The Social Network (2010)

The Social Network (2010)

Starring Jesse Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield, Justin Timberlake, Armie Hammer, Max Minghella, Brenda Song, Rashida Jones, Joseph Mazzello, Rooney Mara, Dustin Fitzsimons

Directed by David Fincher

Expectations: None. It’s the Facebook movie.

If you’ve heard the hype surrounding The Social Network, and I don’t know how you would have avoided it, you will have heard that this is the movie of a generation. I can’t really argue against the sentiment of the statement as the film could easily be seen as such if you were so inclined, but I can wish that the movie of the generation was at least a little more substantial.

Yes, I said substantial. The main character here, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, is a one-dimensional immature caricature of a human and Jesse Eisenberg plays the character to a T. Eisenberg does a great job of making Zuckerberg look like a man devoid of any emotional response other than petty retaliation that he seems to unleash only incidentally in his quiet desire for acceptance from a girl. It works for the sake of the story Aaron Sorkin wanted to tell, but it does so at the mercy of the audience’s interest in the main character of the film, as he features no arc to speak of.

So for those living under a rock, The Social Network sets out to tell the story of how Mark Zuckerberg created Facebook and detail the drama that ensued because of it. What’s telling about the film is that it’s made from the position that Facebook is the most popular website on the planet. Do girls really throw themselves at college web designers? I’m just not buying it. In 2004 when four dudes were coding in a Harvard dorm room, nobody knew shit. This lets the air out of the balloon, but in the interest of the film let’s assume that at least the main players know this is going to be the shit of the millennium. If we assume this we can more readily accept the “movie of a generation” moniker, because it’s only the cool kids defining the generation that are in-the-know enough to not only foresee the needs of the future Internet, but to create it and proliferate it across the globe.

Much has been said of Aaron Sorkin’s writing on The Social Network and overall his work is good. It doesn’t dumb down a lot of the Internet jargon, which was fairly impressive and something I don’t think I’ve ever seen outside of a tech documentary. Computer technology is always a laughable part of fiction films with ridiculous programs created for the film breaking the illusion for anyone that knows or uses a computer regularly. Sorkin’s script doesn’t do that, so I must give him credit for that, but his relentless, rapid-fire dialogue gets old just as fast as the character’s can shoot it out of their mouths. If there was ever a definitive “talking heads” movie, this is it. No shit, in Scene 1 alone there’s gotta be more dialogue than the first thirty minutes of most films. I was exhausted and it just started! There are some genuine golden moments of dialogue throughout though, and it’s impressive for the simple fact that Sorkin was able to make an uninteresting story interesting.

The editing echoes the rapid-fire nature of the dialogue with equally quick editing during the dialogue scenes. This builds a lot of false tension in scenes that aren’t really all that exciting. It isn’t Michael Bay or anything, and there are some quality moments of restraint, but I can’t fight the feeling of being railroaded into thinking I just saw a great movie, when in fact I saw a moderately interesting fictionalized account of the events that succeeded simply because it wasn’t boring. Oh God, it is pretty boring visually though.

The score of the film was composed by Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross and is by far my favorite part of the film. Specifically the music over the opening titles skillfully moves from melancholy melodic piano to haunting, brooding synth, foreshadowing the themes to come. My only complaint about the score is the choice to synth out Grieg’s In the Hall of the Mountain King and put it over the rowing race. It made the whole scene really comical to me, which seemed out-of-place and unneeded. Although, the twin brothers who are on the rowing team were a big source of laughs throughout for me (unintentionally?), reminding me of Tweedledee and Tweedledum, so perhaps the rowing scene was meant to be funny.

The acting is probably the most impressive aspect of the film with Jesse Eisenberg actually holding the film down, despite my best intentions to hate him. I was skeptical that he could pull it off but he really does a good job. Andrew Garfield is also great, and equally surprising is Justin Timberlake’s turn as Sean Parker, founder of Napster. Timberlake plays the rock star well, but that’s not too much of a stretch for him. I can’t complain too much though, he does a good job and is the focal point of my favorite scene in the film, which is oddly enough probably the source of all the “movie of a generation” lines. Timberlake and Eisenberg sit at a table in an over-loud dance club. Timberlake must yell to be heard as the music throbs and the colored lights swirl. He relates how previous upstart companies got fucked over and how this is Zuckerberg’s opportunity to set a precedent and lead his generation. It’s a great scene, but is truly the only one that achieves greatness on all levels for me, and that’s just not enough to carry a whole movie.

I did like the ending though, even though it’s completely ridiculous. Oh look, he’s got all that money, all that genius for programming, and in the end he’s just like us, on Facebook searching for approval. Yay! Movie of the generation! The Social Network isn’t a bad film, but it’s far from great. If nothing else, the film is pretty easy to get into discussions about, so I will give it credit for that and for not treating the audience like they’re stupid, but the computer-generated breath coming out of their mouths I cannot condone.

4 comments to The Social Network (2010)

  • I thought Shutter Island said more about the human condition than any other film this year. ‘Social Network’ was good, but not four star great.

  • Mike_D

    I can honestly say we had very different experiences with this movie. I think first and foremost, for this movie to run under the banner of “movie of a generation” is wholly unfair, no matter how many journalists care to use it. Don’t you think? Representing a generation is hardly it’s strength. It’s definitely about a generation as the subject matter is iconic of a generation, I suppose: the Web 2.0 generation. But, to hold it up as the “movie of a generation” is way off base and always was. That’s hardly the value of this film.

    As films go, it portrayed a world, and one I enjoyed. I was endlessly intrigued by it actually. It tickled me all throughout my viewing. And this world was the world of privileged Ivy League industrialists in their formative years. My experience at that age has next to no resemblance of theirs on any level and that was definitely the consciously designed appeal. Who but only the most savvy understood that breakthroughs in online networking were what we should be looking to in the early 2000’s, let alone take a shot at it? So this is who chumps like me are competing with in the industrial field? Have I naively ignored how stacked the cards are against me? What else don’t I know about these people?

    It was also a talkie, borderline court room drama. When was the last time studios bet on this sort of film? A through and through “prestige” production when most audiences believed it to be dead. That sort of stuff is relegated to self important indies, now, right? I also enjoyed how classy it was. Classicly relying on good direction, strong writing, and good acting with no vanity or self referencing for promotion (within the film I mean). A totally “regular” movie that requires no pretense from the audience (even though it was strangely produced next to real time with history).

    This film was about it’s setting, not subject matter (which allows the whole uneasy pretension of being based on Facebook completely evaporate for me). It was a simple story with a much more interesting setting. Ok, one guy thinks he’s got a great website idea. Well, he also has a peer capable of lending him $20,000 before he’s old enough to be in a bar. And he’s also being sued by future Olympians who play a sport I never even heard of. These people did not earn this adventure. They were bred for it. Did you know 20 year old’s tell each other to “lawyer up, asshole!” in earnest? And as far as the question of girls throwing themselves at web designers… Well, if the web designers are poised to change the field and you’re a savvy socialite coed, then the answer is “yes” (if you’re buying into the film as much as I am). My take may sound like projection of personal class-issues, but that’s what qualifies me as their audience. I’m American. America has class issues.

    I also don’t know any part of the movie that could be the source or reason of titling this “movie of a generation” other than it’s about a 19 year old as every story about a 19yo represents a generation. Old people watched this movie, not young people. Old people watch the Oscars, where this is headed, not young people. This was a refreshingly competent and mature Hollywood delivery. Go fig.

    Anyway, this movie was not a portrait of Mark Z, it was portrait of the privileged class.

    Thanks, Will. And also great review. Do you watch Todd Solonz movies?

    • Yeah, we definitely took away different things. You’re right, it’s completely unfair to come into a movie and hold it up to a wild claim such as the “movie of a generation”, but when so many people are saying the same thing, sometimes I get wrapped up in the hype. So I was coming at it trying to understand where the statement comes from, which was admittedly fairly hard to find. Your mention of old people watching it and coining bullshit terms really puts it in perspective and I totally agree.

      The world I was not so intrigued by. I’m more intrigued by your account of it than the film itself. Good breakdown man! It really is a portrait of an elite culture instead of a Zuckerberg biopic.

      For me (other than the general 19yo generational story) the only thing that warrants any sort of “movie of a generation” claim is the scene I mention with Timberlake talking about how in the past all the young upstarts sold their companies to the corporations, but how if Zuckerberg was smart he could hang onto his and become the first young, powerful, billionaire CEO, signaling a paradigm shift where the young realize that they can control the world through their handle on the technology of the future and its path. Regardless of my thoughts on the rest of the movie, I thought that scene was excellent.

      Glad you liked the review! I haven’t seen any Solondz movies, are they any good?

  • It really is the perfect example of when all the right elements of a film come together, and make a great film. Eisenberg is perfect, and matches all the looks he needed to, to capture the sure genius of Zuckerberg. Great review!

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