Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Review: The Social Network

| by Allan Stackhouse |

Chalk up another marvel by David Fincher. The Social Network is an absolutely captivating tale of the rise of Facebook and the subsequent falls of those allegedly involved in its inception. This is one of the best films I've seen all year, despite the sweltering conditions of the Arclight in Hollywood Friday night. I remember my staunchly negative mindset during the film's promotion, thinking it was ridiculous to make a film about something so seemingly rudimentary as Facebook. How wrong I was. The tale that screenwriter Aaron Sorkin and director David Fincher spin is a gripping one of genius, betrayal, and social networking.

Aaron Sorkin wonderfully adapted Ben Mezrich's The Accidental Billionaires, forming entrancing monologues and witty dialogue for every character. Mark himself had some great lines but the incredulous expressions of Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss really took the cake. The script is driven by dialogue but it doesn't turn into exposition; it actually moves the story along and doesn't serve as patches for the plot. The story is riveting. Mark Zuckerburg is a genius programmer who's on the verge of developing what we know today as Facebook. The film is split between with lawsuit scenes, held in private offices. Each timeline feeds the other, adding drama to one and reason to the other. This is a brilliant and masterfully executed form of storytelling.

The music and score added to the hypnotic nature of the film. Trent Reznor is new to scores but found himself working again with Atticus Ross who produced for Nine Inch Nails albums, for whom Trent Reznor is the lead singer. That particular genre is light in my iPod but the post-industrial and dark ambient sounds for which they are both known could not have worked any better in the film. Under many scenes of dialogue was a piece of music that echoed the figurative darkness of the scenes. This attention to sound made the experience of watching the film so complete.

I particularly enjoyed the restraint in the depiction of Mark Zuckerburg's character. The film didn't demonize him, at least I didn't find that it did. Mark, in the film, is a genius, seemingly getting into Harvard on the merits of his own intelligence rather than the nepotism of the Winklevosses. In a matter of just a year, he coded his way to the top of social networking. His ousting of Eduardo Saverin from Facebook was a really dirty thing to do but the film forces sympathy when Eduardo and Mark address each other at their hearing.

The film is also a marvel technically. I could have sworn Armie Hammer had a twin brother but did not see another actor credited with his last name in the opening credits. After the film, I found out Josh Pence acted as the body double for Tyler Vinklevoss. Armie Hammer's face was then digitally placed over Josh's. The effect is seamless and a marvel in technology. Josh Pence and Armie Hammer expertly mimicked the other's actions, completely pulling the wool over my eyes. This effect is, I'll dare say, perfect. Perhaps I'd be able to point out a mistake after the movie is released on Blu but this act of having a stand in for a twin has come a LONG way since the old days of “double screen.”

The only flaw of the film was in Justin Timberlake's casting. Perhaps the producers felt that they needed a name to sell the film but, as talented as Justin is in everything else he does (singing, song writing, dancing, clothing design, comedic acting), he did not have the dramatic chops to convey the paranoia, seduction, and seriousness of Sean Parker. Sean's character starts off harmlessly enough but I still get the sense that Justin's focus is still too much on the delivery instead of getting into the character, which again, he does with ease for his many appearances on Saturday Night Live. Take for instance one of my favorites, Robin Gibb. His tone is kept timid and his straight face is retained throughout almost the entire sketch. In the scenes with Sean Parker, Justin's tone is always the same when expressing the breadth of his emotions.

In the end, I don't feel the film is either a sob story for Eduardo Saverin nor a witch hunt for Marc Zuckerburg. I believe the film was more about the bitter end of a friendship brought on by success. This theme is a common one in films about bands or musicians but to have the subject matter be about something that half a billion people use was a surprising parallel for me. The film is interestingly framed with Mark Zuckerburg talking with a girl who feels sorry for him. I feel this film is incredibly relevant to the youth of today because it illustrates the cost of losing oneself in a business, relationship, drugs, etc. after forsaking those that helped you get there in the first place.


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