Friday, October 1, 2010
The Social Network review
I feel like before I can even start talking about this film, I have to clear up some things that's been buzzed about the film both positively and negatively. It's simply time to set the record straight.
YES, the film is a dramatization. Clearly, that's what this has been all along. That's what Aaron Sorkin does best. He's a storyteller, he's not trying to tell the actual truth, he's just trying to tell his truth. It's a perspective of the film that rings true to him.
NO, the film doesn't treat facebook in a hasty way. God, what is HuffingtonPost's problem? First, people were criticizing the fact that this is a film about facebook. Now, people are criticizing it because it's not about facebook. So Sorkin and Fincher do not comment on what Facebook has become? Well what exactly has facebook become? I've had facebook for over five years. I've seen it in its early stages and I've seen what it is now. What facebook has become since those courtroom hearings is simply irrelevant. The Social Network is only really representing a couple of years of the story.
The film is allowed to treat Mark Zuckerberg however it wants to treat Mark Zuckerberg. People criticize the film for the fact that it portrays Mark as completely emotionless and is completely driven to make facebook but nobody knows why. But I think it's fairly obvious, in at least the film's version of Zuckerberg's story, that Mark Zuckerberg is driven to create facebook so he can win over the girl who broke his heart. Is it the right way to go about it? NO, of course not and it's probably not the real reason. But it doesn't matter. In Sorkin's world, it all makes perfect sense. With Sorkin's version of Mark Zuckerberg, he's trying to win back a girl in the only way he knows how: through an endless array of computer codes. And through all the lawsuits, the parties, the millions of people who sign up for facebook... he never really gets out of facebook what everyone else gets out of it. Mark Zuckerberg is left friendless despite all the millions of people who have made friends through facebook.
Now is the real Mark Zuckerberg at all like the character in the movie?----NO, NO, NO. Just shut up already. First of all, Mark Zuckerberg himself has described the movie as "fun" and realizes exactly what it is. Who cares what the real Mark Zuckerberg is? Aaron Sorkin didn't even want Mark Zuckerberg's input, he had a clear idea of who he thought Mark was and he stuck with it. Nothing more, nothing less. Sure, Aaron Sorkin doesn't have the fondest feelings for the internet or social networking in general. But, The Social Network isn't an attack on facebook, it's simply about the formations and the deterioration of relationships---specifically, the ones Mark Zuckerberg has in his own life. It brilliantly portrays the irony of the mere existence of facebook: those who use it are "connecting with their friends," but who can honestly say that they're truly connected with every friend that they have on facebook. Ultimately, your friends are the ones you have in real life. No matter how many people you add on facebook, they're not really your friends. Aaron Sorkin understands this irony, especially within the character of Mark Zuckerberg, and he portrays it just right: as a tragedy.
And this is where some people are kind of missing the point with The Social Network. People can see Mark Zuckerberg in many different ways in the movie, but personally, I agree with Aaron Sorkin in that Mark Zuckerberg really isn't that awful of a person. He's not portrayed as a complete asshole or even much of an asshole at all. He's a bit of a jerk, that's true, but he's really just a guy who doesn't know much about forming and sustaining relationships that created something that's all about forming and sustaining relationships. What happened was that this creation became bigger than anything he could even imagine, bigger than his best friend could imagine, or the rowing twins. The one person who did realize how big it could become was Sean Parker and as soon as Sean Parker came into the picture, he more-or-less was the puppet master from then on. See, Aaron Sorkin really puts all the blame, albeit indirectly, on Sean Parker. See, Eduardo Saverin had it all right when he expressed his distrust with Sean Parker and Zuckerberg probably should've been more careful with Parker. But the startling reality is that Sean Parker is 100% correct on what facebook could become and, tragically, that was the only road facebook could go down in.
Did Mark Zuckerberg steal the website from the Winklevoss twins? Did he sabotage his best friend? Did he ruin most of the relationships that he initially had? That's all up in the air, honestly. That's what the hearings were all about and everyone voiced their own opinion on it. Ultimately, however, no matter how many bad things Mark Zuckerberg may have done (or not do), he's not a bad guy. The film doesn't think so, Aaron Sorkin doesn't think so, and I don't think so. He's not perfect, nobody is. And you know, sure, the film doesn't go into all the positive things Mark Zuckerberg has done. People who dwell on that though don't realize that the film doesn't need to do that. Even through all the bad things Mark did, he's still not a bad guy. That's part of what makes The Social Network such a strong film. It's why critics universally praise it. Yes, it's a dramatization, yes it doesn't portray things completely accurately, but all-in-all, it's fair to everyone involved. It's telling a story, or at least a couple versions of a story. It's not a biopic of Mark Zuckerberg nor is it solely about the creation of facebook. The film accomplishes everything that it sets out to accomplish and that's all that's needed.
Even though The Social Network pretty much gets everything right and does everything it's supposed to do, that doesn't mean it's a perfect film or the best film of the year. It's a great film, one of the best films of the year, but overall, its scope is kind of small and as well as Aaron Sorkin attempted to dramatize things, it's not especially mind-blowing nor does it have a huge emotional punch or impact. Also, even though Jesse Eisenberg's performance is completely solid and it's probably his best acting work yet, there really isn't much to the emotional core of this character. Even though his portrayal of Mark Zuckerberg feels right and he reads Aaron Sorkin's dialogue perfectly, in all honesty, there realy isn't that much to him.
Really, it's the characters of Eduardo Saverin and Sean Parker that really stick with me after having seen the film. I know people may laugh at me when I say this but Justin Timberlake's performance is picture perfect. Andrew Garfield also proves that he's a great young talent. Solid performances overall, but those two actors really shone through. And I can't state enough just how effective and brilliantly-written Sean Parker is. There is something subtly and inherently unsettling about the character of Sean Parker and I really dug the portrayal of him. Timberlake does a spot-on job and Sorkin does a great job with writing that character.
David Fincher adds a great visual flare to this film, but this is really Aaron Sorkin's film through and through. Sorkin's writing is the true star of this film and he turned what could have been a rather boring film into something quite fascinating. Honestly, this film is just conversation after conversation but the way Sorkin writes his dialogue and the way Fincher captures the dialogue, is absolutely wonderful.
One other thing I have to say about this film is that I got a kick out of how Sean Parker was explaining to Mark about how putting ads on facebook would no longer make facebook cool. Mark agrees with him. They agree that they have to make facebook look cool. I found that amusing because that's kind of how I felt about facebook when I first got it. It felt exclusive. Only my college friends could have it and it was ours. Once high school students were allowed on and then everyone... it ruined the magic of facebook. Now facebook is as cool as the Disney channel. I guess that shows you that when you create something that makes you no money, you have to rationalize why you made it in the first place. The initial rationalization is that it is "cool." But now that it's made Mark Zuckerberg billions of dollars, it no longer matters that it's cool. Sure, let's let old people play farmville on it for 20 hours per day. Let's embarrass college kids by letting their parents have facebook. Shit, there's an entire website devoted to that embarrassment. But, you can't understate just how much facebook has revolutionized the way people use the internet. What Mark Zuckerberg created is brilliant, what it has become is not so brilliant... but hey, things can't stay cool forever.
The Social Network isn't a film that represents my generation. I don't think anybody can really define this generation. People say that they should've waited longer before they made this film, but I don't think so. I think now was the perfect time. The time when facebook is at its most popular and is used by nearly everybody. This isn't a film about our generation, it's not about the future, it's about right now. It's the movie of my generation, but it's definitely the first Hollywood film that has at least attempted to understand our generation. That's a start.
p.s., I loved Trent Reznor's music on this film