The Evolution of Jesse Eisenberg

Adventureland, Zombieland, Facebookland...

Get Real (1999-2000)

Eisenberg got his first bit of in-camera action on TV show Get Real . The show had a pretty dedicated following, but it went the way of so many other beloved teen shows (think Freaks and Geeks and My So-Called Life ) when it was cancelled after only one season.

Jesse played Kenny, the youngest of the Green siblings. A pre- Princess Diaries Anne Hathaway played his older sister, and Eric Christian Olsen was older bro Cameron.

Social Skills? This one has vanished off the radar, with no DVD release planned, so we couldn't possibly comment.

Lightning: Fire from the Sky (2001)

Another TV project for Eisenberg: not some meteorologically unsound Discovery Channel doc but a feature in which he has a prominent role.

It's kind of a cheap twist on Twister , and it pairs the disaster movie action with some sub-Spielbergian father-son conflict. Tom (John Dukes of Hazzard Schneider) doesn't believe son Eric (Eisenberg) when he predicts a lightning-based disaster, and there's more to come...

Social Skills? As he's a teenage 'weather expert', we're doubting that his yearbook was overflowing with signatures…

Roger Dodger (2002)

Not an vehicle for the Beano trickster, ace little indie Roger Dodger was a smart battle-of-the-sexes comedy, and an ideal first movie role for Eisenberg's endearing awkwardness.

He plays Nick, a 16-year-old desperate for a bit of lady action (aren't they all?) who seeks out advice from his self-styled lothario of an uncle, Roger (Campbell Scott in a career highlight performance). Both guys learn a lot about the opposite sex (Isabella Rosselini, Elizabeth Berkeley, Jennifer Beals) in a long, incident-packed night.

Social Skills? At least he's trying to learn, even if his teacher isn't all he cracks himself up to be.

The Emperor's Club (2002)

Eisenberg was in starry company in this so-so prep school drama: Kevin Kline is the classics professor trying to instil some knowledge into a class that also includes Emile Hirsch and Paul Dano.

The title refers to a toga-wearing quiz that Kline's teacher hosts, in which the students compete to be crowned 'Mr Julius Caesar'. Watchable, but hardly a classic in the 'inspirational teacher' subgenre.

Social Skills? Well, in 25 years time Eisenberg's character looks like Patrick Dempsey, so presumably he ends up doing OK with the ladies.

The Village (2004)

Eisenberg continued to build an enviable CV, grabbing a spot in (the once respectable) M. Night Shyamalan's monsters-in-the-woods 'period' chiller.

Though, Eisenberg is the first to admit that he didn't exactly have the biggest role, telling MoviesOnline: "My grandmother saw it and asked me if she saw the wrong movie. I'm in it for no time". You can spot him as one of the younger members of the village.

Social Skills? Well, he gets involved with the games that involve mucking about at the boundaries of the forbidden woods, so he can't have been totally unpopular.

The Squid and the Whale (2005)

This Brooklyn-set tale of a family-dividing divorce really put Noah Baumbach on the map as a filmmaker. The underplayed comedy-drama scored multiple award noms across the board.

Eisenberg (kinda playing the Baumbach cypher in this semi-autobiographical tale) is Walt, the elder son of acrimoniously-separating Jeff Daniels and Laura Linney. Jesse tames his famously-spirally locks in a role that requires a subtle blend of pathos and shrewd comedy.

Social Skills? Sadly Walt spends most of the movie parroting his obnoxious, self-satisfied father.

Cursed (2005)

It beggars belief that this blunt-fanged werewolf effort came from Scream -creators Wes Craven and Kevin Williamson: there's a couple of knowing laughs, neutralised by an over-abundance of lame CGI and, unforgivably, a total dearth of frights.

Eisenberg and Christina Ricci are siblings who get caught up in a convoluted werewolf drama. Done well, this could have been a mega-hit, but studio interference ended that hope.

Social Skills? Eisenberg's lycanthropy at least sees him ascend the social scale, attracting the school hottie and defeating the wrestling squad bullies.

The Education of Charlie Banks (2006)

Charlie Banks (Eisenberg) is a by-the-book, studious, academic type who earns a place at a top university. His pleasant campus lifestyle is disrupted by the arrival of thuggish bully Mick (Jason Ritter), a figure from his past.

During his stay, bad boy Mick lives Charlie's life, only better, impressing teachers, friends, and the girl he's been eyeing. Directed by Fred 'Limp Bizkit' Durst, this workmanlike drama never never exceeds expectations.

Social Skills? He's shown up by Mick, but he ends up learning a thing or two about himself.

The Living Wake (2007)

Eisenberg plays Mills Joaquin, the biographer (and rickshaw driver) to Mike O'Connell's deluded eccentric K. Roth Binew. The pair travel round setting up the titular funereal celebration for Binew, who has recently found out he only has a few days left to live.

This tiny indie was perhaps a little too obscure for mainstream tastes, but more welcoming than a simple plot summary suggests.

Social Skills? Eisenberg goes full-on dandy for the role, and it's pretty safe to say that his character doesn't quite conform to societal standards.

One Day Like Rain (2007)

Eisenberg continues with another role in a micro-indie that makes his previous quirk-work feel positively mainstream.

This is the story of a bored, teenage, Californian girl who has an epiphany about the imminent end of the world, and a looks for a way to save it via a bunch of weird experiments. It feels as if there's a decent idea here, but it happens to be hidden beneath layers of willful incomprehensibility.

Social Skills? It's all pretty irrelevant as this sub-Lynchian mess makes it impossible to discern (or care) what level of reality his minor character actually exists on.

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