KILLING EVE Season 2, Episode 1: Do You Know How to Dispose of a Body?

WARNING: Contains heavy SPOILERS for Killing Eve Season 2, Episode 1

Sophomore season blues? Killing Eve has never heard of it. The now heavily award decorated cat and cat – let’s be real, neither of the central characters can be described as a mouse – spy drama strode confidently back onto the small screen on Sunday with season two’s first episode ‘Do You Know How to Dispose of a Body?

Keeping hype and momentum during a break in seasons is never easy, but with a steady drip of promotional clips, images and a staggering amount of press tours from its stars Sandra Oh and Jodie Comer, the waiting never felt laborious.

The episode opens just 30 seconds after the season one finale, which saw Villanelle (Jodie Comer) flee her apartment after being stabbed by Eve (Sandra Oh). Jumping right back in, we see Eve descend the spiral staircase, bloody knife in one hand and handbag in the other. The symbolism isn’t lost, it’s fitting that Eve is quite literally coming down to Villanelle’s level, truly falling from grace in a manner just as bloody as her counterpart.

The throbbing and enigmatic music of Unloved plays over the top, crooning “It’s not you, it’s me” as Eve evades the so called ‘Cleaners’ of The Twelve who are seeking Villanelle. Within minutes we already have our first fatality, as Villanelle’s elderly neighbor is shot swiftly and professionally as Eve gasps for breath, trying to retain some semblance of calm before leaving the building.

Villanelle Slats

Jodie Comer in Killing Eve Season 2 (2019) – source: Aimee Spinks, BBC

The Devil is in the Details

The details in this show are immaculate and nothing is amiss. The camera follows Eve out of the building, focusing for a second on a slatted entryway, where we cannot see Villanelle, but we can feel her presence. Moments later there’s a ‘blink and you’ll miss it’ flash of Villanelle’s signature Molly Goddard tulle dress that became synonymous with Villanelle’s dichotomy of feminine style and brutal actions, dumped unceremoniously into a bin bag and tossed into the back of a van. Is this the death of Villanelle as we know it? A figurative one as opposed to a literal death?

Weakened by her wounds, Villanelle winds up in hospital, once again manipulating those around her with ease as she lies to the doctor to stop him from contacting the police, before asking for a Lollipop. This small interaction results in the doctor remarking that the sweets are “normally reserved for children” to which Villanelle looks crestfallen, near pouting before exclaiming “Oh… stickers!” as she spies a pot full that say “Superb!”. In the next scene, she is in fact wearing said sticker and happily sucking on a lollipop whilst discussing her plans to visit her “girlfriend” in London to a boy in the bed next to her. So perhaps not quite the end of Villanelle as we know her, her strange childlike tendencies clearly still in tact.

Villanelle asleep hospital

Jodie Comer in Killing Eve Season 2 (2019) – source: Parisa Taghizadeh, BBC America

Meanwhile, Eve is travelling back to the UK, but not before being mistaken for an addict in a bar. This isn’t a million miles away from the truth, in fact there’s a strong argument to be made that Eve is undoubtedly an addict. Her addiction is Villanelle, but that’s rather reductive, it’s more that she’s addicted to the chase, the thrill of hunting down murderous women and knowing them more intimately than anyone else. That’s why this scene works. It’s like an inside joke, the audience and everyone in the show sees that she’s addicted to Villanelle, to assassins, to murder, to the chase. Everyone except Eve, the person who has the problem.

This is called out most openly by Niko. Eve’s phone is incessantly ringing on the edge of the bathtub, the caller displaying ‘Carolyn Martens’. Niko implores “Don’t.” referring to Eve answering the phone, but also implicitly to Eve re-entering the world of MI6 to which she replies “I have to.” as Niko exits the bathroom. That’s their relationship in one scene, Eve cannot help but be pulled into it, she wants to be in it, consistently shunning the humdrum of everyday life. Carolyn even later says to Eve to stop her false protestations telling her to “Save that for your husband, tell him I forced you to do it to make it easier”.

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Sandra Oh in Killing Eve Season 2 (2019) – source: Aimee Spinks, BBC

Should I Stay or Should I Go?

The juxtaposition of Eve’s warring natures, the one that craves stability and the one that thrives on high octane thrills, are central to this episode. Upon arrival back in her London flat, we see Eve first call a hospital in Paris, inquiring after patients with stab wounds before maniacally chopping vegetables whilst singing to ‘Kids In America‘, chugging wine as she goes with a frantic energy. This incessant need for normalcy is pervasive for Eve, as she later stays on the phone to Armando, a window salesman. Her life is spiraling beyond her control and she’s clinging on harder than ever to the monotony of her life.

Yet an inevitable meeting with Carolyn quickly dispels any hopes of a return to her mundane existence. Eve is swiftly recruited back into the MI6 and asked to identify the cause of death of a recent victim. Of course in true Killing Eve style, this death is ruminated over with burgers and beers in hand, apparently “The smell of formaldehyde makes you crave meat”.

If Eve’s involvement in this episode is largely acting as the plot driver, Villanelle is undoubtedly the comic relief. In her quest to recuperate yet leave the hospital as quickly as possible to avoid alerting The Twelve of her whereabouts we see her balk at the prospect of wearing Crocs, the humor just as potent in the episode despite having seen this in a short teaser clip.

Villanelle’s sidekick for this episode, her bed neighbor Gabriel allows for her to flex her deadpan and clipped humor.

You’re funny.” Gabriel remarks “Yes, I am funny.” she replies with no hint of irony.

If there was any concern as to the handing over of the reigns to Emerald Fennell, they died around the same time that Gabriel did, at Villanelle’s hands. For a second, I truly believed Villanelle was empathizing. His sudden death reiterates the point that Killing Eve still has the power to surprise, is still toying with the viewers expectations and subverting them whenever and wherever possible.

Villanelle hospital

Pierre Atri and Jodie Comer in Killing Eve Season 2 (2019) – source: Parisa Taghizadeh, BBC America

Nice and Neat

In summation, we have Eve back in London, rehired by Carolyn Martens to continue tracking down assassins for MI6. Yes, plural, Villanelle is no longer the only assassin on Eve’s radar.

Villanelle is stowed away in the back of the car of a family of English holidaymakers headed from Calais to the UK, gazing wistfully upwards in the dark, with a glint of excitement in her eyes as she heads steadily back towards Eve.

Entering into the rest of the season, Carolyn and Eve’s showdown in the morgue will become more prescient. Those questions that were flung at each other may just prove to be the most ubiquitous of the season, reading like an objective list for this season, mapping out and signposting to the viewer where we’re going and what we’re – hopefully – going to find out by the end of it. Hey, if not, then there’s always season 3 to answer our questions.

Killing Eve will return next year for a third season and it is set to air in the UK starting June 8th on BBC One.

MISSING LINK: Laika Pushes Stop-Motion Animation Even Further

While they may not have the name recognition of acclaimed, powerhouse studios like Pixar or Studio Ghibli,  there’s few production houses more dedicated to the art of animation than Laika. The stop-motion dream factory’s output is understandably sparse, as they put years of painstaking work into what some consider a needlessly intricate, dying form of animation. They consistently prove that notion false. Three of their first four films (CoralineParaNorman, and Kubo and the Two Strings)are dizzying, joyous masterpieces that became instant animated classics not only because of their distinct visual style but also the intimate, complex stories at their core.

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Zach Galifianakis in Missing Link (2019) – source: United Artists Releasing

Missing Link, the newest film from Laika and ParaNorman director Chris Butler, represents an evolution from what we’ve come to know with the company’s previous works. It’s an ambitious, often jaw-dropping exercise in pushing the limits of stop-motion scale and methodology, filled with sets and details that are bigger and more elaborate than anything they’ve pulled off before. On the other hand, this is a Laika story that’s far more simplistic in its premise, charming and breezy – but noticeably less layered.

Framed almost like a classic adventure serial,  the film follows the obsessive and eccentric Sir Lionel Frost (Hugh Jackman), a self-proclaimed cryptid hunter who is desperate to win the approval of the exploration community. After an attempt to capture footage of the Loch Ness monster goes awry, Frost vows to prove himself once and for all by providing proof of the existence of the mythical Sasquatch. Following a lead from a mysterious letter, he travels to America and discovers the beast (Zach Galifiankis), only to find he’s not at all the monster he expected: the furry behemoth is fully capable of speech, can read, and in fact wrote the letter that brought Frost to him in the first place. The creature, who Frost names Mr. Link, is a lonely soul looking to seek out his Yeti brethren in the Himalayas. Enamored with the idea of earning the acceptance he desires through discovering not only the Sasquatch but an entire of civilization of ancient beings, Frost agrees to help Link find the mythical home of the yetis: Shangri-La.

From there, the film essentially evolves into your standard road trip buddy comedy, with much of the humor coming from the stuffy Frost’s lack of patience with the often bumbling, nervous Mr. Link. It’s a premise noticeably lacking the gutsy originality of other Laika offerings, but that’s not to say the set-up doesn’t have its merits. The road movie concept allows the animators to go wild creating an dazzling array of different sets, from an ocean liner caught in an intense storm to the lush jungles of India. The gorgeous production design and the cinematic eye that Butler has for filming them is nothing if not a triumphant proof of concept that shows just how far stop-motion animation has come since The Nightmare Before Christmas pushed the art form into the mainstream.

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Hugh Jackman and Zach Galifianakis in Missing Link (2019) – source: United Artists Releasing

Despite the simpler story and the obvious focus on technical craft, there’s still plenty of timely themes to be found in Butler’s script, namely its surprisingly apt condemnations of colonialism and imperialism. Frost’s rival, the tantrum-throwing Lord Piggett-Dunceby (Stephen Fry), is characterized as a damning portrait of the evils of cultural destruction. His violent, jealous attempts to thwart Frost’s discovery, largely through his employment of a ruthless bounty hunter (Timothy Olyphant), represents an intelligent lesson on the stagnation of progress so often posed by men of power. It’s an appropriate and moral route for the film to take, one that reminds you the creators at Laika are fully aware of the ethical responsibility they have when creating films for children and adults alike.

It’s a pity that the whole script wasn’t given the same fine-tooth combing as its anti-imperialist themes, as the film’s major flaws lie in its routine structure, dry humor, and sometimes poor characterization. The story never really goes in a direction you don’t expect it to, merely moving from set-piece to set-piece with the the hopes that the beautiful animation will distract you from the minimal plot. In addition to the animation, the comedic elements are being asked to do a lot of work here and a lot of the jokes don’t land as strongly as intended. Jackman and Galifianakis do some great voice work and their obvious enthusiasm for the material allows for some of the jokes to shine, but largely the breezy humor is simply passable despite so much weight being placed on it. Most egregious is the wasting of Zoe Salanda’s Adelina Fortnight, a fellow adventurer of Frost’s who is steeped deeply in old-fashioned gender politics and exists largely to be rescued by Frost and provide romantic tension.

While all these script failings detract from what could have been another Laika classic, Missing Link is nevertheless an eye-popping little charmer that makes up for its lack of narrative ambition with a beautifully realized world that never fails to fill you with wonder. It may not stand the test of time as a must-see moment in animation history, but it does serve as an important stepping stone for whatever crazy passion project Laika comes up with next.

KNIFE+HEART: Murder and Camp in the World of Gay Porn

Yann Gonzalez’s queer thriller delivers on scares, laughs and introspection.

Knife+Heart makes it clear early on that it is not a film for the faint of heart. Before the title card is even thrusted onto the screen, the audience is forced to watch a masked killer lure a young porn star to sleep with him at a gay club, and then stab him in the ass with a Macgyvered knife-dildo. The attack sets the tone for Yann Gonzalez’s queer thriller, one that gives it room to have fun with the ridiculousness of its camp while also examining the complexities of voyeurism, queer identity and the politics of space.

Set in the summer of 1979, Knife+Heart follows Anne (Vanessa Paradis), a low rate gay porn producer in Paris. After her relationship with her editor Lois (Kate Moran) has soured, Anne tries to win her back by making her greatest film yet. The only problem is that Karl (Bastien Waultier), one of Anne’s actors, was the one murdered by the masked killer.

Instead of mourning, Anne uses this tragedy to her advantage and makes it the plot of her next film. The film cuts from a real interrogation about Karl’s murder to an outrageous parody of the exact event, trading the detective taking notes for one that thrusts his hard cock on to a typewriter.

One of the most mesmerizing parts of Knife+Heart is how both the porn and the murders feed into one another. As the production continues, the cast continues to drop like flies in gruesome ways almost all starting with acts of gay sex or desire and Anne continues to use it as inspiration for the film, ironically titled Homo Cidal.

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Knife+Heart (2019) – source: Altered Innocence

The real horror of Knife+Heart is not just the murders, but how those murders disrupt the safety of queer people, and more specifically queer sex workers, from within their own spaces. In queer theory and culture, the idea of space is inherently political. As queer people, we are pushed to the underground the thumping music, the flashing lights, the cruising, the flagging and the sweaty expressions of public intimacy. This is the home that our ancestors have built for us one that allows us to feel safe to experiment and indulge in our sexualities without shame from the outside world.

This is exemplified in a scene where Lois dances into a crowded dance floor at a gay nightclub. The camera tracks her slowly as she approaches a woman to dance and make out with, underscored by loud techno music and drenched in strobing neon light. She’s visibly confident, she feels sexy and she doesn’t hold back her desires.

When it comes to queer intimacy and expression, we still live in a culture of shame. We repress our desires to be more palatable to others haunted by not acting upon them or punished for when we do. Instead, we take to the nightclubs and the leather and the colored handkerchiefs to be who we are freely and without shame.

So it hits that much harder when those spaces are infiltrated, when queer life is taken away in what was supposed to be a refuge. Even though there are police officers on the case, it’s not seen as a priority because the victims are queer sex workers. As the mystery surrounding the killer expertly unravels itself, that real-life horror is exponentially emphatic.

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Knife+Heart (2019) – source: Altered Innocence

In addition to being a queer thriller, Knife+Heart is also a voyeur’s dream. Because it’s a film about a film, there is always an additional layer of watching that’s added to the experience. Yes, the audience sees the film being made, but they also see what happens when the cameras are off which makes it feel that much more intimate.

In the beginning, Anne looks through a peephole in her office to watch Lois edit. Anne is watching Lois, but she’s also watching Lois watch the film. Throughout the film, the killer is always shown watching his victims from afar before he goes for the kill. It feels reminiscent of Laura Mulvey’s concept of “the gaze,” in which men are the ones who look while women are the objects that are looked at.

The gaze is fundamentally about ownership and consumption, especially in regards to patriarchal power dynamics in cinema. Even though the gaze is traditionally a heterosexual concept, it can be implemented on queer media texts like Knife+Heart.

There is an unequal power dynamic between the killer and his victims, and he looks at them in a way that fuels his desire to exert his power over them. He knows he has the power and wants to relish in it, to see them squirm. With Anne, she also wants to maintain power over Lois in some way to mend their broken relationship. She’s so fueled by jealousy and emotion that she makes Lois feel powerless, making their relationship unhealthy and unequal.

Knife+Heart is proof that a film can mix humor and heavy themes with ease. It equally delivers on scares and laughs, and it is impossible to look away as the mystery unfolds. Complemented with expert sound design and cinematography, the thematic range of Knife+Heart makes it a film unlike anything else out there.

NOCTURNAL ANIMALS: The Devil is in the Details

Do you ever forget how to breathe? Most days it’s easy; you breathe in and you breathe out, and you repeat that same mundane act, every day, nonstop. What about those days that breathing ceases to be a natural occurrence? What about that day that someone left, dead or alive, or that day that you panicked and walked away? That day that you were vulnerable in some way or another, and you felt you were the center of attention all alone.  

After the opening credits of Tom Ford’s Nocturnal Animals come to an end, there’s only one thing we can hear: Susan Morrow (Amy Adams) taking deep breaths as the hours pass during an opening night at her gallery. It’s evident that Susan is struggling with something. Inside the gallery’s artificial white world, she can no longer find meaning in life. Everything is ‘junk’ and her acquaintances revel in it as if it were something profound. With everyone else gone, Susan sits beside the art she displayed. The visual message is clear: Susan feels as dead as the woman behind her.

Nocturnal Animals (2016) – source: IMDb

As if it were perfectly timed, Edward Sheffield’s (Jake Gyllenhaal) manuscript arrives to awaken her from a slumber; an awakening orchestrated by Edward to direct Susan in a specific emotional state so as to execute his revenge plot. It should be noted here that Susan reading his novel is the most vital part of his plan; if she doesn’t experience his narrative, every other part will be rendered pointless. Hence, Edward purposefully leaves breadcrumbs for Susan throughout his novel so as to trigger specific memories that will lead her into a specific emotional space. This will allow him to manipulate her into believing that he still loves her; only then will he be able to crash her in the end.

Edward’s first precautions work as bait to lure Susan and ensure that she won’t ignore his novel. He names the book Nocturnal Animals, for instance, knowing that she’ll remember he used to call her that due to her insomnia. He then leaves a note in the package using carefully selected key words to intrigue her:

It’s different from the kind of things I was writing when we were together. In the end, you left me with the inspiration that I needed to write from the heart. I wanted you to be the first to read it, so I’m sending along a proof. I will be in L.A. until Wednesday on business and it would be good to see you after so long.

The use of diction here has a passive aggressive undertone, but it also emulates a sense of nostalgia. Susan’s curiosity has undoubtedly been aroused at this point, but there’s also a lot of confusion. Edward has to give her one final push in order to tip the scales.

His last and strongest idea is the dedication; those two words, ‘for Susan,’ set his master plan in motion. Dedicating a book or any form of art to anyone is a confession of love and appreciation. In this case, it can even be perceived as an act of forgiveness; an olive branch, if you will. Susan lingering in the dedication page and running her fingers over her name is indicative of her entrapment. Edward has successfully seduced her into reading the novel, and there is no going back.

Nocturnal Animals (2016) – source: IMDb

Edward’s next step is to strategically construct characters that will function as stand-ins for the family he could have had with Susan, if she hadn’t gone through with an abortion. Accordingly, his story includes Laura (Isla Fisher) and India Hastings (Ellie Bamber) both of which have red hair, like Susan, and Tony Hastings (Jake Gyllenhaal) who is cast by Susan as Edward. Even if it’s not obvious from the beginning, Edward writes a story about himself. Thus, creating a protagonist that shares characteristics with him lets Susan know, even if she’s not consciously aware of it, that this is a story based on real life events, or in this case, emotions.

Appropriately, the fact that Laura Hastings represents Susan isn’t manifested on the superficial level of hair color alone; Edward goes deeper and subtler. Laura is ‘the boss’ of the family, Tony says, and the scene momentarily cuts to Susan flinching. The audience is unaware of it at this point, but Susan was more of a dominant figure during her relationship with Edward. Susan is annoyed because being ‘the boss,’ on a subconscious level, points to her controlling and domineering attitude towards the end of their short-lived marriage. While in the beginning of their relationship Susan embraces every aspect of Edward, later on she abandons him for the ‘handsome and dashing’ Hutton Morrow, (Armie Hammer) or more accurately for his social status and everything it entails.

Ironically, Susan chooses everything that is connected to that ‘antiquated idea’ her mother supported regarding how her life should be; a lifestyle which Susan used to despise as the adjective ‘antiquated’ connotes. Cunningly enough, Edward expresses his bitterness over Susan’s choice indirectly through Ray’s (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) comments: “You think you’re better than us? Fucking uppity rich bitch. I’ll teach you a fucking thing or two.” Undoubtedly, Edward teaches Susan a lesson even if, unlike Ray, he never goes near Susan in the present; he teaches that lesson through his writing.

Nocturnal Animals (2016) – source: IMDb

While in her early 20s, Susan defines Edward’s artistic inclination and writing as bravery, and she eventually perceives it as an unrealistic dream. This clash between the realist/romantic binary is initially presented during a dinner Susan shares with her mother, Anne Sutton, (Laura Linney) in the past. This conflict takes a visual manifestation as well by taking the form of the black/white and minimalist/ornate binaries as it is demonstrated in the image above. For Susan, Edward is ‘sensitive,’ someone who has the strength to ‘believe in himself,’ which is a quality she admires. For her mother, on the other hand, Edward is ‘weak,’ ‘fragile,’ and a ‘romantic.’ He is a man that doesn’t abide by high society standards because as she states, ‘he’s not [Susan’s] equal.’ All these characteristics are bestowed on Edward, therefore, due to his un-befitting social background and his lack of ambition to gain some influence at the present moment; he has no value, as her parents define it, and he never will.

Even if she’s initially appalled by these ideas, Susan eventually internalizes her mother’s views. This is demonstrated in another flashback during which Susan reads part of Edward’s novel. Back then she rejects his art, the very thing she’s now immersed in, because it can’t provide her the esteem she eventually needs. Just like her mother, she calls him ‘romantic,’ with the same condescending tone, and therefore communicates the fact that she doesn’t believe in him. “What? Is this it, Edward?” she asks, and Edward’s reply “You sound like your mother,” is the undeniable truth. Sitting on a red velvet couch, Susan neither understands nor accepts Edward anymore, and for him that’s nothing short of betrayal.

Appropriately, Tony finds the naked and lifeless bodies of his wife and daughter on a red velvet couch in the middle of nowhere. The red couch is where Tony, and therefore Edward, lost everything. In the ‘Making of Nocturnal Animals’ video, Tom Ford claims that the red couch is significant because it conveys how Susan belittling Edward’s writing ‘burned into his mind as a horrible moment where this woman didn’t understand him.’ It’s no coincidence that Susan starts remembering her life with Edward after the red couch is included into the story; it actually demonstrates Edward’s extensive knowledge of her.

Nocturnal Animals (2016) – source: IMDb

It goes without saying, therefore, that Edward succeeds, and Susan goes to that dinner date completely entranced by him. But, now it’s his turn to abandon her. Edward never shows up because only in his absence can Susan learn her lesson. As Edward said all those years back “When you love someone, you work it out. You don’t just throw it away. You have to be careful with it. You might never get it again.” Edward is arguing that people aren’t disposable. But Susan not only threw him away, she also threw away their child, and Edward can’t forgive that. The novel isn’t a peace offering, but a tool created with the sole purpose to destroy her. After all, she gets a paper cut by merely trying to open it, and by the end of it she is meticulously led to the devastating reality that he won.

Overall, Nocturnal Animals is a cleverly executed thriller that flawlessly connects the dots and creates a beautiful whole. The same can be said of Edward. Although spending 19 years to perfect a revenge plot can definitely be termed as obsessive and unhealthy, there is no denying that he handled the whole situation with awe inspiring Machiavellian precision. After all, his choice of medium is brilliant not only because it’s the very thing Susan told him that he would never achieve, but also because it gives him the ideal amount of distance he needs to express his contempt without ruining his plans. Accordingly, Edward’s final move is a strategically unexpected checkmate.  

THE BEST OF ENEMIES: Another Racial Drama Elevated by Leads

It’s no longer a surprise that every year we get at least one drama about race relations that carries the “based on a true story” tag with it. Last year saw two of them reach the Oscar stage being the unflinching BlacKkKlansman and the light-hearted Green Book. The latter film pulled the big upset of the evening by taking home the Best Picture trophy. In The Best of Enemies, they try to have the best of both worlds by showing an ugly side of racism in the South while maintaining an accessible PG-13 rating. This balancing act, unfortunately, isn’t always successful in the movie’s case.

The Best of Enemies (2019) – source: IMDb

The movie follows two polar opposites in the early 70s coming together to make a big decision about school integration. On one side is Ann Atwater, an outspoken civil rights activist in Durham, North Carolina. On the other side is C.P. Ellis, the leader of the local chapter of the Ku Klux Klan. We’re introduced to these two people doing their respective work. He’s running a Klan meeting while she’s at town hall making a statement about living situations for African-Americans.

An electric fire at an all black school breaks out and leaves the kids almost a full year behind in class. It shows holes broken in the windows where the fire starts, but it’s never confirmed that the Klan is behind it. This action forces Ann Atwater to fight for not only her kids, but all the kids who attended that school. The committee is composed of an even number of Caucasian citizens and African-American citizens, with Atwater representing the latter and Ellis representing the former.

The Best of Enemies (2019) – source: IMDb

There aren’t many surprises in The Best of Enemies. The movie was written and directed by Robin Bissell, who was an executive producer on films like the first Hunger Games movie, Free State of Jones, and the Oscar nominated Seabiscuit. But what surprised me was, even for the genre, it lacked nuance. When Atwater is at a city council meeting, one of the councilmen turns his chair around whenever she comes up to speak. While these actions may be common in these types of movies, it felt very forced in the script. Whenever a moment comes that could bring more depth to the character, it’s replaced by montages set to music of the time. Local members of the Klan use intimidation tactics towards a local woman to make her vote against integration, among them are grabbing her by her genitals.

What makes the movie watchable are the two leads. Taraji P. Henson plays Atwater, sporting what I could only assume are prosthetics borrowed from Tyler Perry’s Madea ensemble. She never waivers throughout the movie, and remains determined that she will be the one to make change happen in the town of Durham, along with other African-American citizens.

The Best of Enemies (2019) – source: IMDb

Sam Rockwell, meanwhile, plays C.P. Ellis in a role that’s fairly similar to his Oscar-winning performance in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. Here, however, he benefits from a more natural character arc. We’re introduced to his family, a wife and three kids. Then we’re introduced to his other son who is blind and mute, residing in a hospital. The few scenes of him in the hospital with his son bring out a lot of development to his character, showing why he acts the way he acts. Even his wife isn’t so sure about Ellis’ racist ways, saying that turning down African-Americans at a gas station isn’t good for business.

In my mind (feel free to disagree with me on this one), there are two ways to make a drama about race, and they don’t exactly have to follow the model of last year’s race dramas mentioned earlier in this review. But The Best of Enemies tries to push the envelope, trying to transcend its comparisons to Green Book by showing scenes that would be more suited for Spike Lee’s movie. It’s this indecision that causes it to fall flat most of the time, but it gets somewhat salvaged by the performances of Henson and Rockwell. I didn’t like this as much as I did Green Book, but I don’t blame the actors at all. I blame the script for not trying hard enough.

THE HIGHWAYMEN: A Pursuit Not Worth the Chase

In 1967, Hollywood was shaken up by a number of bold films that would compete against each other at the Oscars. Among them was Arthur Penn’s Bonnie and Clyde, starring Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway about the titular robbers who became nationwide sensations before being brutally gunned down on May 23, 1934. The movie’s depiction of violence would become a game changer in the industry and cemented the two bank robbers in pop culture history.

Twenty years later, Hollywood would come out with one of my favorite movies in the form of Brian De Palma’s The Untouchables, starring Kevin Costner as Bureau of Prohibition agent Eliot Ness in a quest to take down Al Capone. In the movie, Ness had a team of other “Untouchables” working alongside him, including Sean Connery and Andy Garcia. The former would go on to win an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor.

I bring these two movies up because when you combine them, you get The Highwaymen, a crime drama that’s dialogue heavy but low on action or interest. The movie comes from John Lee Hancock, who you may remember for some other “based on a true story” movies including The Blind SideSaving Mr. Banks, and The Founder. In this one, Hancock takes on the story of two Texas Rangers assigned with taking down Bonnie and Clyde.

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The Highwaymen (2019) – source: Netflix

Costner plays Frank Hamer, who reunites with his former partner Maney Gault, played by Woody Harrelson, to investigate and figure out where the two lovers are heading next. Along the way, they get help from J. Edgar Hoover and the FBI that aids them in their search. Costner and Harrelson have good chemistry in the movie, both playing aging detectives who both feel they may be in the “too old for this shit” age, but it doesn’t stop them from moving forward.

Anyone who goes in wanting to learn more about Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow will be disappointed. The two lovers barely have any screen time in the 132 minute run time and the most screen time they have is towards the end shortly before they’re killed. The movie assumes that the viewer has done research on the lovers before going into the movie, whether it’s reading a book or seeing its predecessor. Anyone who goes into this blind will feel a sense of detachment from the pursuit. There’s a scene in the movie where Costner goes to an auto shop to talk to Clyde’s father, who insists that his son was a good kid until the police started hounding him over a stolen chicken. It’s hard to believe, not because it’s a father defending his own flesh and blood, but because the film doesn’t want to focus on Bonnie and Clyde outside of this chase.

MV5BMjM2NDg5NjQzMV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMzMyNzI5NjM@._V1_SY1000_SX1500_AL_
The Highwaymen (2019) – source: Netflix

The Highwaymen is a dialogue heavy movie. There’s plenty of drawn out conversations between Harrelson and Costner which, as I mentioned before, is mostly engaging and reveals a lot about their respective characters. Their interactions with other characters, however, seemed uninteresting to me only because the movie didn’t want to focus on anyone else besides its two leads. When they come across someone who knew Bonnie and Clyde as kids, he says that there was a connection, but it’s never felt.

In the end, The Highwaymen benefits from its two leads and attention to detail in the investigation, but that same attention to detail is what brings it down. If some more liberties were taken with the screenplay, as well as some more focus on who is being pursued, it may make for a more exciting movie. While I do recommend it, I would rather watch Bonnie and Clyde again for the titular story, or The Untouchables again if I was in the mood for Costner taking down a big shot criminal.

LOGAN: The Duality of Brutality

With a perturbed groan, James wakes up to the clangs and exclamations of an uninvited clamor. He stumbles out of the car, swearing under his breath as he does, to unwelcome guests – someone’s trying to steal his rims again. He tries diplomacy; perhaps these men, crude as they appear, can be reasoned with, firmly yet politely deterred from his path. They laugh, and proceed to pump a few ounces of lead in his chest. With an exasperated sigh – born of general weariness, and the repetitious nature of what he’s about to do – James rises.

Normally, the wounds would’ve healed by now, and he’d have sliced their throats and severed their limbs far sooner. But he’s older now, and nothing works as fast as it used to; a half-hearted stumble will have to suffice. He tries diplomacy once more – no dice. These men don’t know who they’ve chosen to trifle with tonight; had they educated themselves on the weapons that reside between his knuckles, perhaps they would’ve chosen another car. He doesn’t want to bring out the claws again, but they’ve left him no choice.

Logan (2017) – source: IMDb

With 2017’s Logan, a masterful deconstruction of the hero and the mythological foundations on which they’re built, James Mangold and co. delivered unto the world one of cinema’s finest offerings to date in the CBM sub-genre. Hot on the heels of Deadpool‘s record-breaking exercise in R-rated trailblazing, The Wolverine was finally awarded the platform to slice and dice as his creators would have intended. However, there was a catch – Hugh Jackman’s latest foray into the personality of James Howlett would double as his farewell, a reveal that broke hearts and invoked tears around the world. Over the seventeen years and nine feature-length films Jackman had assumed the mantle of Wolverine, the line separating the personalities grew more foggy with each new expedition, until the two men eventually morphed into a shared identity; in other words, Hugh Jackman and The Wolverine are inseparable.

Logan‘s arrival to the silver screen was a touchdown of kaleidoscopic implications; not only would audiences be treated to one hell of a victory lap in Hugh Jackman’s final outing as the snarling meta-human, but they would finally receive a grisly limb-slasher that comic enthusiasts had both come to adore, and primarily associate with the character. However, that doesn’t mean James Mangold’s exercises in jaw-clenching gore are purely theater. While his opus can assuredly be satisfactorily consumed at face value, one simple choice, paramount in thematic relevance, elevates this redemptive odyssey from an eternally re-watchable action romp, to that of a deeply evocative character study, rivalling that of PTA’s There Will Be Blood and Dan Gilroy’s Nightcrawler.

Logan (2017) – source: IMDb

In a thematic checkmate of subtle brilliance, Mangold does away with the X-Men‘s tendency to glorify Wolverine’s iconic snikt!, and instead opts for demonizing the auditory cue for destruction altogether. Whereas the appearance of Adamantium is generally posed as an avenue for eventual victory, Logan instead posits that its cameos merely delay the inevitable, often inviting further physical decay and misfortune on the characters’ travels to Eden. Such is the tragic poetry of the narrative — while its eventualities are all achieved organically, they all feel predetermined.

For the sake of dispelling analogous opacity, I harken back to Revenge of the Sith, particularly the saga-defining duel between Anakin and Obi-Wan. By that point in the film, the viewer knows what must happen in order for A New Hope to be canonically plausible: the infant Sith must fall to his former mentor, giving way to his transition into the masked menace we all know and loathe. Likewise, every grunt, swear and perforation uttered and executed by Logan inches him even closer to demise. The film opens on a disgruntled has-been living on borrowed time, and its conclusion sees The Reaper cashing in on his negative balance – if you ask me, cinema doesn’t get more Shakespearean than that.

In the wake of Disney’s acquisition of 20th Century Fox – a finalization of which sent the film world spinning and set my Twitter timeline ablaze – it’s tough to know whether or not we may ever see a film quite like Logan again. After all, the almighty Mouse has a proclivity for softening up his properties to maximize potential turnouts; here’s to hoping the future proves me wrong.

UNICORN STORE: Being Yourself Isn’t Something You Have to Give Up

Brie Larson’s feature-length directorial debut has been long anticipated. First premiering at Toronto International Film Festival in September 2017, Netflix only picked up the distribution rights to Unicorn Store in January 2019. The film follows Kit (Larson), a failed artist who moves back in with her parents (Joan Cusack and Bradley Whitford), and gets a job at a temp agency after feeling like a disappointment. Kit starts receiving mysterious letters from The Salesman (Samuel L. Jackson), inviting her to The Store which sells “what you need“. He offers Kit the chance to fulfill her childhood dream of owning a real unicorn.

Unicorn Store, written by newcomer Samantha McIntyre, offers an original and bizarre script which likely wouldn’t have been made without the interest from Larson. It’s a realistic portrayal of a struggling young adult mixed in with elements of pure fantasy. This combination doesn’t always work, but it makes for a fun and quirky watch. Unlikely to resonate with older people, the film speaks mostly to millennials who feel lost during their transition from college student to fully functioning adult.

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Unicorn Store (2017) – source: Netflix

After failing art school, we see Kit laying on the couch, watching television all day and feeling sorry for herself. She catches advertisements that highlight exactly how she feels: “You don’t want to be a great disappointment, do you?” the advert teases. This is an all too familiar feeling for many, which inspires Kit to get a mundane office job. Sadly, she packs away any remains of her exuberant personality, including her teddy bears (who she asks “You guys still like me, right?“) and her colorful, eccentric clothing.

Kit’s personality usually oozes out of her, but the following morning she appears in front of her camp counselor parents wearing a grey suit. She announces that she’ll be having “Grapefruit, flax-seeds and coffee” for breakfast. It’s satirical of real life and when her dad reveals that she doesn’t like coffee, she says: “That was old Kit and she didn’t try hard enough to like things that are disgusting.” This is a fun but sad piece of dialogue as it offers insight into how people view adulthood. Doing things you don’t like is often said to be part of life, but for those who feel like they cannot possibly cope in a dull, dead-end job, it can feel disheartening. Maybe you’re just not trying hard enough to like it? 

Even at her temp job, Kit can’t fully suppress her inner child when she starts photocopying her hand into black and white scans, instead of the pastel colors she’s used to. When her boss asks what her long-term goals are, she replies: “Uh, I would like to not be a great disappointment,” echoing what the television told her. Before she has time to really grow up, she receives a mysterious letter from The Salesman.

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Samuel L. Jackson and Brie Larson in Unicorn Store (2017) – source: Netflix

Jackson is great in his role as the enigmatic salesman. When we first see him, he’s wearing a bright pink suit with glasses to match – definitely attire that Kit would approve of. He seems like the prefect balance of childish and mature, as he owns a business but still declares his love for ice cream. He’s everything that appeals to Kit. In an interview with USA Today, Jackson revealed that he “kind of begged [Larson] to be in the movie” and he definitely delivers.

In order to get a unicorn, Kit has to prove she’s ready by completing three tasks. The Salesman tells her she needs to make a home, offer unconditional love and also provide a positive living environment (which includes patching things up with her parents). Even though these are the prerequisites for owning a unicorn, they also serve as Kit’s transition into adulthood as she learns about having real responsibilities and working towards a goal.

The film doesn’t feel the need to always be on Kit’s side as she goes on her character journey. This is seen through her interactions with her parents and Virgil (Mamoudou Athie), her love interest, who she hires to build her unicorn’s stable. Either unwilling or unable to grow up, Kit often doesn’t appreciate her parents and treats them akin to a how a moody teenager would. At one point, she says “I don’t know how to be a grownup,” and this is partly because she still sees herself a disappointment in their eyes. 

Virgil can also see that Kit tends to be living inside her own bubble most of the time, which fits perfectly with the coming-of-age themes that Unicorn Store explores. It sucks when you can’t do something you really want to do, and in Kit’s case it was being an artist and living life outside of the box. Confined to her office job, she is still determined to work hard in order to get her unicorn; a magical creature who will love her forever.

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Bradley Whitford and Joan Cusack in Unicorn Store (2017) – Source: Netflix

The script is a mixture of strong and weak moments, but still remains entertaining throughout. The cast is one of the film’s main attractions and it’s unlikely Unicorn Store would’ve worked so well without them and Larson’s vision as a director. They all deserved better material to work with, but they each excel with what they’ve been given. Larson especially brings Kit’s colorful and demanding personality to life, whilst Cusack and Whitford are absolute treasures. Athie is also another highlight with his character’s more muted personality balancing out Kit’s.

Unicorn Store has a lot of heart and many important messages, which work well if you don’t over-think them. The most striking lesson is delivered by Kit’s mum who tells her: “The most grownup thing you can do is fail at things you really care about,” which is an extremely comforting takeaway. It’s reassuring to know that being yourself isn’t something you have to give up in order to be an adult: it’s just about finding balance and not being afraid to fail and try again, which is exactly what Kit realizes at the end.

Unicorn Store is currently available to stream on Netflix.

Top 10 Modern Scream Queens

The term ‘Scream Queen’ refers to actresses who are associated with the horror genre, either through recurring roles or one significant performance. Jamie Lee Curtis is regularly regarded as the ultimate Scream Queen and is usually who people first think of when they hear the term. Known mostly for her role as Laurie Strode in the Halloween franchise, Curtis has appeared in countless horror films since the 70s and has more than earned her title her reigning Scream Queen.

Having been around during the transition from silent film to ‘talkies’, Fay Wray is often credited with being the first ever Scream Queen. Her character in King Kong in 1933 spent a good portion of the film shrieking in terror, which has become a staple of the trope (but isn’t a requirement). Barbara Steele is also another example of an earlier Scream Queen, known for starring in many giallo films during the 60s and 70s, including Mario Bava’s classic, Black Sunday.

The 70s through to the early 80s saw the rise of the slasher sub-genre, which is a key period for Scream Queens. Olivia Hussey became one through her portrayal of Jess Bradford in Black Christmas, which is one of the films credited with the creation of the genre alongside Halloween. After Halloween, Curtis continued into the 80s starring in films like The Fog, Prom Night and Terror Train (all from 1980). Not to mention Heather Langenkamp as Nancy Thompson in A Nightmare on Elm Street, which launched her career as a Scream Queen.

The resurrection of the slasher film came with Wes Craven’s Scream in 1996, which was self-aware of horror film tropes (much like his Elm Street series). This gave Neve Campbell the title of Scream Queen with her notable performance as Sidney Prescott. But what about today? Whilst slasher films aren’t as popular, the horror genre is still thriving across both film and television. Let’s take a look at the most noteworthy Scream Queens of the current decade.

SARAH PAULSON

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American Horror Story: Roanoke (2016) – source: IMDb

Although she began acting in the mid-90s, Sarah Paulson didn’t become a Scream Queen until she started appearing in Ryan Murphy’s highly successful anthology series, American Horror Story. Paulson began as a guest star in the first season, but was bumped up to series regular from season two onward. With eight seasons so far, Paulson is known for shrieking loudly in every single one, along with portraying some of the series’ most iconic characters.

Fan favourites include Lana Winters (AHS: Asylum), a journalist who was committed to an asylum in the 60s for being a lesbian, and Cordelia Foxx (AHS: Coven), a powerful witch who runs an academy for other witches. Paulson has also started branching out into film, having appeared in Netflix’s horror Bird Box alongside Sandra Bullock.

CHLOË GRACE MORETZ

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Carrie (2013) – source: IMDb

Chloë Grace Moretz was only 11-years-old when she appeared in her first horror film, the 2005 remake of The Amityville Horror. She has continued to star in popular horror remakes such as Let Me In, Carrie, and Suspiria. She has also appeared in other horrors in-between, all of which have given her a strong association with the genre.

Whilst not the lead, Moretz portrayed Patricia Hinge in the Suspiria remake, and her role has been well received. Her latest film, Greta, is a psychological thriller which sees Isabelle Huppert’s character become obsessed with hers. Moretz is also voicing Wednesday Addams in an upcoming animated film based on the Addams Family comics. The Addams Family is set to be released in October 2019.

KATHARINE ISABELLE

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American Mary (2012) – source: IMDb

Katharine Isabelle first gained popularity as the titular character in Ginger Snaps, which has a steady cult following. She went on to star in more horror films such as Carrie, Freddy vs. Jason and 30 Days of Night: Dark Days. Isabelle has also made many guest appearances in television, such as Hannibal and Supernatural over the years.

Aside from Ginger Snaps, Isabelle’s most striking role is as Mary Mason in American Mary, which was written and directed by the Soska Sisters. Mary is a medical school student who dreams of becoming a surgeon. She struggles financially and starts performing extreme body modification surgeries to make ends meet. Isabelle currently stars in Netflix’s horror series The Order.

VERA FARMIGA

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The Conjuring 2 (2016) – source: IMDb

Vera Farmiga has been acting for over twenty years, but has only gained prominence in the horror genre within the last six years or so. Whilst appearing in Joshua and Orphan, Farmiga is more known for her portrayals of Norma Bates in the series Bates Motel and Lorraine Warren in The Conjuring film franchise, both of which began in 2013.

Farmiga will reprise her role as Lorraine Warren, alongside Patrick Wilson as her husband Ed, in Annabelle Comes Home, which will be released this summer. Their characters are based on the real life paranormal investigators of the same name, and the role has led to Farmiga becoming a beloved modern Scream Queen.

TAISSA FARMIGA

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American Horror Story (2011) – source: IMDb

Having been in four seasons of American Horror Story, Taissa Farmiga is also becoming associated with the horror genre. She has gone on to star in The Final Girls and The Nun, a film within The Conjuring film universe which stars her older sister, Vera Farmiga.

Farmiga currently has a role in the 2018 film We Have Always Lived in the Castle, based on the novel of the same name by Shirley Jackson. She will also appear in an episode of upcoming series, The Twilight Zone, hosted by Jordan Peele. It would be great to see her excel further as an actress and follow in her sister’s footsteps as a Scream Queen, but in her own right.

OLIVIA COOKE

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Bates Motel (2011) – source: IMDb

Whilst Olivia Cooke said she doesn’t want to be typecast as a Scream Queen (“You do one horror movie and you’re the scream queen and you’re like ‘No I’m not”), it’s hard to not include her as she’s done a great job in the horror genre. She has appeared in The Quiet Ones, Ouija and The Limehouse Golem.

However, Cooke’s most notable roles are as Emma Decody in Bates Motel from 2013 – 2017, and Amanda in Thoroughbreds, a dark comedy horror which has been well received. Cooke’s upcoming roles are not of the horror genre, but it would be great to see her return in the future and not be put off by her aversion to type-casting.

ANYA TAYLOR-JOY

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Thoroughbreds (2017) – source: Vulture

Having starred alongside Olivia Cooke in Thoroughbreds, Anya Taylor-Joy also doesn’t want to be typecast (“It’s difficult to avoid the box, because even if you’re doing alternative, kooky things you’re still in the alternative quirky box”). However, she has quite the impressive filmography, especially having received praise as Thomasin in The Witch.

Taylor-Joy has also appeared in Morgan and portrayed Casey Cooke in both Split and Glass. With quite a lot of projects coming up, her next horror is The New Mutants, which belongs to the X-Men franchise. Taylor-Joy portrays Illyana, a Russian mutant with sorcery powers. As a promising young actress, she’s also down to star in an upcoming remake of Nosferatu.

EMMA ROBERTS

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Scream (2011) – source: IMDb

Emma Roberts has been acting since she was around 10-years-old and is attached to many coming-of-age projects. However, she eventually branched out into the horror genre starting with her role in Scream 4 alongside Neve Campbell. In 2013, Roberts began appearing in American Horror Story as bitchy witch Madison Montgomery, as well as starring in The Blackcoat’s Daughter’s (also known as February) in 2015.

Roberts further proved herself as a Scream Queen when she was cast in a comedy horror series, aptly titled Scream Queens, and starred in it from 2015 – 2016. The series was a satirical celebration of the slasher genre and Scream Queen trope, with Roberts portraying Chanel, head girl in a sorority house that is targeted by a serial killer. Jamie Lee Curtis also starred as the university’s Dean.

LULU WILSON

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The Haunting of Hill House (2018) – source: IMDb

Lulu Wilson is a very notable child actress who is known for her roles in well received horrors. She has appeared in Deliver Us from Evil, Ouija: Origin of Evil and Annabelle: Creation. Wilson also appeared as Young Shirley in Netflix’s The Haunting of Hill House, which has led to even more well deserved recognition.

Being a very talented actress has given Wilson the Scream Queen title at only 12-years-old. Hopefully she will continue to progress well with her career and still choose to appear in various roles across the horror genre. She definitely has a promising future ahead of her.

JESSICA ROTHE

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Happy Death Day (2017) – source: IMDb

Jessica Rothe hasn’t appeared in many horror films, but she has gained attention with her outstanding performance as Theresa “Tree” Gelbman in Happy Death Day. Luckily, we got to see more of her in a sequel to the film earlier this year. Rothe’s performance is entertaining and she fully earns the title of a Screen Queen.

Happy Death Day follows the life of Tree who gets murdered on her birthday and finds herself trapped in a Groundhog Day time-loop. She’s destined to relive the same day over and over again until she finds out who her killer is and ultimately puts a stop to her death. The black comedy slasher is a lot of fun and is not to be taken too seriously. Let’s hope she continues to star in more horror films!

The Enduring Brilliance of THE SOCIAL NETWORK

How does a billionaire get his start?

According to Aaron Sorkin, he gets his start by being verbally eviscerated by his girlfriend in a bar after insulting her family, her intelligence, and later, in private (as private as one’s LiveJournal can be), her bra size. When we first meet a college-aged Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg), he puts his foot in his mouth at least four times throughout a conversation with his girlfriend, Erica Albright (Rooney Mara), until she finally gets fed up.

You are probably going to be a very successful computer person,” she says, leaning in close. “But you’re going to go through life thinking that girls don’t like you because you’re a nerd. And I want you to know, from the bottom of my heart, that that won’t be true,” She pauses. “It’ll be because you’re an asshole.

Rooney Mara and Jesse Eisenberg in the opening scene of The Social Network (2010) source: IMDb

And thus, Facebook is born. Well, maybe not exactly. But, as Sorkin writes in the screenplay for David Fincher’s film The Social Network, it lights a fuse. What begins as a night out with his girlfriend ends with a gloriously pissed off Mark Zuckerberg sitting at his computer, drinking beer, talking smack on the Internet, and starting FaceMash — a website that takes the directories of student photos from dormitories on the Harvard University campus, picks out the women, and puts them into an algorithm that allows the website’s users to choose between two and decide who’s hotter. It’s gross and sexist, and it’s our first impression of the man whose life and decisions we’re going to be following for the next two hours.

So what makes this story about fictionalized billionaires so great?

It’s a combination of Aaron Sorkin’s impeccably written screenplay, and, of course, the performances by the lead cast. The whole cast is fantastic, including Armie Hammer’s turn as Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss, two twins who were members of the Harvard elite that sue Mark for stealing their idea for Facebook. However, Jesse Eisenberg and Andrew Garfield elevate the already brilliant script to new heights with nuanced portrayals of their real-life counterparts. Additionally, I would be remiss not to credit David Fincher’s direction for the success of the film, but his directing techniques could fill up another essay! It’s not easy to make a film about Facebook exciting, but The Social Network is a staple of the 2010s, and after many re-watches, it’s not difficult to see why.

The Screenplay

Sorkin is famous for his dialogue. He has a signature style — dubbed “Sorkinese” — that works to convey complex thoughts in rapid-fire conversation. It’s snappy, repetitive, and it has an almost musical cadence. We see this immediately in the now-iconic first scene of the film when Mark and Erica are at the bar. The voice-over begins before the picture comes through, with Mark stating that there are more people with genius IQs living in China than there are people of any kind living in the United States, and Erica commenting that that can’t possibly be true.

But here’s my question,” Mark says. “How do you distinguish yourself in a population of people who all got a 1600 on their SATs?” Immediately, we see that Mark’s main goal is to distinguish himself from the crowd — and we learn in the next few lines that he wants to do so by being a part of one of Harvard’s exclusive and prestigious “final clubs”.

Why are these first few lines important? Because we get the chance to see Mark in one of his purest forms, and it happens within the opening seconds of the film. He’s thinking quickly, leaving Erica behind (making her look slower and less intelligent by association), but most notably, he’s thinking about ways to climb his way to the top. Later in the conversation, when Erica asks which final club is easiest to get accepted into, Mark takes immediate offense, believing that she meant something she didn’t.

This is where things start to go downhill. Mark insults Erica by saying that if he were a part of a final club, he could “introduce her to people she wouldn’t normally have a chance to meet,” and then implies she isn’t intelligent by insulting her college. Erica puts it quite succinctly as she breaks up with him, saying that “dating you is like dating a stair-master”. But this allows the audience to realize a couple of things.

First, Mark Zuckerberg is obsessed with being known — most importantly, being known in an elite sphere. Secondly, we see that he is undeniably intelligent. His brain moves fast (and Eisenberg’s brain must move just as quickly in order to keep up with Sorkin dialogue), and he doesn’t care about leaving people behind. Third, we see that he’s rather socially awkward. He’s not quite shy (like the real Zuckerberg), but rather, his grim determination to be the best results in missed social cues and unintended (or maybe not so unintended) malice. This introductory scene makes it clear to the audience that it feels impossible to hold a conversation him. And finally, it becomes obvious that he takes things personally. Erica’s “you’re an asshole” zinger becomes the catalyst for the events of the rest of the film. Mark’s frenetic anger marches him back to campus, into his dorm, and sends him spiraling into the blissful permanence of the Internet.

Andrew Garfield and Jesse Eisenberg in The Social Network (2010) – source: IMDb

All of this character introduction, motivation, and discovery occurs within the first ten pages of Sorkin’s screenplay — what boils down to the first five and a half minutes of the film. The rest of the script follows suit, with quick, repeating dialogue; characters speaking over each other; and the insertions of verbal tics like “um” and “y’knows” to create authenticity. Mark is a complex character, but we see most of his desires and fears on display during the first scene, a testament to both Sorkin’s script and to Eisenberg’s portrayal of a complicated man.

Jesse Eisenberg as Mark Zuckerberg

Sorkin’s script is incredible on its own, no doubt about it. But it’s the performances by Jesse Eisenberg and Andrew Garfield that contribute to the film’s excellence.

Eisenberg plays the role of Mark with an extreme single mindedness, something that many critics of the film have said isn’t authentic. According to people who knew him, the real Harvard-era Mark Zuckerberg was quiet and shy, less likely to fabricate a story in the Harvard Crimson about his best friend engaging in the dubious activity of chicken cannibalism. But the hard-edged condescension to Eisenberg’s portrayal of Mark is what makes his character so engaging and, at times, infuriating.

Jesse Eisenberg in The Social Network (2010) source: IMDb

Mark does a good job of hiding his insecurity. When his best friend Eduardo tells him excitedly that he’s been invited to join The Phoenix, a final club, Mark barely reacts, seemingly as a coping mechanism to hide his jealousy. As we learned in that first scene, Mark wants nothing more than to be a part of a final club himself, and on some level (as we find out later in the film) he views it as a personal slight that Eduardo was chosen instead of him. The closest he comes to displaying vulnerability is when he approaches Erica at a club and tries to…apologize? Explain? It’s unclear, because Erica doesn’t let him get that far. She has no interest in hearing what he has to say (“Good luck with your video game,” she says as he leaves), and Mark immediately turns around and begins explaining to Eduardo how he intends to expand Facebook to other schools. By this point, it’s clear that working on Facebook is the one thing that he thinks will help him achieve his goal of making something of himself.

The final scene of Mark, post-deposition, resignedly pressing refresh on Erica’s Facebook page to see if she accepted his friend request further exemplifies his insecurity. Not only is this scene a full-circle moment (“I don’t want to be friends,” Mark says when they break up during the opening scene), it’s a rare peek behind the curtain at Mark’s inner thoughts. Throughout the deposition process, Mark considers the entire ordeal to be beneath him, frequently making questions asked of him more difficult than they need to be and punctuating his answers with sarcasm and condescension. But deep down, nearly six years later, Mark still cares about what Erica thinks of him. He slumps in his chair as he clicks refresh on Erica’s page over and over and over again, and it’s remarkably humanizing. After all, who among us hasn’t done the same thing?

Andrew Garfield as Eduardo Saverin

In contrast to Eisenberg’s self-serving Mark, Andrew Garfield portrays Mark’s best friend Eduardo with a charming and politely self-effacing manner. He’s a nice boy who wears suits every day, goes all in on Mark’s idea for Facebook without knowing if it will succeed, and somehow made $300,000 betting on oil prices. He is, to put it simply, the kind of man I would take home to my parents. Eduardo trusts Mark because they’re best friends; he doesn’t have a reason not to.

Andrew Garfield as Eduardo Saverin in The Social Network (2010) – source: IMDb

We begin to see hints of Eduardo’s frustration after the introduction of Sean Parker (Justin Timberlake), the creator of Napster, who weasels his way into the place where Mark’s heart would be and, eventually, into the business end of Facebook. After all, it’s Eduardo’s name on the Facebook masthead with Mark’s, not Sean’s; Eduardo is the one who fronted Mark the money, who he confided in, who rode the subway fourteen hours a day looking for advertisers. Little by little, the audience’s sympathy for Eduardo rockets to high-gear, until finally, Eduardo is standing in the pouring rain outside the Palo Alto house that Facebook is using in place of an office — all because Mark forgot to pick him up from the airport.

So it makes sense, on some level, that Eduardo freezes Facebook’s accounts. The audience understands that he’s hurt and angry, and we feel a little hurt and angry on his behalf. We feel badly for Eduardo because he’s being treated like he’s disposable, but most of all, we want Mark to wise up and realize that he’ll never have the same thing with Sean that he does with Eduardo. To us, it’s not about the business and it’s not about the money; it’s about the friendship.

Garfield is on this journey with us, too. He’s more emotionally available for the audience to connect with, because we sympathize with the vulnerable. As the film switches from Facebook’s beginnings to the deposition room, we see him go from a young and intelligent college student to a grown man with an unyielding mission, and it’s a privilege to watch.

I was your only friend. You had one friend.

On the night of Facebook’s “millionth-member” party, Eduardo storms through the company’s headquarters (because Facebook has headquarters now, instead of a thinly veiled excuse for a frat house) to Mark’s desk after learning that his shares in the company have been reduced to point zero three percent and smashes Mark’s computer to the floor. Garfield plays Eduardo’s rage impeccably; a mixture of fury, hurt, and above all, betrayal.

Tell me this isn’t about me getting into the Phoenix,” Eduardo says. Mark doesn’t reply, but Eduardo has his answer. He deduces that Mark fabricated the chicken cannibalism story, too. “You better lawyer up, asshole,” he says, his voice barely above a whisper. “Because I’m not coming back for thirty percent. I’m coming back for everything.

In a cruel twist of irony, Mark and Eduardo’s relationship becomes irreparable, just as Mark’s professional life is booming. As Facebook explodes in popularity, uniting people as “friends” across the globe, Mark Zuckerberg is officially friendless. Both he and Eduardo grow up during this scene; Mark comes to the realization that having business cards that say “I’m CEO, bitch” comes with a cost, and Eduardo is no longer the man who would drop everything to help his best friend.

“Mark Zuckerberg is the youngest billionaire in the world.”

Jesse Eisenberg in the final scene of the film – source: IMDb

The drama that unfolds onscreen is exaggerated, undoubtedly. But the fact of the matter is that Sorkin wrote a script about the creation of the world’s largest social networking site that was less about the actual business and more about the complicated relationship between two men caught in the middle of a tangled web; one desperate for renown, the other just trying to do right by his friend. Jesse Eisenberg and Andrew Garfield do an incredible job making their audience invest everything in their relationship, which is why the fallout is so heartbreaking. We learn to care about these fictionalized future billionaires and wonder why they can’t care more about each other.

The last words of the film are said by law associate Marilyn Delpy (Rashida Jones) after the deposition is finished. “You’re not an asshole, Mark,” she says, one foot out the door, “You’re just trying so hard to be.” She leaves, and Mark is fittingly alone as the film ends, the words “Mark Zuckerberg is the youngest billionaire in the world” appearing on the screen as he hits refresh on Erica Albright’s Facebook page again, and again, and again.

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