Sunday, July 3, 2011

Rewatch: 'The Social Network'

The Social Network is the perfect storm of a movie that desperately wants to be cool with accolades heaped upon it by a lot of people that desperately want to be cool.  "Oh, it's about the Facebook?  I've heard of the Facebook!  The kids like the Facebook!"  It walks away with three Oscars: Best Score (deservedly), Best Editing (not nearly as good as Inception), Best Adapted Screenplay (not a strong category for the year, but a few lines of great dialogue don't make it better written than Toy Story 3).  It's not a bad movie; far from it, it's a very good movie.  It's just not the great movie that many people tried to make it out to be.

There's an interesting plot with personal intrigue.  The plot drives the pacing, which is mostly breakneck, reminiscent in some way of All The President's Men.  There is one excellent acting performance, two very good ones, and one uneven one.  Respectively, that would be Eisenberg, Garfield and Hammer, and Timberlake.  The acting in All The President's Men is what makes it a great movie, but it's not the lack of great acting that knocks The Social Network down.  It is that Academy Award-winning writing.  There is some fantastic dialogue in spurts, but it is Sorkin's preachiness about the internet age that, in part, shows the movie to not be as cool as it wants to be.  In a key scene, Zuckerberg confronts his ex-girlfriend in a bar right after he has become famous.  She rants about how what's wrong with kids today is that they think they can put everything on the internet as if people care and that, once out there, nothing can be taken back.  Sorkin may as well have just shown up in more than just his one cameo and said that himself.  Not only would that type of character not have delivered that sort of speech in real life, but it turns into a "get off my lawn" moment in a movie that's supposed to be about kids stomping all over the world's damn lawn.

Fincher goes a little crazy with some vanity shots of crew racing that don't quite work to push the flow of the movie along (hence, my preference for the editing in Inception), but it is the ending that hurts the pace the most for me.  I grant that there was no clear ending to the story and so they had to build the frame story of the lawsuit that was not in the book.  Once again, though, there is a voice that seems outside the natural story in Rashida Jones' character.  She takes a shine to Zuckerberg in a way that is not earned.  In the end, she says that Zuckerberg is not an a**hole, even though he tries to act like one.  There is a scene, maybe two, where he seems to be softer than his exterior, but that is very fleeting.  He only cares about Facebook and maybe that doesn't make him an a**hole, but it certainly does not make him not one.

The movie is beautiful, visually.  There are some flashes of brilliance in the dialogue.  Eisenberg finished the ascent he began in Zombieland from Michael Cera wannabe to leading man.  It's a very good movie, worthy of the Best Picture nomination, particularly when there were ten nominees.  Sorkin and Fincher just don't get exactly the perfect feel for a movie about something as modern and pervasive -- and maybe even culture-changing -- as Facebook.  The movie speaks to how people who don't use the technology see the technology and that's why those people liked it so much.

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