The Hummingbird Project
Written and Directed by Kim Nguyen
Starring Jesse Eisenberg, Alexander Skarsgard, Michael Mando, Salma Hayek, Sarah Goldberg
As a child of the late 1970’s and 1980’s my intellectual curiosity about the need to increase the speed at which we can connect with one another, has been piqued.
No. I don’t want to talk to my mom any faster than a text will allow me to do. And, yes I love her.
Even beyond the ability to connect with one another is the speed at which we can get data from one point to another. As Kim Nguyen’s “The Hummingbird Project” explores the realm of the speed at which we transact in the financial markets, I thought to myself about the prospect of “speed to market,” which is really what his story is all about.
Vincent Zaleski (Jesse Eisenberg) is a high-pressured high-stakes trader on Wall Street. His cousin, Anton (Alexander Skarsgard) is a genius when it comes to the interconnected world that I referenced a moment ago. Between the two of them, we know something’s cooking. Anton is withdrawn and unwilling to talk to anyone other than Vincent. Vincent’s high-strung nature is exactly what someone like Eva Torres (Salma Hayek).
The film is set in 2011 as the market is recovering from the 2007 meltdown. Vincent wants to do more and thinks that there is a benefit to the market by increasing the speed at which traders can transact. The cousins eventually walk away from their employer in order to build a fiber-optic cable line between Kansas and New Jersey.
As with any well-laid plan, there are pratfalls and obstacles that get in the cousins’ way. It also obfuscates Mr. Nguyen’s story.
The caliber of the cast is first rate. Mr. Eisenberg plays his role to the hilt. As much a benefit of the roles he plays, Mr. Eisenberg has an air of mischievousness about him that draws me in to the characters he plays. Mr. Skarsgard is something of an anomaly. The make-up department went in to overtime to create a neurotic paranoid look for the character. And Mr. Skarsgard, who also stars in “The Aftermath” which expands this weekend to Phoenix, plays right into the neuroses and the idisyncracies.
Not to be outdone, in either the make-up department or is Eva Torres. She reminded me a bit of Signourney Weaver’s Katharine Parker from Mike Nichols’s “Working Girl”: stilted, conniving, and winning at any cost. Ms. Hayek looks simply captivating in her platinum length hairstyle and her cunning ways.
The story, which has the heart of a comedy with the lining of a drama doesn’t always work. The characters are doing most of the heavy lifting, which under other circumstances would have landed with a resounding thud. Here, they bring the comedy to life through the constant ‘clawing’ of one another while burying the drama, which is a shame because the drama really is the heart of the film.
There’s a scene at an Amish community where Vincent is trying to obtain the right-of-way to construct the cable and they refuse. It’s one of the few dramatic moments that actually work because the story understood the need for the tension to carry the story through to the third act.
The well-intentioned ending that results falls apart because the comedy once again takes center stage. It is endearing, but doesn’t come across as strongly as the drama does.
2 out of 4 stars