|04-12-2010, 19:57||#1 (permalink)|
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The Social Network 2010 | xDVD | FS
There is a brilliant scene in The Social Network that documents the alleged moment of inspiration that lead to the creation of Facebook. Harvard undergrad Mark Zuckerberg is in his dorm room, seething over a fresh break-up, blogging his frustrations, and then settles upon a cruel joke as his personal therapy. He hacks into the personal pages of Harvard female students, collects their profile pictures, and organizes them into a web page where they can be compared against one another, based on their ‘hotness’. It’s mean-spirited, it’s reactionary, and at the same time it belligerently tests the idea of how socially-connected people can become across the internet. It also crashes the server in its popularity. From there, it’s only a few hops and skips to a billion-dollar idea that exploits that premise.
As directed by Fincher, the scene becomes a patch-work collage about the way some great ideas spring out of moments of irrational emotion or calculated malice, and it also captures the way information spreads and gathers meaning in a social enclave like college. Underscored by an interesting musical arrangement by Trent Reznor, and edited together to provide as many potential viewpoints as possible, the sequence is the very best moment in the movie. Everything else just sort of orbits it, rehashing most of the ideas it captures, over and over for about two hours. In the end, Network is a good film that never quite delivers the insight of that initial proposition.
Fincher is an interesting choice for this material, and together with screenwriter Aaron Sorkin, he draws the story together in such a way that makes it compelling. Trying to figure out a process for relating the rise of Zuckerberg’s Facebook empire, and his subsequent lawsuits at the hands of best friend Eduardo Saverin (Andrew Garfield) and twins Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss (Armie Hammer) would be difficult to begin with. Fincher makes this part look easy, and entertaining, as the film flies by in a flurry of carefully constructed scenes, snazzy cinematography and witty, pointed dialogue. What ultimately escapes him is the ability to make Zuckerberg’s saga emotionally satisfying. There have been great movies made about jerks, but unlike Charles Foster Kane, Mark isn’t a really interesting jerk. So, the movie struggles for a relevancy it never finds, and what could have been a great film is diluted by lack of a subtext.
The performances and the direction are most certainly not at fault. Jessie Eisenberg gives a prickly, closed-off turn as Zuckerberg, and he’s working with not very much, since the real Mark never gave interviews or insight for the film; the surface facts and the reports of the Winklevoss twins and Saverin are more or less, all there is to go on. So, Eisenberg creates a man pulled into himself, who may be brilliant but is also socially awkward, and his actions and behaviors an enigma to everyone else. Garfield, as Saverin, is the closest thing the film has to an emotional soul, and he humanizes the scenes with Mark, by extension adding poignancy to their failed friendship.
Armie Hammer, aided by subtle visual effects and a stand-in, is so convincing as the twins—including their differing temperaments and character—that the audience outside the theater were frantically trying to discover who this hot new acting duo really were. Justin Timberlake enters the film late as Sean Parker, the creator of Napster, and plays him as a charismatic, insidious cancer that has eaten through itself and wants to start in on Mark and Ed. He’s almost completely slimy, and that’s sort of refreshing, because so many of the other characters are indecipherable on a moral level.
As I mentioned before, the film has been wonderfully crafted, and Fincher is a gifted director who combines the best possible traits of old-school Hollywood with the newer, hungrier regime (of which he was a founding force). The early passages at Harvard so clearly evoke the experience of college that watching the posh frat parties, awkward dates at the local watering hole, and late-night dorm bitch sessions is more interesting than trying to track the creative genesis of the Facebook idea. The courtroom sequences are smartly integrated into the narrative, and sort of serve as chapter heads and ease the movement of the story from the college campus to a frantic bachelor pad in California where Zuckerberg, Parker and a small mob of groupies and programmers try to achieve greatness.
The score by Trent Reznor is one of the pictures’ strongest features and it’s both symphonic, strange and awkwardly appropriate. The buzz and hum that surrounds and accents scenes of people typing and clicking furiously on computers does a better job at suggesting the invisible connections of an integrated network than the script itself does. Underneath everything, Reznor’s haunting soundscape lurks. It rises to the occasion in unexpected ways, including an Olympic rowing competition where the Winklevosses compete against a trumped-up version of ‘In the Hall of the Mountain King’.
What The Social Network really lacks, underneath it’s well produced exterior, is an idea or thematic device that would link Zuckerberg’s story to the concept of social networking and technological obsession in a way that would give the film a deeper context. We have seen this sort of rise and fall of the genius many times before, but no film yet has ably captured the new, wild frontier of modern cyberspace. Sign me up when Fincher decides to make that movie. Until then, we have this one, which is a terrifically directed flick about a not so likable guy.
Running time: 120 min. Rating: PG-13 Directed by: David Fincher. Written by: Aaron Sorkin. Starring: Jesse Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield, Justin Timberlake , Armie Hammer, Rooney Mara, Max Minghella, Joseph Mazzello
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