Category Archives: Uncategorized

On Jane the Virgin and the terrible wonder of tragedy

I’ve written before about the “reality” of Jane the Virgin, which somehow always roots its soap opera shenanigans in realistic human emotion. Perhaps never have I felt that more than with the midseason finale of season three and its next-week aftermath, which kills off Jane’s still-new husband Michael and then jumps forward three years into the future. Michael’s death was shocking, yes, and well-acted, and though I cried at that episode, it was the next one that really got to me. It opens with Jane’s Alba, explaining gently but firmly, that Jane will always feel different from now on, that truly nothing will ever be the same. And yet, she says, just as firmly, Jane will once again find things to love. She’ll find beauty in her life, find a way to let the light back in. And as impossible as it seems to Jane at the time, it turns out to be true. On both counts.

The episode of Jane the Virgin that showed Michael’s death talked a lot about memories — how we form them, how we perceive them to be absolute truth thereafter, though they’re informed so much by the circumstances and the layers of years piled onto them. Some memories, the episode says, are seared into our brains as brightly as a camera flash, though the parts around them fade into the background. This, I know, is true as well.

The saddest part to me, of this new Jane reality, as well as maybe the most heartbreakingly real, is the show’s efforts to show the true weight of the trauma Jane has suffered. She is no longer nearly the same person she was when we began the journey with her, and she’s changed in a way no accidental insemination, kidnappings, and almost-deflowerings she’s experienced along the way. She’s lost Michael, the person she thought would be there with her for the rest of her life — to share her burdens, her triumphs, her milestones and frustrations — and for something as sudden as it is random. And the loss is twofold: of both Michael himself — a person with dreams and secrets and complications and unknown, untold layers — and of the Jane she was when she had him, a Jane who was complete in ways she will never be again. (Not to mention the knowledge that Mateo, young as he was, will probably never remember the man she loved and lost, who was such a big part of her life.) She has to carry, alone, the weight of every new milestone, every triumph and frustration, knowing that Michael’s life will stay frozen forever in that message on her phone, excited about buying bodega oranges, while hers continues forward, inexorably. Every moment she lives is a moment he doesn’t.

And yet. The true tragic paradox of humanity, the terrible and wondrous secret, is that our losses propel us forward, for better and for worse, for we can never know what might have been but only what is. Jane has lost her husband and her partner, and there will always be a level of guilt in forcing herself to move forward when he cannot, to let in the light and even, eventually, happiness, to realize she can still laugh and love and experience life. And (terribly, wondrously) to know that some of the things she experiences would not have come about if not for his dying: maybe even some of the most beautiful parts of her new existence. The chasm will never fill, but flowers may grow around its edges, with thorns that make you bleed and blooms that dazzle with their beauty. Jane may live the rest of her life wondering why and what if. But maybe she will also wonder at the things that have knitted together in the space between. May all of us be so lucky.


The hyper-real reality of Jane the Virgin

In case you haven’t gleaned from my previous posts, the CW is my favorite television network (and possibly the only one I regularly watch). True, I am probably a few years removed from its target demographic, but my love for its predecessor the WB, and the shows I watched at my most impressionable age — Buffy, Dawson’s Creek, Gilmore Girls — endures. I’ve gotten older and the hair and makeup has gotten more polished, but the CW still serves up a consistently solid roster of shows that can be popcorn-fluffy yet poignant, completely far-fetched (two centenarian vampire brothers feuding over a high school girl) and surprisingly relatable (a high school girl struggles to understand what her path in life should be after a tragedy).

Lately a show that’s impressed me in this regard is Jane the Virgin, the telenovela adaptation that debuted in 2014 and is now in its second season. The show’s premise is admittedly, and proudly, wacko — a 23-year-old virgin is accidentally artificially inseminated with the sperm of a multimillionaire hottie hotel magnate/cancer patient, then decides to keep and raise the baby — but in some ways, it’s one of the more realistic shows on TV. Few shows bother to even nod in the direction of “blue-collar” lifestyles anymore, especially live-action shows, preferring instead to give their characters massive apartments and vaguely defined but apparently extremely high-paying jobs. Jane isn’t immune to this problem — its title character does have a TV star father and a filthy rich baby daddy, plus an apparently endless wardrobe of adorable day dresses and wedges — but its characters do worry about money, and the trio of women at its center live in a one-bathroom house that Alba, the matriarch, has been in for many years.

Also realistic (or at least more so than most series) is how the show deals with parenthood. In this show, pregnancy is not just fodder for either complete, unreserved joy or juicy scandal (though it is both of those at various times); it’s also rightly presented as a massive, life-altering event that carries with it huge implications for both present and future. Jane has to navigate all the ways her “life plan” is derailed by a pregnancy out of her control; Xiomara, her mother, a grandmother at 39, decides firmly that after raising a child to adulthood she’s ready, finally, to focus on herself. Neither woman is villainized or lionized; they’re two sides of the same coin, examples of the choices and trade-offs that all women have to weigh. Plus, there’s the messy, stinky, frustrating reality of parenthood itself: Jane the Virgin may have some of the shiniest hair on TV, but its characters change their fair share of diapers and talk about the physical reality of motherhood (leaking milk, peeing yourself) in ways that are uncommon for a primetime show.

Similarly, it’s a peek at a family dynamic you don’t see much of on TV. Families typically mean young children; shows centered on twenty- and thirtysomethings generally all revolve around groups of friends, with parents showing up for the occasional holiday episode or guest appearance. Jane the Virgin, on the other hand, is all about family — the one you’re born into and the one you decide, at some point, to create for yourself. And the Jane family is strongly, beautifully women-centered. Jane still lives with her mother and grandmother, and while they all usually get along, occasionally long-running tensions about choices and lifestyles boil over. Three generations and two countries of cultural differences are represented, and they form the base of all the women’s conflicts even as their deep love for one another cements their bond. Their polar opposite is Rafael, who feels his family has always been deficient; his love of Jane stems largely from his view of her as the one who can give him the picture-perfect nuclear family he feels he was denied. Women run the show on Jane the Virgin — literally (it has a woman showrunner) and within the various character permutations. Even Petra and her mother, who have been pseudo-villains for most of the show, have a dynamic that, while twisted, is also rooted in the kind of deep familiarity that only family members can share.

What’s interesting about all this is that Jane the Virgin otherwise operates in an extremely heightened world. The colors of the Miami scenery pop off the screen, the plot lines often detour into magical realism, and there’s even an omniscient (or nearly so) narrator who chats directly with the audience. On a lesser show this contrast could cause tonal whiplash, but Jane the Virgin somehow manages to balance its continuous telenovela hijinks and its more grounded reality while also occasionally having the characters comment on the wackiness of it all, without taking you out of the moment. It’s an impressive balancing act, with the bonds between the characters keeping everything from tipping over into total ridiculousness. For every highly choreographed Britney Spears cameo there’s a moment of realness in which a character expresses uncertainty about her choices or fear for the future. It all adds up to a show that’s highly entertaining while also insightful about the human condition — it’s merely a bonus that those humans just happen to be ridiculously attractive.

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An ode to The OC, finally available to stream after all these years

About a week ago, the CW’s streaming platform, CW Seed, started streaming every episode of The OC. Josh Schwartz’s first show aired from 2003 to 2007, and its first season still evokes wistful odes about the practical perfection of its awesome zeitgeist-seizing power and unparalleled hipness from pop culture journalists. And far be it from me to argue with them: I came to the show late, stumbling on an all-day marathon of its first season on the embarrassingly-but-accurately-named SoapNet, and was immediately seduced by its shiny, Chanel-clad wiles. I spent probably seven hours holed up in my parents’ bedroom drinking in the antics of Ryan, Seth, Marissa, and Summer, not to mention the grown-up but still wacky charms of Sandy, Kirsten, Julie, and Jimmy. Later, in college, I bought the complete box set, which I still break out on rainy days (read: when I’m bored at home and my internet is down).

I was too young (or too culturally ignorant) to be on the 90210 bandwagon during its heyday, so I don’t totally understand why The OC was considered such a revelatory reimagining of the teen soap genre. But even without that knowledge, it’s incredibly impressive that Josh Schwartz, at just 26, created such a fully realized world, with its own language, wardrobe, and (most important) soundtrack that burned through plot faster than a super-dramatic meteor streaking through the atmosphere.

Granted, some things don’t hold up very well; there are some pretty now-insensitive LGBT plots, and the characters’ utter inability to just freaking be upfront with one another starts to feel more frustrating and more like wheel spinning with each rewatch. What’s just as good today as then, though, is the rhythm of the show and of the characters’ impossibly witty dialogue. Scenes of the Cohens standing around in their gorgeous kitchen swapping quips about Yogalates over bagels and schmear made me long for a family whose sense of humor and words-per-minute powers of speech were so perfectly in sync.


Nowhere would you find the inarticulate mumblings of My So-Called Life or Freaks and Geeks (Ryan’s inability to drop the L-bomb notwithstanding); nor would you get the overstudied, tongue-twisting SAT test of a Dawson’s Creek or the Wikipedia-breakingly thick pop culture references of a Gilmore Girls. The show introduced its own terms into the lexicon (Chrismukkah and minty, anyone?), and despite all the gun-waving, face-punching, overdose-taking, embezzling drama it packed in, it for the most part remained a sunny, funny show.

It’s also interesting to see how Schwartz and co. let the characters evolve over time. As Ryan, Ben McKenzie was probably the best of the “teen” actors, but Adam Brody is the natural scene stealer, his almost-manic Seth adding much-needed zip to scenes with the more taciturn Ryan.

I would never deny you, Seth Cohen.

I would never deny you, Seth Cohen.

Kirsten and Sandy were of course one of TV’s most perfect couples, but my favorite was always Melinda Clarke’s Julie Cooper-Nichol-almost-Cooper-again, who softened over the years from a manipulative witch into a loving, game mother so believably it made her season one evilness seem mostly just like well-intentioned overprotectiveness. Mischa Barton remained a pretty terrible actress but was one of the most beautiful criers on television, and her death at the end of season three at least gave the remaining cast some poignant material to work with.

Josh Schwartz went on to make Gossip Girl, another teen-centric soap that took over the zeitgeist like a particularly invasive form of algae. You can see all its hallmarks in The OC: the bon mots, the fabulous wealth, even the onscreen relationships echoing in real life. But though GG lasted six seasons to The OC‘s four, it’s not as beloved by people still as The OC was, because it lacked the California show’s warmth and heart. There was no shortage of OMG moments, but Gossip Girl‘s characters were beautiful and nasty, power hungry and mercenary. At the core of The OC is a tight-knit family who love one another even when they don’t understand one another, who stand by each other even when things get rough. At the core of Gossip Girl is the last Birkin bag Barney’s had in stock. The OC grounds all its over-the-top drama in characters we genuinely care about (not you, Oliver), and though both series ended with a big wedding, only Summer and Seth’s brought me dangerously close to (happy) tears.

So I’ll raise my Newport Beach iced tea to you, The OC; may you live on for many Chrismukkahs to come.

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Arrow’s flaw disguised as a strength: its female characters

Sometimes it’s Wednesday, and you have a sore throat, so you decide to work from home—and turns out one of your best friends lives five blocks away and is also at home for the day. So what do you do? You turn your Netflix-enabled TV to The CW’s Arrow—and promptly get hooked for the next coughcough episodes. For those of you who, like me, don’t know much about the comic-book universe, the show is based on the Green Arrow, a DC Comics superhero who was born in the 1940s as a Robin Hood riff on Batman: billionaire, troubled past, but sick archery skills and a hood instead of the cape.

Arrow has all the CW hallmarks—mediocre acting, overly dramatic entrances and exits, mind-bogglingly pretty people (seriously, Google “Stephen Amell shirtless” and just try to disagree)—but it’s extra interesting for a few reasons. For one, the production value is impressively high: Every episode packs in several hyper-speed fight sequences and at least one flashback to a Lost-esque desert island. But what I find most intriguing is the presence of several seemingly well-rounded, independently motivated female characters. There’s Moira, the mother, a stiff-upper-lip businesswoman with a complicated love life and a shady past re: her son and first husband. There’s the wannabe-rebel sister Thea, and maybe it’s just my soft spot for Willa Holland from her O.C. days, but I find she brings an appealing level of prickly vulnerability to what could be a cookie-cutter bratty teen character. There’s the tech wiz Felicity, who’s as ramblingly chatty as she is fast with a computer (and gray with her morals). And there’s Helena/the Huntress, equally complicated as Oliver but even more driven, and somehow not completely blinded by his astoundingly chiseled jaw. And there’s the dud of a character Laurel, a holier-than-thou attorney (“attorney” is shorthand here for “crusader for the disadvantaged”) who is basically the even-drippier version of Katie Holmes’s character in Batman Begins: insufferable yet still total billionaire catnip (Laurel has not one but three vying for her affections so far).

It’s refreshing because so often in comic book works, women are relegated to the sidelines, to being sidekicks, to being the ones who henpeck their mysterious men for the mundane lies they use to excuse a higher purpose. There’s plenty of that in Arrow, to be sure, a kink I hope gets ironed out further in—but it also presents what, at first glance, are women outside the usual tropes. Still, when I think about it, it becomes glaringly apparent that seven and a half episodes in, not one scene has passed the Bechdel test. Luckily the show has several more seasons to redeem itself in that regard.


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Remember High School?

Yeah, I don’t miss it at all. Mine was big—my graduating class was 1,168—and it was split between grades, meaning I went to a different school for grades 9 and 10 than I did for grades 11 and 12. I had friends, I made okay grades, I did some extracurriculars and went to prom and all that jazz—but by the time college application season hit, I was practically foaming-at-the-mouth ready to go somewhere completely new, where I didn’t know a single person and could finally just be who I wanted to be.

And that’s exactly what I did.

The reason high school is on my mind tonight, when I normally try to block it out completely, is that I went to see The Perks of Being a Wallflower with a couple of friends. I’ve read that book at least four times and really love it, and the movie was, surprisingly, almost as good as the book—achingly poignant, beautifully filmed, surprisingly funny, and with a fantastic soundtrack (the credit of which, I nerdily noticed, goes to Alexandra Patsavas of The OC and Gossip Girl fame). While the story goes to some dark places, it had the odd effect of making me nostalgic for a high school experience I didn’t actually have. The main character, Charlie, goes from being a complete outcast to falling in with seemingly the only high school kids in existence who are absolutely sure of themselves, confident in their weirdness and completely un-shy about showing it. What’s more, all these kids have carved out their own little space in the social hierarchy of high school despite, perhaps, pretending to operate completely outside of it. What I wouldn’t have given to have had that faith in and knowledge of myself at that age. Hell, even now I struggle with it. But to be accepted completely and utterly for who you are even when the cracks begin to show—that is a wonderful thing.

Part of me (most of me) sees the movie as overly idealistic, a glossed-over and softly lit look back at a simpler time (nervous breakdowns and abuse aside). But part of me just clings to the feeling it evokes: that feeling that sometimes in life there are these perfect moments, these snapshots in time that come along unexpectedly but that change, even in subtle ways, how you see the world. And yes, someday they’ll just be stories you tell your kids—but remembering those moments is what reminds you why life is worth living.

Why TV Is Better Than Movies

Vulture has an interesting article today about why people seem to be turning to television over movies. Spoiler alert: It’s all about the money. Funds are limited, so execs go with the “guaranteed” success (sequels, adaptations of hugely successful books, anything that involves a muscly dude in a Spandex outfit) rather than the indie dramas. “Almost no movie makes sense on paper. If the glass is half-empty or half-full, it is always half-empty.”

So while there are no doubt just as many smart, talented, creative writers and directors with original ideas and defined visions, what we get instead is two-bit slasher films and Twilight 17: Yeah, We’re Still Emo.

TV, on the other hand, now has the opportunity to do all of the exciting, edgy, boundary-pushing things that used to define movies. I remember it was a big deal when established actors like Dustin Hoffman and Glenn Close took on roles in television shows. And when I think about the plots and characters and worlds that have been most memorable to me in the past years, they’re almost all from TV shows. I’m sure that also has to do with both my short attention span and my preference for settling in with characters and watching their arcs over time. My friend and I both love the show Happy Endings, and once we had a ten-minute conversation about how watching the show every week felt like hanging out with actual friends. Sad, but true.

What are your thoughts on TV versus movies? What characters stick out in your mind the most?


Earlier today I video chatted with my college roommate, a random pairing who to this day remains one of my best friends. At one point we ended up talking about Facebook. It came out when we were freshmen in college, the first year we knew each other, living in a tiny, freezing shoebox of a room and dealing with exams and communal laundry rooms and the necessity of reinventing ourselves away from home. We decided as a joke to marry each other (yes, this was back when Facebook only had three relationship options, believe it or not), and through the years and the jobs and the boyfriends we’ve never changed that status. My friend pointed out today that it’s been almost nine years.

Throughout that time, Facebook has changed innumerable times. As have I, I guess. And as the interface of the site has changed, so, too, has its content. Where once I saw stories of drunken hookups and exam stresses, now I see update upon update of engagements, marriages, ultrasounds, and baby’s first fill-in-the-blank. Maybe it started when Facebook became open to everyone—mothers, grandmothers, high school students, bosses—but Facebook is just a different beast now. It used to be exciting, thrilling even, to log on and check your notifications, see who had friend-requested you—and, let’s be honest, to photo-stalk your latest crush.

But as my friend pointed out today, I’ve been on Facebook for nearly nine years. That means—and this is entirely my fault for simply not doing it—that while my circle of actual friends has naturally pruned itself to the people I still care about and want to be in contact with, my virtual friend circle has done nothing of the sort. For some reason it seems childish to “unfriend” someone for such a trivial reason as the fact that you haven’t spoken to them in years (irony intended, in case it doesn’t come across online). So my feed is full of photos of babies whose parents I once took a class with in college…I think? or sat next to during lunch at the sorority house a couple of times.

It has the interesting effect of making me feel both a bit disgustedly superior and a bit ashamed. I know myself, and my values and thoughts are reflected in the people who have become and remain my good friends. These people and I are at fairly similar points in our lives. But my Facebook feed often reflects otherwise. It’s enough to make me want to deactivate my account sometimes, to stop piling on that internal, infernal pressure of ring, poofy white dress, squishy soft babies.

It also speaks to a larger problem, one I find myself considering even as I occasionally get sucked into the whole social-media world. That world relies so much on crowd sourcing, on “individual expression,” even if said expression is just telling the world what you ate for lunch or that you are JUSTSOMAD at your ex-boyfriend. But it lacks—or maybe we ourselves have developed to lack—the necessary filters to make that information meaningful. Facebook makes it easy to see everything, and to comment. But should you? Do we need to make it so easy to share our every thought, our every emotion, as soon as it occurs, to everyone we know (and sometimes people we don’t)? Lord knows I’ve been guilty of it more than once. I often regret it—but I just as often post some stupid joke or amusing headline and don’t really consider how many people will take the time out of their day to read it.

Sometimes it seems like social media makes communication so easy, it’s taking all the meaning out of the word. Just as the definition of “friend” changed when Facebook came along, “sharing” now means something else entirely. I am not always old-fashioned…but it does sometimes feel like the prevalence of social media has led to what can only be described as a plague of oversharing. When being a part of that world is a necessary component of your job, is there a way to curate it, to avoid the endless sonogram photos and inane vague status updates? Can you dip a toe in the pool without falling all the way in headfirst?


Editing, copyediting especially, is a very detail-oriented task. Our office has a very open layout, and we all sit very close together. The upshot is that I find myself plugging in a lot. Listening to music helps my concentration (especially when my coworkers are on the phone) and makes the day go by much faster.

For a while I was listening to Pandora, and then to Spotify, but the first started recycling songs too often and the second was making me practically homicidal with its strumming-guitar house ads every five songs or so. So you can imagine how excited I was when I discovered, via the beauty blog Witty + Pretty, a new kind of Internet radio called Songza. Not only is it completely free, it has ZERO ADS, praise the lord. And it’s fantastic for discovering new music. Rather than asking you to create a station based on a certain artist or song, as Pandora does, Songza asks you to input the time of day and the vibe you’re going for.

From there you pick your desired category.

And then choose from the playlists the team has created to match the options you’ve chosen.

If you’re like me and aren’t hip enough to always be up on the coolest new bands and songs, this is a fantastic way to discover new music. It’s like getting to chain your most indie-hipster-cool-kid friend to a chair and force him/her to deejay for you all day. With fewer Wayfarers.

Already today I’ve listened to everything from Frank Ocean to Dirty Projectors to Bauuer’s insanely ear-wormy “Harlem Shake.” No repeats, no limits to how many songs you can skip—and have I mentioned NO COMMERCIALS?

So thank you, Songza, for preserving my sanity. I see this becoming my go-to for every situation…at least for as long as it remains ad- and dues-free. If you check it out, let me know what you think and if you discovered any great new bands.


I love to swear.

When I was in college and a few of my good friends were Catholic, in the springtime they would always start chatting about what they were going to give up for Lent. The concept was somewhat foreign to me, but I understood the impulse. Forty days is plenty long to get yourself out of a not-so-great habit, and with a motivator like religion you’re maybe slightly less likely to fail. But there was always that one person who wanted to give up cursing. To which I always wanted to say: Why the fuck would you do that?

Sure, if every other word is an f-bomb or another similar four-letter word, you might not sound like the most educated person on the planet. There are lots of things  you could say besides shit, or ass, or motherfucking cocksucker. But sometimes you just gotta let it fly. It places emphasis, or relieves stress, or gets your goddamn point across in a way that “son of a biscuit eater” just doesn’t do as well. The shape of the words in your mouth, the crunch of consonants as you spit them out  or hiss them under your breath—it just feels good. Try making yourself say “Fudge” the next time you stub your toe and tell me the real deal isn’t more satisfying.

Besides, swear words are superbly versatile. Don’t believe me? Just check out the video below.

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Limitless: In which Sexiest Man Alive Bradley Cooper drinks blood.

This week being Thanksgiving week, and my office being under construction, I’ve been working from home. This basically amounts to me rolling out of bed five minutes before 8 (9 in office time) and spending all day in my pjs on the computer. Which, let’s be honest, is probably what I’d be doing anyway. Today in between copyediting I decided I’d watch one of Netflix’s endless selection of craptastic movies. And because I am always topically relevant in every area of my life, I decided to reaffirm that this year’s People‘s Sexiest Man Alive decision (and, actually, the entire list) is seriously flawed. Enter Limitless, the 2011 thriller released in March of this year that stars Cooper, Abbie Cornish, and, inexplicably, Robert De Niro.

The basic premise is this: Know how people supposedly only use 20 percent of their brain? Well, what if a big pharma company figured out how to make a pill that stimulated certain receptors or fired synapses or blah blah blah, whatever–the point is, take this little clear pill and become a genius. At everything. Oh, also it makes you want to wear leather jackets, clean your apartment, and drive recklessly, plus you get great in bed. When the movie opens, Cooper, hereby known as Eddie Morra, is a loser writer (movie shorthand: long hair in a tiny ponytail, cigarettes, shitty apartment, daytime drinking). On his way back from getting wasted at lunch after his girlfriend (Abbie Cornish, who I could tell instantly would be one of those actresses I see in plenty of stuff and forget her face immediately after) dumps him, he runs into his ex-brother-in-law, my ’90s boyfriend Johnny Whitworth. (Don’t judge, Empire Records is still totally awesome.) Good ol’ Johnny used to be a drug dealer; now he “consults for a pharmaceutical company” a.k.a. is Cooper’s pipeline to the magical pills, nicknamed NZT. He gives Eddie a pill, Eddie goes home and bangs out half a novel (plus his landlord’s wife), and comes back hankering for more.

A whole lot more plot happens before we get to what I really want to talk about, so let’s just skip to it: Eddie drinks blood. Legit! He’s just stabbed his ambiguously Eastern European loan shark to death after the guy injected himself with some NZT. Eddie’s desperate for a fix, so as he lies on the floor in the throes of withdrawal and Loan Shark’s NZT’d blood comes flowing across the floor toward him, he opens his mouth. And DRINKS BLOOD. This, apparently, is sufficient for him to turn back into a supergenius, and he evades the other baddies by stabbing the first in his one good eye, blinding him and fooling him into shooting the other. I won’t spoil the ending for you–and I’m not sure I even could, since the logic is tenuous at best. But I will say B-Coop calls Bobby De Niro his bitch, which, combined with the blood drinking, is almost enough for me to recommend this to a friend. If said friend is at home on a Wednesday night, half in the bag and sick of Family Guy reruns.

It’s a stylish movie, and there are some cool visual techniques–Eddie’s blackout night of debauchery is especially niftily shot–and the movie never delves into the real moral ramifications of what he’s doing, making it easily enjoyable. But in the end, we really have no reason to root for Eddie. He goes from impoverished writer to slick Wall Street tycoon to maybe something history-changing–but there’s no evidence he’ll use his powers for good rather than for evil. He’s charming, charismatic, and is great at playing the stock market, but, like the movie itself, he has very little substance.