Old 10-01-2010, 01:55 AM
The Social Network

(David Fincher, 2010)

I just want to get this out there right away: When I first heard about it, I had very little faith in this project. I was stupefied, confused by the thought of what attracted all this talent to this seemingly trivial story to begin with? Why would David Fincher and Aaron Sorkin possibly be interested in the story of the founding of Facebook? Surely they could have found something more important, more meaningful to apply their efforts to. After seeing the film, though, I realized that, of course, Fincher and Sorkin knew what they were doing all along. And furthermore that labeling this as “The Facebook movie” is really an insult to what Sorkin and Fincher were trying to and have succeeded in achieving with this film.

First and foremost, I have to take a step back and admire this film as a technical achievement. Despite seeming to be a departure for Fincher in terms of content and subject matter – which it is and then again isn’t – the film is very clearly and undeniably a Fincher film. Re-teaming with his Fight Club director of photography Jeff Cronenweth, Fincher manages to create and capture that really unique look all of his films have. The cinematography is absolutely gorgeous – once again, Fincher proves that he is probably getting the best results in digital photography out of any other director working in that medium, and this film, shot on the RED One camera, looks absolutely beautiful, from the framing to the camera movement to the lighting and on to the look and the feel of the depth of field the RED captures. One thrilling sequence seems to have been shot on a DSLR with tilt-shift lenses evoking the mock-miniature look that can sometimes be seen on some cool YouTube videos, and it’s just an incredible sequence overall, including the editing. Fincher also once again employs a variety of visual, computer generated trickery that goes completely unnoticed – as far as I was concerned, everything we saw on screen was shot in camera, as I thought in the case of Zodiac, only to be proven wrong. In this case, a set of identical twins is played by the same actor, Armie Hammer – and I had absolutely no idea until well after the film was over. Once again, Fincher delivers a film that is, first and foremost, a fantastic demonstration of technical prowess and pure filmmaking talent.

Sorkin’s script is also an impeccable achievement and showcases, once again just what a genius this man really is. From a structural standpoint it employs a very effective use of a framing device – the Zuckerberg lawsuit depositions, which introduce the various characters and lead into “flashbacks” of the events being discussed. It really lends the film a Rashomon air and intensifies the mystery behind the Zuckerberg character and what exactly transpired in the creation of this phenomenon, Facebook. Sorkin also demonstrates an acute awareness of character construction, and manages to create a loathsome protagonist we hate and are frustrated by but yet we still end up sympathizing with. Most of all, though, it’s a showcase of Sorkin’s impeccable writing style and knack for writing dialogue with a very unique sound and rhythm. I saw Fincher refer to it as “Sorkinese” in an interview, and this is a really good description – it is certainly very unique to Sorkin and the scripts he has written, and it is also certainly a completely unique language – one which normal people in our real world do not speak, but that just sounds great on screen. The rapid-fire, overlapping dialogue remains one of the highlights of the film for me, and the script is certainly a shoo-in for Oscar consideration.

The film is also a rare showcase of pure acting prowess, and features a very interesting and eclectic cast of young actors stepping out of their comfort zones and delivering some truly phenomenal work. The casting of the film is quite a departure for Fincher, who has enough clout to gather the biggest names working in the business. Instead, he opted to go for a cast of relative unknowns or up-and-comers, and really make stars out of them. First and foremost to be mentioned is Jesse Eisenberg, an actor I have personally been a fan of since The Squid and the Whale in 2005 and one whose work I have continued to enjoy since then. However, no matter how good he was in those previous films, none of his previous performances compare to his amazing achievement on this film. Stripping away his signature goofiness and neurosis, Eisenberg plays Zuckerberg as a cold, calculated and determined genius who knows what he wants, is very confident and forward-looking and will stop at nothing to get it. His counter in the film is Saverin, played brilliantly by Andrew Garfield, a name we will be hearing a lot more of of in the next few years: Saverin is a far more sympathetic character, more warm and inviting – these traits only increase the impact of the tragedy of Zuckerberg’s betrayal of their friendship. Also worth mentioning is Justin Timberlake, who I thought was good in his two previous film roles in Alpha Dog and Black Snake Moan, but who really outdoes himself in his performance as the creator of Napster, Sean Parker. Timberlake truly embodies the role, and I think his casting was a stroke of genius – his character only appears in the film at about the halfway point, but he is meant to be a figure all the other characters recognize and look up to. The minute Timberlake appears on screen, all preconceptions we, the audience have of him as an individual are projected onto his character of Sean Parker, and this is exactly the way the characters in the film view him as well. The rest of the cast is rounded out by a number of up-and-comers, all of whom deliver great performances, including Rooney Mara as the girl who broke Mark Zuckerberg’s heart and Armie Hammer who, as I mentioned earlier, plays two parts, both equally effective.

Finally, I can’t review the film without mentioning Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross’ brilliant electronic score. I had a certain preconception of what the score would be like when the composers were announced but was surprised to find that it was far more electronic than I had initially expected. It really suits the film well, and is also just a fantastic piece of stand-alone music that I would absolutely enjoy listening to on its own.

Many pundits and commentators have designated this to be the “film that defines our generation”, and truly a “product of its time” in the most literal sense of the word. However, I’m not sure I like this designation, especially since once you watch the film, you very quickly realize that this isn’t a story about the founding of Facebook; it’s really a story of friendship, ambition and betrayal, a character study of this fascinating individual whose actions in the film happen to depict the invention of an online social networking site that gets out of hand and puts all of his relationships, especially that with his best friend and business partner, in jeopardy. All of the themes mentioned above are universal and can be applied to a number of fantastic films and works of fiction over the centuries, and that, I think, is the greatest achievement of the film.

However, it is impossible to ignore the historical context of the film’s conception and release, and just as one cannot discuss Wall Street without mentioning the Reaganist economy in which it was made and which it is about, one cannot truly cover all aspects of The Social Network without referring to the worldwide cultural phenomenon that the character in the film ends up creating. 500 million is not a number to sneeze at – that’s 1 in 8 people in the entire world who have a Facebook account. I think that Facebook pretty much epitomizes what Western society has become in the 21st century – indirect relationships and friendships by proxy, but also, access to this unlimited amount of information and knowledge about the world and the universe and everything you can possibly imagine just a click away. Maybe the Internet and social networking sites have removed personal face-to-face relations from the equation or at least diminished their importance, but it has also opened up a window to the entire world, really: A unified, global society that is united under common interests and social designations, and that renders distances, oceans, and country borders obsolete. And I think that, whether directly or indirectly, The Social Network touches upon these themes, and really opens up a gateway to further discussion about what social life in the 21st century is like, and what that means. After all, in the film, Zuckerberg’s main motive in the creation of Facebook is a personal relationship gone wrong and an attempt to re-connect and reconcile.

RATING: 9/10.
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