Saturday, January 15, 2011

The Social Network

I think if your clients want to sit on my shoulders and call themselves tall, they have the right to give it a try - but there's no requirement that I enjoy sitting here listening to people lie. You have part of my attention - you have the minimum amount. The rest of my attention is back at the offices of Facebook, where my colleagues and I are doing things that no one in this room, including and especially your clients, are intellectually or creatively capable of doing.

Did I adequately answer your condescending question?

-Mark Zuckerberg-

Sometimes no matter how much you try, no matter how much you want to, you just can’t make it to a movie. It’s not like I wasn’t aware of The Social Network and it’s not as if the disquieting short film that was the trailer didn’t make me rabid to see it. It’s just for some reason the theater seat and I never got together.

Which I’m almost happy about now (though had I seen the film in time it certainly would have made my top ten) because it’s one thing to be in on the first wave of discovering something and another to see it absolutely live up to the hype.

Let’s get this out of the way. Everything you’ve heard about Aaron Sorkin’s script for The Social Network is true. It is as good as you’ve heard. No matter how much of a chip on your shoulder you go into it with, or inversely, no matter how high your fannish expectations are, the script will be better then you think it is. It is face meltingly good, like the God speech in Malice stretched to feature length.

And the cast absolutely nails it. At this point I feel as if I’m just dishing out the same praise that everyone else is. But the movie so manifestly deserves it. Eisenberg is revelatory here. Seen most of the time in a would be alpha male faux confidence, or in a resigned slouch, eyes caked in more shadow then Vito Corleone’s by Fincher’s camera, mouth forever drawn in a petulant frown. But while with Brando this effect suggested a mind forever working in untold depths, the effect on Eisenberg brings only to mind a kind of slack reflectiveness. That is until he gets plugged in and something kindles at the base of those eyes a kind of mania of inspiration. Timberlake too far exceeds expectations. As someone who enjoyed his supporting turns in the batshit crazy Southland Tales and Black Snake Moan I wasn’t completely surprised by the fact that he could be an enjoyable actor, but the fact that he’s a good one came as a pleasant surprise. He invests Sean Parker with rock star bravado, because well duh of course he can, but also with a sense of self aggrandizing cowardice which is just so true to form. Rounding off the trio is Andrew Garfield who has a deer in the headlights look that seems like he’s just begging for someone to come and screw him over. It’d be easy to imagine him in another movie played as a patsy, a bumbling impediment to Zuckerberg’s greatness, but Garfield has far too much soul to let that happen. After all his only mistake was thinking that his friend possessed stores of decency and loyalty that he doesn’t. We haven’t even talked about Rooney Mara yet, whose performance here gives me another reason to hate the Nightmare On Elm Street remake, or Arnie Hammer whose astounding duel performance takes what could have been, in hands less sure then Sorkin’s, a walking villainous cliché and gives it real soul.

Over five hundred words in and I haven’t even said anything about David Fincher, who once again proves to be one of the most fascinating filmmakers working today. Much has been made of his and Sorkin’s peanut butter and chocolate like sensibilities, though I think the reputation of Fincher as a chilly stylist has always been overblown, he’s always known how to make a human moment hurt (“If you do decide to keep it- Spoil that kid every chance you get.”) What I do think he brings is a certain crucial sense of remove. He’s the coolant that keeps Sorkin’s demon hotrod of a script from overheating and bursting into flames.

Everyone talks about the “Hall Of The Mountain King” sequence, and as impressive as it is I think the sequence where Fincher really proves his value is in an early sequence in which Fincher intercuts Zuckerberg writing the program for “Facesmash” in his dorm room with a party set in one of the Final Clubs, to which, Zuckerberg so desperately craves admission., The film was originally supposed to be directed Sorkin and it’s easy enough to imagine what he would have done with the sequence. The party is a bit of a bacchanalia and Sorkin would have gotten right up in the excess done a line off it and then motor boated it. Fincher on the other hand keeps a very definite remove. It’s not even a condemnation, just an observation that no matter how good he is, this world of privilege and old money will never be open to Zuckerberg with his Asperger’s posture and wrong last name. They may recognize his genius, they may want to use him, they may even have some affection for him, but he will never come past the bicycle room.

In short a sharper more well observed movie about people was not made last year. The Social Network is the kind of movie that makes you feel as if the seventies never died.


le0pard13 said...

Really looking forward to seeing this (just picked up the Blu-ray Disc). Excellent look at this, Bryce.

Jake said...

The more I return to this movie, the more whatever faint inkling I had about my opinion being tainted by hype has faded away. I wrote one pretty long review when I saw it opening weekend, saw it again shortly thereafter and penned an even longer, more detailed piece on what struck my eye, and now that I have a home video copy to take screencaps I've got a third post in the running that will be more specifically about Fincher's use of architectural touchstones in the film.

I refused to call it a masterpiece when I first saw it because A) everyone else seemingly had and B) give it some goddamn time, you know? But I've watched it five times now and I've managed somehow to love it more each time. Even though it didn't top my best-of list last year, the top 3 were all nearly interchangeable and TSN was easily the most watchable of them. I still think Fincher's magnum opus is Zodiac, but I love how he's evolved as a filmmaker over the last few years, even compared to where he already was.

Chris David Richards said...

Spot on. My fannish expectations were met, exceeded, and then blown away. Sorkin is the rare sort of script writer who deserves the hyperbole. He's the rare sort of script writer who actually gets mentioned.

It's a battle between by heart and my head over whether Toy Story 3 or this is my favourite of last year.

Bryce Wilson said...

@ le0pard13: Thanks I'll be interested in knowing what another late comer makes of it.

@ Jake: I look forward to reading it. Great idea for that last one! Wish I'd thought of it... ; )

I'm right there with you on Zodiac. I love love love that movie.

@ Chris: It just goes to show how important directors are too him. When you compare this to Charlie Wilson's War, it is like night and day. Charlie had good intentions and Phillip Seymour Hoffman, but just let the script get away from it.

Biba Pickles said...

Fuck yes for Alec Baldwin!

Unknown said...

" I think the sequence where Fincher really proves his value is in an early sequence in which Fincher intercuts Zuckerberg writing the program for “Facesmash” in his dorm room with a party set in one of the Final Clubs, to which, Zuckerberg so desperately craves admission."

Agreed! I also love the musical cue that plays over this sequence. Kudos to Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross for creating one of the most amazing soundtracks in some time. Nice to see them when the Golden Globe and I'll be really stoked if they can nab an Oscar. They deserve it for the menacing, atmospheric score.

Bryce Wilson said...

"Oscar winner Trent Reznor" I like the sound of that.

Between the news that he's scoring and the pics of Rooney Mara, I think I"m finally intrigued by The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo.