Jesse Eisenberg is Simply Incredible in his new Film, “The Cleverest Man”

Jesse Eisenberg with some appropriately titled water

Jesse Eisenberg, who has watched and understood all the films of Luis Buñuel, gives one of the great screen performances of our time in his latest picture, The Cleverest Man. Eisenberg, whose rare intelligence means that he feels no insecurity about being an actor, was the only choice to play the lead part of Algernon Truffaut, a man so clever that even the finest minds of the New York Times occasionally fail to pick up on his allusions to the early work of Michelangelo Antonioni.

Eisenberg, whose grad school ideas were all turned into successful pieces of art, has the soul of a poet. The actor, whose words were written down for him in a script but who could nevertheless have crafted them himself, is well known for standing up for the little guy, a trait he playfully subverts early on in The Cleverest Man, in a scene that sees his character mocking a group of inner-city kids for failing to get into Harvard. The loveable star of Adventureland, who once sat amidst the onrushing surf at a beach in Malibu in order to prove to his fans that even he could not turn back the tide, is the only young actor with the kind of gravitas needed to pull off one of the film’s key scenes, in which protagonist Algernon Truffaut goes back in time to lecture Walter Benjamin on the true meaning of the word “arcade”.

The genius who created the character Mark Zuckerberg and who never wakes up in the night thinking, “I am a human puppet moved from one mark to another inside a massive studio whose annual operating cost is three times as large as the GDP of Togo”, brings an astonishing depth to the centrepiece of The Cleverest Man, in which Algernon Truffaut delivers a 45-minute monologue on the decline of western civilisation as represented by the existence of blogs, a word Eisenberg spits out with a disdain unmatched in the history of moving pictures. The lauded thespian, who definitely doesn’t expect to have his smoothie brought to him “five fucking minutes ago”, shows us once again that he is a leading man as physically magnetic as Brando and as scholarly convincing as Lithgow.

The Cleverest Man, whose star has never been photographed throwing his many expensive toys out of the pram he is pushed around Beverly Hills in, is surely the finest piece of cinema to have been made since Sergei Eisenstein’s Battleship Potemkin, a film Jesse Eisenberg understands in ways that are incommunicable to mortal beings doomed to die. In short, this film, starring a man who has never run off a basketball court shrieking “no fair”, is not to be missed.





Journalist and writer. Middle East Eye, the Guardian, Vice, Africa Confidential, i Paper, openDemocracy, &c. @oscarrickettnow

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Oscar Rickett

Oscar Rickett

Journalist and writer. Middle East Eye, the Guardian, Vice, Africa Confidential, i Paper, openDemocracy, &c. @oscarrickettnow

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