On The Social Network
For reference on what’s to follow, click here and all its attendant links, and here as background to the film’s factual liberties.
Yeah, it’s a pretty good movie. To me it’s a solid 8 to 8.5 out of 10, max grade. Which is great. In a strong year, with strong contenders, an impressively solid field, The Social Network certainly deserves to be AMONG them – The King’s Speech, Inception, Black Swan, 127 Hours, Conviction (it’s a long list). But does it deserve to be ABOVE them? Beyond them? Is it better than The Town? I’m not sure it’s better than The Town.
And that is what you call hype. Undeserving hype, if you ask me. Because the way they’re talking about TSN it’s like there’s not even a race, not even a debate. That if you stood it up against any of the aforementioned fine films, that it would be an immediate closed discussion. Frankly, it’s insulting.
Not only because it undermines the achievements of the other features but because, well, The Social Network is simply a good movie. And that’s all. The Social Network is not the statement of a generation, it is not a cinematic symbol of an era. For those hyperbolic attachments to be true, well, the The Social Network, in its current form, would have to, at the very least, be true. And The Social Network is, as you probably already know, not even close to being true.
Having said that, could it have remained not true and somehow earned the overrating it’s currently receiving? The comparisons to Citizen Kane, the declarations of groundbreaking brilliance, the assignation of a profundity that I can’t seem to locate...?
But – SPOILERS AHEAD – they would have had to overhaul the fundamentals, the basic premise behind their version of the origin of Facebook: that the rich Harvard boys were mean to Mark Zuckerberg and all he wanted to do was to get into their private clubs. Given that this is the premise of The Social Network, needless to say, the final product falls far short. Which is a shame because it really does have some potential.
I mean, if you’re going to make something up, at least make it new school. As Nathan Heller noted, the archaic assertion that Zuckerberg, in real life, was motivated by an inferiority complex to the twin rowing wasps and what they represented is not only absurd, it’s also really, really weak. Another story of a gawky genius who gets nerd revenge through his computer – the position is not only unoriginal, it’s also rather senseless. Because at the same time, while positing that Zuckerberg was some kind of outcast, Aaron Sorkin (screenwriter) also decided to give him friends, good friends, eager friends, and a girlfriend too, who willingly went out in public with him, and only broke up with him because he talked down to her.
So their thesis was disproved within the first 10 minutes of the movie.
But it is an irresistible notion, and certainly one that has prevailed and continues to do so, for the rallying cry of the marginalised and unpopular. Which, I guess, is why online critics and self described film geeks have taken to it so readily. It’s the “me too! me too!” way of placing oneself into a story that mythologises this alleged anti-hero of the anti-heroes. Of course. What choice did he have? The cheerleaders were picking on him. He had to retaliate with his brain! As for the others, more mainstream, the ones jerking off at the “enlightening” influence of TSN, well last Aaron Sorkin has given them a comforting connection, and explanation I suppose, to a phenomenon that took them by surprise, went right over their heads, and seemed to leave them behind.
Kids and social networking. It’s all because one boy was rejected by the cool boys. I’m not such an old fart after all! I know this!
But do you?
As earlier asserted, humanising Zuckerberg with such a trite construct is kind of a cop-out. Which is why The Social Network totally misses out on what’s truly fascinating about Mark Zuckerberg as an emblem, if he’s to be sold as one.
That’s the movie I wanted to see: the rise of Mark Zuckerberg, prototype of the Modern Sociopath, who is a product NOT of the predictable outcast/aspirational plot development, but truly an invention of his time, using equal parts skill and detachment to create the ultimate online relationship connection, demonstrating at once an understanding of human response and communication while maintaining the cutthroat disengagement that has enabled him to systematically destroy relationships whenever they’ve ceased to be useful to him.
You can’t explain this away by saying he was left out of the sandbox by the beautiful people, as much as that might be the easier answer to swallow. Though equally obvious, it would have been more brave to attribute his ruthless ambition to what ails us all as technology brings us both closer to each other and drives us further and further from true communication.
The rate of young people getting their drivers’ licences is dropping around the world. Many people think this is due to environmental awareness. An alternate explanation might be that text messaging, chatting, skyping etc has made it unnecessary for kids to meet up so often, that they actually gather much more infrequently than previous generations. And as a result, their opportunities for training, for reading cues, body language, for learning that intangible code of how to treat, be, react, engage with one another productively IN PERSON are rapidly declining.
That is/was Mark Zuckerberg’s environment, an environment that could very well be indicted. The same environment that enables a blogger, yours truly, to lob bitchy comments onto the web. But the pretty girls didn’t bully me. I don’t get to write off my own sh-t by blaming The Establishment. It’s a lot more sobering to acknowledge that the sh-t sometimes can’t be rationalised.
Or that the only proper rationalisation is that Zuckerberg is simply who We are now. Trying to make me feel sorry for him, especially with that silly line at the end “You’re not an asshole Mark. You’re just trying so hard to be one” is lazy. Similarly, showing Zuckerberg refreshing his screen (did you notice they don’t use Macs? heh) obsessively, after all this time, for the approval of the girl who dumped him is lazy. And easy. Relating modern moral ambiguity and detachment to heartbreak is too easy. Masterpieces are not easy.
But again, it’s a good movie. It has great energy. The dialogue snaps, it’s funny, it’s irreverent, it’s gloriously absurd and subversive, and the acting is first class. Jesse Eisenberg is first class. So restrained, such a subtly nuanced and fine-tuned performance, such an exciting talent, such an emerging talent, and so much to look forward to. And therefore a shame that all this dumbass Oscar f-ckery re: Justin Timberlake is overshadowing him. Like, it’s not even the same. And it actually surprises me, how people can watch the two, and bother speaking about Timberlake after Eisenberg’s amazingness. If I were him, I’d be insulted.
What about Justin Timberlake then? No he doesn’t totally suck. But you know why? It’s because he has help. A LOT of help. David Fincher is a clever motherf-cker.
Think back to the first time you see JT’s Sean Parker. In bed with that girl. He was terrible. And why? Because there were no distractions. It was a still scene. Nothing could help hide his sh-t. But every single scene that follows involving Justin Timberlake in The Social Network is so heavily edited, layered with loud music and visuals, and motion too, in and out of rooms, busy busy busy cameras, a whirlwind of activity, it’s designed to keep your attention AWAY from his deficiencies.
Pipsqueak can’t read dialogue without sounding like he’s reading dialogue, over-enunciating every word, over acting every comma, so Fincher ends up chopping up his segments – in the restaurant when he first meets Zuckerberg, it’s attention deficit speed. In the house, the hot girls hit off the bong, at the party, it’s the cops and the pounding score, and whenever Eisenberg and Andrew Garfield are around, he gets a save pass every time. Those two carry his shortcomings.
Seriously, go back for a JT play by play of the movie and you’ll see, even during his final moment on the phone struggling to apologise, Justin always has help, Fincher is constantly trying to cover him up. Everyone around him camouflages the truth: Pips cannot act and the very idea of him getting a nomination is tantamount to pouring sh-t all over Jesse Eisenberg’s delivery. Please put an end to this bullsh-t. It’s seriously disrespectful to Andrew Garfield too who is all convincing counter-warmth and gullibility to Eisenberg’s shrewd lack of remorse, effectively balancing betrayal with a loyalty he can’t seem to shake, the relic anti-thesis perhaps to the Modern Sociopath and ultimately the representative of the Collective as the vanquished loser. Justin Timberlake does not belong in this discussion.
A final note then on Rooney Mara who is currently working on becoming Lisbeth Salander. After seeing The Social Network, for the first time, I think I might be able to believe in someone other than Noomi Rapace. Mara is good. But more than that, she’s that peculiar quality about her in that she doesn’t look like anyone and also looks like everyone. I don’t recognise her from photo to photo. And I found she was different in both her TSN scenes too, substantial as they both were.
Lisbeth disappears. In every sense of the word, Lisbeth through disguise, through retreat, through violence, through her computer, Lisbeth is great at disappearing. Rooney Mara seems to be able to too. In fact, if it’s one advantage she might have over Rapace, it could be this. And therefore a different interpretation of Lisbeth might be on the way. I’m actually now more optimistic about it.
Attached – the cast of The Social Network in Paris.
And please do send me your thoughts on the film. Or we can fight about it tomorrow during the liveblog!
Photos from Wenn.com and KCSPresse/Splashnewsonline.com and AFP/Julien M. Hekimian/Gettyimages.com