The Social Network

Dir: David Fincher, 2010. Starring: Jesse Eisenberg, Rooney Mara, Justin Timberlake, Andrew Garfield, Brian Barter. Drama.
The Social Network

I watched The Social Network with a few expectations:

1) Knowing it was directed by David Fincher told me it would look stylishly dark (though, how and why for a movie about computer geeks remained a mystery).

2) Trent Reznor was behind the score of the film, and so the soundtrack was supposed to be badass in a pop-electronic-industrial sort of way.

3) The trailer set it up to look like a thriller, therefore I was supposed to be enthralled with talk of computer programming. And also because it's a thriller, I was supposed to buy that sleek, dangerous looking women would get naked for said computer geeks (I can't think of one example from the genre without a woman at least stripped down to a set of fishnet stockings).

I tend to be disappointed anytime I enter a movie theater with expectations, but there was little to nothing leaving me feeling unsatisfied about this film. The Social Network is a tense, sleek, and often funny film that I don't know what to classify as other than a "business thriller." It's loosely about the rise of Facebook, but more so it's about betrayal and how ethics and friendship may not have a place in the creation of a billion-dollar business. The soundtrack also happens to be pretty righteous; never have I been so intrigued with talk of "coding;" and it's totally believable when two of the characters score with some sexy women.

I don't know how true to the actual events the script was written, and it probably doesn't matter (anyone else see a pattern to films in 2010 being about the real or the imaginary?). I imagine the real story wouldn't be as interesting to watch, nor could it include such deftly written and delivered dialogue. The characters in The Social Network don't talk like the people most of us know and interact with--these are professional actors engaging in conversations laced with a head-spinning amount of wit and ulterior motives. Director David Fincher and editors Kirk Baxter and Angus Wall also help shape the performances with a lot of cross-cut style editing, heightening the on-screen reality into something a bit more surreal and intense.

But overall, the film is probably Fincher at his most subdued. It lacks a lot of the special effects and stylish cinematography of Fight Club and Zodiac, but that's not to say it looks bland or moves at a sluggish pace--it's quite the opposite. It's just much more streamlined and focused on letting the actors carry the story with dialogue. This might disappoint some people, but I personally find it refreshing to see Fincher tell a story without seeming to scream at us, "HEY, LOOK AT WHAT I CAN DO WITH AN EDITING ROOM!" Instead, he's just whispering it this time, and for an original effect.

The film received a certain amount of criticism upon its initial release for its portrayal of women (most notably by Irin Carmon of Jezebel). This is ludicrous. One of the most admirable and thought provoking lines of dialogue in the film is delivered by a female character who has our complete sympathy, and the audience I watched it with appropriately cheered. There are also moments of women acting malicious, women acting seductive, and women acting kind and gentle JUST AS there are men throughout the film. Sure, it can be fun to read a film a certain way, but to watch this particular story through a feminist point-of-view is, at the very noblest, academic masturbation.

Because it's topical, epic, and told and sold with a budget that could feed a small, third-world nation of people, there's no doubt The Social Network will sweep the Oscars in nominations. I wouldn't mind seeing it win a few.

Posted by:
Paul Losada
Jan 7, 2011 3:19pm
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