” was a fascinating documentary because I was convinced that everything that was happening wasn’t real. After all, who would wait about eight months to Google someone they haven’t met in person yet had all sorts of correspondences with that person? Regardless, I went along with it because the subject matter was creepy. I had so many questions I wanted answers to such as who Megan really was, whether Abby was really a gifted child artist, and what would happen once the three got to Michigan. There were times when it got downright scary. When the New Yorkers visited a farm in the middle of the night, which Megan supposedly owned, I expected them to get caught and get shot. You just don’t drive in the middle of nowhere and spy on someone else’s land. Other times, it was just sad. Either Nev was a really good actor or Nev really did fall hard for Megan. One scene that stood out to me was when Nev decided to read to the camera some of the texts he and Megan sent each other over the course of their flirtation. It was very personal, undoubtedly hilarious, and embarrassing. There was a certain sadness to it because Nev couldn’t believe he was tricked into believing that he found a potential girlfriend. What “Megan” did was very cruel but, as strange as it sounds, I was able to emphathize with her. Indeed, the trio did meet her. The film wasn’t necessarily about a critique of Facebook, but more about the dangers of being a part of social networks over the internet and easily allowing strangers to enter our lives just because they have a profile page. Even though the filmmakers did not directly address the issue of privacy, it was obvious that we should take more precautions concerning people we choose to interact with online.
The Social Network (2010)
★★★★ / ★★★★
The first thing I did after watching David Fincher’s “The Social Network” was log on Facebook to check if I had any notifications. Whether one’s feeling toward Facebook and other social networking sites be love or hate, no one can deny the fact that such simple inventions changed how people communicate. Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) desperately wanted to fit in Harvard when he was an undergraduate. He wanted to get into a private club but he didn’t have the means. He was smart but he wasn’t likable. In fact, he was far from likable. When his girlfriend (Rooney Mara) broke up with him, he went up to his dorm room and posted insults about her body and her family on LiveJournal. His only real friend was Eduardo Saverin (Andrew Garfield) who also wanted to belong. Eduardo’s emotional intelligence was higher than his friend’s. Eventually, the two became partners in creating Facebook but when it was launched, Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss (Armie Hammer and Josh Pence) claimed that their idea was stolen. Sean Parker (Justin Timberlake), founder of Napster, came into the picture in order to bring Facebook to an international level. The film benefited from very strong performances from Eisenberg, Garfield, and Timberlake. I was delighted with Eisenberg’s performance because even though I’ve seen him play nerd-chic multiple times prior (with relative ease), I felt like this was his most complete and challenging performance yet. I hated him, I rooted for him, I hated him some more, and I felt sorry for him. The final shot of him refreshing a certain someone’s Facebook page was pitch-perfect because it showed that despite all the money and the acclaim, he had nobody so his life felt empty. Garfield, who’s been doing fantastic independent work for a while, is finally given the spotlight past overdue. He had a lot on his plate because he was the heart of the picture. He was David who had to face multiple Goliaths equipped with brains. We all knew it would take more than a slingshot and some pebbles for him to, not necessarily succeed because we all knew what would ultimately happen, but to take what he deserved. I was invested in his character because he struggled to remain loyal to his friend even though his friend had no sense of loyalty to him. Lastly, Timberlake did a wonderful job playing Parker, a fierce and forward-thinking businessman who knew exactly he wanted and wasn’t afraid to grab whatever he desired even if it was on someone’s else plate. His ego was probably as big as his ambition to be relevant again. Fincher’s confident direction mixed with Aaron Sorkin’s intelligent script made a wonderful film that highlighted not just the story of college students lives’ being broadcasted over the internet or the drama of the creation of Facebook, but also the highly ambitious, although sometimes misguided, natures of young adults today.