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The Social Network (2010)

2011/02/21 1 comment

The Social Network is a remarkable film. Directed by David Fincher and written by Aaron Sorkin the film is worth all the hyperbolic phrases that can be thrown at it. It is the first film of my adult life which has an importance now, but over time will become an even more critical work of American cinema. My initial reaction was that the film could be read as a hybrid of The Paper Chase and Network. Both are strong films which have only gotten better over time. Whatever weaknesses the film may have, after a second viewing I am even more certain that this film will obtain a special place in cinema history.

Focusing on three character’s, Mark Zuckerburg, Eduardo Saverin, and Sean Parker, during the creation of facebook the film provides a tangential connection to the millions who use the site and see the film. Personally, I was an undergraduate during the inception of facebook and clearly remember setting up a profile in my tiny University Commons apartment. While I did not attend Harvard or any of the Ivy league schools, I was privy to the site in the days when a user had to have a registered university email account to access the site. Even for people who were not a part of facebook’s initial stages or care little for social networking can connect with this story.

Aaron Sorkin has repeatedly described that the film is less about the experience of facebook and more about greed, power, friendship, lust, love and betrayal. However, with this ‘good-ol’ storytelling style it simplistically and problematically places women into the category of groupie slut or angelic voice of reason. Essentially, The Madonna or The Whore. Even with this issue the strength of the actors, storytelling, and editing remain so focused it is a challenge not to heap praise on the film.

In addition to these elements, I feel a significant amount of credit must be given to the film’s score, composed by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross. Similar to the compelling score of Sneakers the music of the film enhances each scene and makes programing lines of code a real adrenaline rush. In particular the tracks, In Motion and A Familiar Taste which play during the brainstorming, creation, and launch of Zukerburg’s initial attempt of facemash create a frenzy of image and sound. The melodic themes combing electronic and traditional compositions propel the scene while never overtaking the characters. I would argue the opposite is true of the similarly composed TRON:Legacy soundtrack by Daft Punk which essentially turns the film into a two-hour music video.

Shot on, The Red One digital camera, the cinematography is gorgeous and filled with the lush dark reds and golds that run through any Fincher film. Even though the frame is dark the colors feel deep and probing. Viewers are guided to specific spots on the frame, but the darkness around the edges hints at something more tempting if you choose to explore the space. Absolutely wonderful.

In one of the most dynamic scenes Fincher and crew cut between Zuckerburg’s dorm room, the Phoenix Final Club party and various locations around campus to balance tension with humor as facemash spreads throughout the campus community. The use of slow motion effectively raises the drama while the score hints at the sinister nature of the game all the while punctured by humor as each student makes their selection. Each of these elements is well balanced and helps a scene which would fall flat in lesser hands.

If there is any weakness to the film it would have to be the ending, which is the tragic element for so many Hollywood pictures. The conversation with Rashida Jones character echoing the themes set up in the opening scene feel forced. I compare this scene to the moment on a carnival ride or roller coaster when the action stops and the passengers coast back to the starting gate. You are still in the ride and you know it is coming to an end, but these last few moments feel like boring compared to the controlled insanity just experienced. During each viewing when the final scene arrived, I felt cheated by the machine operator and wanted just one more time around the bend. That is the best compliment for any movie, when after two hours you still want more, you still want to be with these characters and you just want the ride to continue. The Social Network is one of those rare films that makes going to the cinema some kind of wonderful.

Until next time, Cheers!

PS

I do enjoy watching the Academy Awards every year and even mark a ballot. However, I rarely voice an opinion about which film should ‘win’ as it seems rather meaningless. I do hope this film wins the lot though, if only for placing it on a list that will guarantee future generations access. On that same coin, some of my favorite films are those that have lost (There Will be Blood) or were never even nominated (El Dorado). So you know, whatever.

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