Social Network, The
7/10 (superficial; little more than a glamorized biopic)
Here’s another case of hyperventilating award-givers. I saw the movie a day after it won Best Picture, Director and Screenplay at the Golden Globes, and while I tried to be fair I have to admit that I was skeptical.
At no point since its release have I felt very compelled to see it. First, I don’t care about Facebook and second, an uber-contemporary story about relatively mundane events that took place five or so years ago just seems like boring subject matter. Only after its appearance on year-end Top 10 lists and its Golden Globes run did my curiosity override my distaste.
The result is an entertaining and frequently funny recounting of the events and lawsuits surrounding Facebook’s creation. It’s a little too long and very much too Hollywood, but overall it was quite an enjoyable film. Jesse Eisenberg — who severely annoyed me with his Michael Cera impersonation in “Zombieland” — was much better here as Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg. Andrew Garfield was better as cofounder Eduardo Saverin, and the dialogue was terrific.
But I’m still underwhelmed by the overall product. The fact that screenwriter Aaron Sorkin has admitted fabricating parts of the script in order to make it more interesting not only seems to contradict the entire point of a contemporary historical film, but it also corroborates my initial suspicion that the story was too boring to be made in the first place (major players in the history of Facebook have generally agreed with this opinion). A film cannot succeed on snappy conversations and glib cultural references alone.
More confusing is the spate of comments I saw throughout the year-end lists talking about the importance of the movie as a documentation of the modern-day shift/revolution in social communication. I was certainly hoping to see some of this, as the social and moral/ethical implications of Facebook’s emergence is a fascinating topic with a bottomless pit of opportunities for engaging exploration. Unfortunately, apart from highlighting the rapid explosion of popularity and the occasional scene-let of coeds emailing the link to their buddies, this theme was largely absent.
The characters in the film talked a lot about how everyone wants to “connect” and how big this is going to be, but they spent very little time addressing the “why” of the matter. What explains Facebook’s popularity? Why has it apparently filled this void of communication that nobody was aware existed? What does it say about us as a culture that this is the fastest-growing phenomenon since the Ipod? Are there any possible drawbacks? These are the questions that interest me and simultaneously did not seem to interest the filmmakers.
Overall, I hoped for more from a director as talented as David Fincher (“The Game,” “Se7en,” “Fight Club”), but from the trailers and descriptions I didn’t necessarily expect more. To be sure, the direction, editing and style are impeccable, and the choice of Trent Reznor to help score the film was a good touch too.
I can only partly blame Fincher for the shallowness of the script, but I blame him wholly for not delving more deeply into what could have been a very thought-provoking topic.
If the “Academy” awards this movie the top prizes, they will once again be showing their complete incapacity to select deserving winners. Of a weak year in film, this good-but-not-great one is trumped by “Black Swan,” “Winter’s Bone” and “Inception,” probably among others.
24 January 2011
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