15 October 2010

Add, Poke, Like- THE SOCIAL NETWORK Review

I've seen 107 new films in 2010 so far. There's been good, there's been bad and there's been Vampires Suck, under which we shall now draw a line. There are more positive things to talk about, because watching The Social Network's neat two hour runtime, I was immediately considering where I would place it in my top ten favourite films of the year.

As you might have heard, it's "the Facebook movie", but crucially, it's not about Facebook. It's about Mark Zuckerburg, a devastatingly intelligent computing student at Harvard who tries to get around his social ineptitude by creating what develops into Facebook, putting the social experience in an arena where he's more comfortable. As Facebook becomes a phenomenon, Zuckerburg encounters the legal and personal implications of his masterwork.

What's so great about The Social Network is where it comes from. Specifically a salubrious and speculative book like The Accidental Billionaires, which is essentially a story about Facebook, to put it in the reductive terms that others have used to describe this film. What Aaron Sorkin transformed it into is both an indictment and an exploration of today's youth in terms that are accessible to people of any age, or gender, or "relationship status".

Sorkin doesn't damn the characters with his writing, but he leaves it to the audience to judge. Astonishingly, he encompasses the viewpoints of three separate parties without inherently leaning towards any of them being right or wrong. At the centre, we have Jesse Eisenberg inhabiting this socially awkward character in dazzling form, perfectly conveying the repressed anger of the smartest guy in the room. Sorkin writes Zuckerburg the way that Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss write Sherlock Holmes- he's a misanthrope who's two steps ahead of most people, and Eisenberg plays him even better. This is a career-making performance, and the point where many who hadn't took notice before will sit up and pay attention.

His best friend, Eduardo Saverin is played by soon-to-be Spider-Man, Andrew Garfield. It bodes well that he carries off a geeky character with just the right amount of wit and swagger to make him more capable than Mark, and he also serves Eduardo's grievances with his friend very well. The most overtly oppositional perspective is that of the Winklevoss twins, both played seamlessly by Armie Hammer. Although they're not too bright, they're dashing and have a great future ahead of them regardless, and they make it easy for Zuckerburg to develop their idea without sharing any of the eventual kudos.

I'll be the first to admit that I wasn't expecting greatness from this. And with the talents of David Fincher, Aaron Sorkin and the cast on board, I can only assume it was because this film was "the Facebook movie". If that's the case, my shame knows no bounds. You'll never be more interested in nerds typing code than you will be watching this film, and the script has a lot to say about the implications of Facebook.

Sorkin even directly contrasts before and after. A feckless classmate of Mark's inspires him to include the "relationship status" by making him realise that most guys are concerned with getting laid. Nevertheless, the classmate's query seems absurd in the time before Facebook. Later in the film, this is juxtaposed with the surrealism of Eduardo's girlfriend demanding to know why his status says he's single. If you're my age and you're watching this film, we're watching the dramatisation of our generation going crazy.

I'm eager to reiterate- the filmmakers aren't judging our addiction to socialising online, but rather chronicling it. Justin Timberlake's surprisingly great rendition of Napster founder Sean Parker incorporates paranoia and hedonism and douchebaggery, but he's technically the "adult" to the bright young things who develop Facebook. Sorkin's earnest intentions are clear throughout, but my only real criticism of the film would be that David Fincher, a director who's previously had a very distinctive voice, is all but absent.

The film is very well directed and the digital photography is stunning, but I felt he gave the script too much room to breathe. It needed that room, but while everyone else concerned has a shot at an Oscar for this, I wouldn't be surprised at all if Fincher was overlooked in the Best Director category. The film already has Aaron Sorkin's authorship firmly ingrained, but it's odd to watch the film knowing it was directed by the man who made Se7en and Fight Club.

His efficiency is appreciated though, because the wealth of The Social Network is in its script, above almost everything else. The great performances and rich cinematography realise that script very well, but its voice is so powerful and yet so restrained that it's impossible not to fall in love with it. The more I think about it, the more I like this film, and it's easily going to place in my top five of 2010. While it's not my favourite film of the year, it is possibly the very best. In ten years' time, I'm confident it will be a film that defines the decade, like Wall Street in the 80s and Fincher's own Fight Club in the 90s. Truly, a profound and seminal film. 

The Social Network is now playing in selected cinemas nationwide.
If you've seen The Social Network, why not share your comments below? Having loved this script so much, I'm really going to have to go and catch up on The West Wing- I've never seen an episode.

I'm Mark the mad prophet, and until next time, don't watch anything I wouldn't watch.


Simon said...

Love your blog. I did not like the movie as much as you. I wanted to get a better understanding of these characters. Also, I know too many people who are like Zuckerberg and his peers, which probably made me not like it as much as you. Great review.

Mark said...

I'm probably one of those people. Especially considering Erica's "You write your bullshit on the internet in a dark room because that's what the angry do these days." :P Thanks for the comment!