New to Netflix, The Social Network is a very interesting film to watch ten years later. It maintains its sweeping Shakespearean tragedy elements. It’s performances hold up beautifully. It’s cinematography remains rich, but it misogyny and attitudes toward women remain frustrating.
The film follows Mark Zuckerberg as a frustrated college student who starts a social networking site that grows into the massive institution Facebook that we use today. The film opens with Mark on a date with his girlfriend which begins with him obsessing over getting into a final club and ends with a devastating breakup. This breakup is the catalyst for Zuckerberg’s actions throughout the movie. Much has been written about the film’s historical inaccuracies, but regardless of the facts it makes for a great story.
That is the key to this whole movie. It is a great story. Zuckerberg here is a man who feels rejections so deeply that he creates an online community to replace the real world. He seeks acceptance through his own creation and in doing so he destroys the real relationship with his best friend as played by Andrew Garfield. This is rich material for a modern tragedy, and the film hits that aspect perfectly.
Jesse Eisenberg is fantastic as Mark Zuckerberg. He handles Sorkin’s dialogue brilliantly. Sorkin writes in a heightened fashioned. Every line is wordy and intellectual and must be spoken at a rapid pace for the flow and music of the words to play correctly. Eisenberg also brings a simmering intensity to Zuckerberg especially as he sinks deeper and deeper into resentment. His journey through the movie is incredibly subtle work. Justin Timberlake shows up in a wonderful performance as the devil on Zuckerberg’s shoulder Sean Parker. Andrew Garfield turns in a strong performance as Zuckerberg’s one time best friend who ends up suing him. And Armie Hammer does double duty playing twin brothers who believe that Zuckerberg stole the idea for Facebook from them.
The cinematography on display here by Jeff Cronenweth is full of rich deep shadows. It makes the Harvard campus look like the most intensely dramatic place on earth. The stark yellows and oranges of the lighting scheme offsets the cold blues of the laptop screens. The movement and lighting make up for the fact that so much of the film follows people staring at computers. It’s a great looking movie that makes a potentially dull action look riveting.
David Fincher is the director. Film students across the country have shrines built to this man. He is the favorite idol of most aspiring filmmakers. He is an excellent director, but he’s a little at war with his own material here. Sorkin writes plays. He scripts are full of dialogue. The drama is not in what happens, but in what is said. Fincher is a visual director, and he seems to be trying to escape every dialogue scene. He cuts in and out of conversations at such a rapid pace that it kills a lot of dramatic momentum. The film has an uncommon framing. The film tells Zuckerberg’s story through two different depositions. Zuckerberg is sued by two different parties, and the story of the founding of Facebook is told through these two depositions. It’s would be a jumble if it were told in any manner, but Fincher’s decision to cut between both depositions and the past narrative is too much. Every time a scene in one deposition gets going, we cut to a different deposition or a different moment in the past. The most egregious and harmful moment comes at the end when Andrew Garfield’s character confronts Zuckerberg. The most emotional and impactful scene in the movie is interrupted by a quick cut to a deposition. It feels like somebody in the audience paused the best scene in order to explain something that we all knew anyway then it cuts back to the big scene except the momentum, the weight, and the power of the scene is dissipated. This happens throughout the movie and while it doesn’t ruin the whole movie is diminishes its impact. It could have been better.
The film is interesting to watch now as a time capsule. It was released in 2010, and it was about the early 2000’s. Women were treated very differently on college campuses back then. Zuckerberg is angry at the girl who broke up with him and lashes out. Guys are just desperate to hook up with women. A pair of characters who row crew talk flippantly about their girlfriends feelings. These girlfriends are never shown on screen. The movie accurately shows the feelings of computer nerds who are unable to obtain women and confused by them. As well as the arrogant frat guys who have girlfriends and don’t care about them and who pursue the hottest of women carelessly because they feel they deserve to have them. It displays this mentality and behavior but doesn’t criticize or condemn it. It’s an interesting thing to see through modern eyes.
In the end, it is a very good movie. It is a grand sweeping modern tragedy that works inspire of itself. It’s my cup of tea. – B+
I’ve always loved the trailer. I think the trailer is in some ways superior to the film itself. The trailer gets an A+…