Film Review – The Social Network (spoilers)
There are two films being released this year that deal with the current aspects of American prosperity and greed. While one of them appears to be outwardly critical, perhaps even slightly cynical, in its approach to addressing the modern day financial quandaries, the other is more obsequious in its outlook, and yet definitively deliberate in its’ presentation. The first film I speak of is Oliver Stone’s WALL STREET – MONEY NEVER SLEEPS which hits theaters a week before the other film, David Fincher’s THE SOCIAL NETWORK. Stone appears to be taking a direct swipe at Wall Street and the upper class’ views on how economics in American society should be run. Meanwhile, at the heart of Fincher’s film is the story of, loosely based on actual events, Mark Zuckerberg and the situations surrounding his creation of the website, Facebook, and rise to being the youngest billionaire in the world.
It wasn’t apparent to me going into THE SOCIAL NETWORK that I would be finding a comparison to the new WALL STREET film, however after the film’s opening sequence I began to see aspects of a commentary not on economics or those running it, but on the nature of those attempting to live in it. The movie begins in a bar on the campus of Harvard University. Even before the screen fades in on the first shot we are introduced to, by proxy of voice, the character of Mark Zuckerberg. I use the term character specifically when speaking about this film and its inhabitants, in particular Zuckerberg. Drawing from what little public personae that Zuckerberg has provided, writer Aaron Sorkin, David Fincher, and actor Jesse Esienberg have essentially created a character that is innately unique to only the movie. That is to say Esienberg’s portrayal of Mark Zuckerberg is created to supply the movie with a main character that is driving the film’s ideals and not that of the real Zuckerberg or the company of Facebook.
In the bar, we are physically introduced to Mark, who is sitting across a table from his girlfriend, Erica Albright, played by Rooney Mara. Mark is rambling about the IQ levels of China in comparison to the USA and dovetails his thoughts to his desires to join one of Harvard’s elite exclusive clubs, a driving point of motivation for Mark. Somewhere in his discourse with Erica she finally stops him long enough to breakup with him. Mark is of course stunned, and then, driving the point at the heart of the movie home, Erica leans forward, almost affectionately with Mark and says,
“Listen. You’re going to be successful and rich. But you’re going to go through life thinking that girls don’t like you because you’re a tech geek. And I want you to know, from the bottom of my heart, that that won’t be true. It’ll be because you’re an asshole.”
The situation sends Mark home angry where, sitting in front of his computer with a beer he begins blogging about the breakup and his anger, this leads to him simultaneously creating a website that pulls the pictures from the databases of sororities at Harvard and places them side by side, then asking the viewer to click on the individual they find more attractive. It’s a selfish act of catharsis that is cut between Mark in his dorm with his roommates watching him, as if he’s a painter in motion, to shots of a party taking place at one of the elite clubs Mark wants to attend, complete with half naked women dancing for the men to the score provided by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross.
The craftsmanship in the editing of scenes like this, between the direction of the acting, the cinematography, and the score, is where THE SOCIAL NETWORK flies the highest. Fincher’s approach to film making is Kubrikian in its scope. He is famous for his long and grueling shoot schedules that typically span around five months, sometimes requiring 200 takes for a single scene. In the end practically every shot of this film is perfect in terms of lighting, composition and acting. There is no doubt that the quality in film making is above par here.
Unfortunately there are several key ingredients at work that I feel ultimately undermine the film’s overall composition. One of the first is, as we watch this early scene unfold with such technical grace I can’t help but wonder why is so much energy being put forth to tell the story of an, ‘asshole’, and why should I care? This is a thought that reoccurred continuously throughout the movie’s duration, which is a distraction to the movie itself and the spell one is supposed to be under when watching a movie. While I’m awed by the mastery of the filmmaking the story is something that leaves me questioning its nature as it unfolds.
The website that Zuckerberg creates spawns controversy that goes public and draws the attention of a group of Harvard socialites comprising of twin brothers, the Winklevoss’, and Divya Narendra, played by Max Minghella, who have an idea of a website of their own, and they want Zuckerberg to help them create it. Mark takes their idea, devises a better one, and creates The Facebook out of it, which spreads like wildfire in popularity. Before Mark and his friends who helped him know it, the whole thing has grown faster than they could imagine, and rockets them to fame and fortune. Along the way Zuckerberg misleads the group who hired him and eventually cuts his best friend and partner, Eduardo Saverin, played by Andrew Garfield, out of his shares, once Facebook becomes an international phenomenon.