Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The Social Network

The Social Network is The Godfather for generation Y. Like The Godfather, or any tragedy, The Social Network follows the creation of an empire and destruction of a friendship. But instead of bootlegged wine and going to the mattresses, this empire was amassed on the endless desire to belong. And instead of a dirt nap in the middle of the dessert, everyone files lawsuits. One must wonder the worse fate.

Set against the the cut throat nature of exclusive college fraternities, The social network is the story of how outcast Mark Zuckerberg and his cohort Eduardo created an Internet revolution, partly out of spite, partly out of genuis, and partly by committing theft of intellectual property. Facebook is about belonging, college is about belonging, and the movie is about belonging, too; how most people would sacrifice their only friend for the chance to be the bad ass kid in class.

The tricky part about making a movie where the two best friends are doomed to fail (and sue eachother) is making the inevitable rift that develops between them believable. Director David Fincher side steps this potential cliché by having the two leads mostly tolerate each other the entire way, and not really be all that close. Sure, they're friends, but the jury may be out on whether or not they really like each other all that much.

And this works. It works really well. The movie is attempting to convey that while the social experience may move online, open ourselves up to new people and different situations, the fact remains that the outcasts are going to be the outcasts. A person who doesn't have a lot friends doesn't discover facebook and suddenly have a dazzling social life. Facebook is a reflection of your real life social status, not the indicator of it.

The story is incredibly exciting and intricate, and that's an accomplishment in and of itself, especially for an audience that's used to be condescended to. There are layers of being outcasted, shoved aside, and every drama or conflict in the film seems to come from the notion that someone has been left out. Someone has been excluded, ignored, not had their friend request accepted.

I mean it's all here. At one point one character does something a little sneaky that takes down the facebook site for a little while, and this is all because he felt left out, shut out, and he didn't like the way things were going. He took his ball and went home. The same thing that happened in those gradeschool backyard football games when the fat kid got tackled too hard. The film is a wonderful reflection of this dynamic. That's not to say the movie is perfect.

Too often Fincher would get a little fancy and make one character blurry until they come back with a witty, below the belt barb, and I know this is to create drama and all of that, but it happened so often it could have been a drinking game.

Also, Fincher used CGI for breath in the cold and snow flakes. After a summer of watching computers shoot each other with lasers, to see obvious CGI snow takes you out of the film, and considering how much attention this film requires, these little peeves grow into full fledged annoyances.

It’s as if Fincher was worried the audience's attention span was going to wain, and he needed something, anything, to distract us from all this pesky talking, kids like them fancy computer graphics right?

On the subject of computers, thank God someone took Internet technology seriously. Movies rarely pay attention to technological fidelity. Characters dial only four numbers on a phone. Play an Xbox by only hitting the shoulder buttons. The entirety of “Swordfish”. There was a real and mounting fear in me that The Social Network was going to botch the Internet in spectacular fashion. Amazingly, the content wasn't dumbed down! The film took a noble gamble in believing the audience's needs for authenticity in the technology presented.

The reason the technology was represented in an accurate and exciting way was the writing. Most assuredly an Aaron Sorkin script, chatty dialog and all, it’s easy to forget he wrote it. I mean that in the best way possible.

Sorkin’s prior work included characters having a pesky habit of being maybe a bit to clever for their own good. A bit too “aren't we witty?”. The Social Network's characters talk as normal people would. The first scene in the movie seemed like Aaron Sorkin was just stretching his creative legs, but served the purpose of establishing the theme of Zuckerbergs habit of unintentional Douchebaggary. There is a scene you'll also notice with Sean Parker, Zuckerbeg, Eduardo and a minor character, Christie that was too cute for my liking.

Jesse Eisenberg becomes Mark Zuckerberg, the socially awkward outcast who you won't like very much, but are totally invested in. The brooding, introverted performance would generate oscar buzz in a perfect world.

The other performances were good; Andrew Garfield's Eduardo Saverin has the trickiest job playing straight man to all of the chaos, and doesn’t bore us while serving as Zuckerberg’s exposition machine.

Armie Hammer plays two twins, and makes us empathize with characters who would typically be bad guys in any other film. Justin Timberlake is loud and annoying and whiny, and represents all the things Zuckerberg really wants, and does a good job of being a manipulative jerk you love to hate. Rashida Jones brings cadence and confidence to a small roll.

The best movies are ones that kind of let you into a world you may not know a ton about, and teach you something while entertaining the socks off the audience. In this movie I learned how Facebook started. I learned about the exclusivity and cut throat nature of Harvard clubs, and heck, I even learned a bit about how to row Crue. It entertains, it educates, and it even has Bill Gates.

Yeah! Bill Gates!

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