Last night, I watched my Facebook movie, A Look Back, for the first time. I was really excited for it. Facebook was celebrating its 10th anniversary by premiering a one-minute film on the life of...me! What an honor.
I had strong expectations for A Look Back, for a couple of reasons. I had seen dozens of other Facebook films, shared by my friends, and all of them had high production values. The Arial font on the graphics, the pan and zoom effect on the photos, the beautifully composed classical music. The idea of reliving the highlights of my five-plus years on Facebook as a Cheers intro was very appealing to me.
I also knew A Look Back would have a more original plot than the movies I'd watched. If I may be completely honest with you, my friends' lives are rather uninspiring. This was reflected in their films, which all followed the same basic, predictable outline: They joined Facebook, married their husband or wife, had a baby, went on vacation with the baby, had another baby, had their babies pose with their dog.
I was not married. I did not father a child. I did not own a dog. Finally, some fresh material that Facebook could work with! I couldn't wait to see what director Mark Zuckerberg and company would do with it.
So it was with much anticipation that I clicked the play button on A Look Back. The beginning had promise: a montage of photos I'd uploaded since I'd joined Facebook in 2008. Mainly pictures of myself as Simpsons characters and as Mad Men characters.
But then, the film took a depressing turn. In a scene titled "Your Most Liked Posts," I was shown a status update I posted in April 2013: "I look forward to the day when we won't have to send out thoughts and prayers for such senseless attacks." This was in reference to the Boston Marathon bombing. I appreciate the sentiment that I expressed at the time, but it was not one that I needed to be reminded of. I certainly wouldn't refer to it as a "highlight."
The next post featured in the film, from November 2013, read, "Thank you everyone for the birthday wishes! And once again, my sincerest apologies to my family for not being married yet." Ah, some comic relief. Well done, Mark.
The "Most Liked Posts" scene was followed by -- and I promise you I'm not exaggerating -- photos of a pedestrian light flashing a "walk" and "don't walk" signal at the same time, my face superimposed on Screech's body in the opening credits to Saved by the Bell, a couple of baseball stadiums I've visited, and a box of the Australian version of Rice Krispies, known as Rice Bubbles.
And then the film ended with Facebook's signature thumbs-up logo. Fin. More than five years on Facebook, and what do I have to show for it? Pop culture references and foreign cereal. How disappointing.
My review of A Look Back: It is a brief glimpse inside a man whose life is utterly lacking. The script is flawed, filled with non sequiturs. To paraphrase Elaine Benes, it is like a big-budget movie with a story that goes noooowhere.
The heartfelt acknowledgment of a terrible tragedy is not enough to save A Look Back. I cannot recommend this film.