Movie Reviews: Social Network & Eat, Pray, Love

Saw two movies this week which impacted me in unique and unexpected ways and I just had to review them.  An odd combination, both “Social Network” and “Eat,Pray,Love” were not high atop my must see movies lists, and yet for various reasons, I saw them and I enjoyed both far more than I could have ever dreamed I would.

The story of the founding of “The Facebook” by Mark Zuckerberg, an anti-social computer geek at Harvard, “Social Network” had one thing going for it when I went in:  Aaron Sorkin.  I hate Sorkin’s politics, but his dialogue is the best in the business.  The guy knows how to bring characters to life, and he did it very well here, even writing college kids, an age group from which he, like me, has been long removed.  As Zuckerberg works with his friends and fights with classmates in creating his network and changing the cyberworld forever, I found myself relating to him in unexpected ways.  I don’t want to relate to him because 1) I don’t recall ever being so isolated and wouldn’t want to be; and 2) as his attorney tells him at one point, “You’re not an asshole.   You’re just trying really hard to be.”  Okay, so I can have my moments of assholedom, but I hope I am not trying when they occur.

Yet, as a tortured creative type who wants to use his creative energy and passion to do something substantial, I do relate to him.  Even his desire to be well known for it, a notion I pretty much moved to the bottom of my priority list over a decade ago.  Here’s a guy who ends up backstabbing his friends and classmates, the latter because they don’t know what they’re doing and it’s easier to just do it alone, and the former because he’s ultimately selfish and self-consumed and doesn’t give much thought to how anything he does effects other people.  He’s not really a nice guy.  Not a guy I want to be like, and yet, I totally get the isolation he lives with and overcomes only through his creative gifts, and I relate to the idea that sometimes ideas seem to have no value when the person having them doesn’t have the knowledge to make them reality.  Sometimes it’s easier to just do it yourself than work with such people, no matter how great the idea, and once upon a time, I also lost a friend for running with an idea which wasn’t wholly mine.

Here’s a movie about geeks founding a computer network.  Doesn’t sound like a very dynamic exciting movie.  But the movie is powerful and moves at a fast pace.  Sorkin and director David Fincher did a great job of adding tension by intercutting between the college days as “The Facebook” became an idea and was created to more recent times when Zuckerberg defends himself in lawsuits by those he screwed over.  It adds a sense of urgency as the reasons for the current falling out get gradually revealed through scenes of the history behind it and development of the characters.  And characters are fascinating here.  They drive the story, as is usual with Sorkin.  I found the film an inspiring and challenging look at chasing dreams with a relentless passion to let nothing stand in the way.  I love Zuckerberg’s passion, echo it, and hope to emulate it.  I just hope to leave less debris in my wake.

“Eat, Pray, Love” finally made it to the local $2 theatre and my wife just had to go so we went.  Based on a memoir by writer Elizabeth Gilbert, who, after a divorce and a sense of losing her way, embarks on a year long journey which takes her to Italy (eat), Indian (pray), and Bali (love).  Along the way, she develops friendships with unique and interesting people, finds herself, and teaches us some lessons about life, love, and even food.

I expected this to be a very girly chick flick.  I like Julia Roberts.  “Notting Hill,” “Pretty Woman,” and “My Best Friend’s Wedding” are three of my favorite romantic comedies, but this just sounded like a “Under The Tuscan Sun” clone.  I saw that and enjoyed it, but just was not at all in a place where I found the idea of seeing another appealing.  What I found instead was a story I related to, again, more than I ever could have imagined.  Elizabeth Gilbert finds herself making a fresh start much as I am being forced to do by the circumstances of my life.  After finally deciding her marriage just didn’t work and falling out of another unsatisfactory, hastily launched affair, she feels like she doesn’t know who she is any more.  (Boy, am I feeling that).  What does she want from life?  What will make her happy?  Who is she?    Winding up living as a third wheel in her book editor’s home, she finally decides she needs to just get out there and find herself, and the three countries she chooses have various appeals to her which lead her to believe answers can be found there.

Filled with memorable characters, good humor, and profound emotions, the movie reminds as all what a roller coaster ride life can be, especially when you have no idea where it is taking you, and as Gilbert discovers her need to let go and live, let go and let life go on, I was reminded that I too hold on too tightly to the reins.  It’s a big part of why I feel so miserable in the current chaos of my life.  Everything is so out of control and so I feel like I am spinning uncontrollably with no foundation.  In the end, it is when her Balian guru tells her that “sometimes part of finding balance is losing your balance in love” that Gilbert finally figures out what she wants and where to find it, and I am hoping I can soon find balance somehow myself.

I thought the movie had plenty to offer both men and women and certainly couples as it has a lot to say about the ups and downs of love.  One warning:  don’t skip dinner to attend as we do. “Eat” is in the title for a reason and watching the first 40 minutes of lucious Italian food will have you salivating by the time you leave.  If you love other cultures and travel, you’ll find fascinating stuff here.  If you like people learning to live more adventurously (even if you can’t manage to do it yourself) and like people learning how to value people more than other things, then this movie will bring you joy.

For what it’s worth…