Monday, November 08, 2010

SHOOT reviews The Social Network

 He's smart, but is Zuckerberg an asshole? - by Nick van der Leek

I'd heard good things about this Facebook flick, but I went to the cinema thinking obtusely, "What's this going to be about?  How a bunch of hip people use facebook?  Sounds like a soapie, or a techie version of Beverley Hills 90210."  I, unusually, hadn't done my homework.  I didn't realise this is essentially the origin story of Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg. If I had known I might have given it a miss, for fear of it being a documentary homage to a geek.

But it isn't.  A LOT of work went into this, far more than most would assume. According to IMDB, the opening breakup scene with Jesse Eisenberg [Zuckerberg] and Rooney Mara [Allbright] ran eight script pages and took 99 takes. 

The flick was made with a budget of $50 million, and it made half of that back in its opening weekend. Director David Fincher has made an impeccably credible flick using eerily appropriate dialogue thanks to Aaron Sorkin's superlative screenplay.  Part of why it works is that reality is so much stranger than fiction, and some of the twists and turns in this story have that delicious and dreadful bite that reality is full of.

Another aspect that delights, is the on site exploration of Harvard.  Being an interloper on this exclusive campus, and peering over Zuckerberg's shoulder while he spits disrespect left right and centre is too enjoyable to admit.

The characters in this flick are also all engaging and intense.  The posh twins, the spurned ex, and Sean Parker [with Justin Timberlake perfectly cast as the coke snorting Napster-founding smoothie].

But the flick ultimately revolves around the devolution of the friendship between Zuckerberg and  co-founder Saverin.

Eduardo Saverin: Hey, Mark.
Mark Zuckerberg: 'duardo.
Eduardo Saverin: You and Erica split up.
Mark Zuckerberg: [confused] How did you know that?
Eduardo Saverin: It's on your blog.
Mark Zuckerberg: Yeah.
Eduardo Saverin: Are you alright?
Mark Zuckerberg: I need you.
Eduardo Saverin: I'm here for you.
Mark Zuckerberg: No, I need the algorithm you used to rank chess players.
Eduardo Saverin: Are you OK?
Mark Zuckerberg: We're ranking girls.

Saverin [Alex Garfield in fine form] is the anti-thesis of Zuckerberg; mild mannered, sociable, grounded and charming. It is through Saverin that we find out who Zuckerberg really is and what he is capable of.  But the background performances, the subplots, also provide scintillating reflections into the Zuckerberg mythos. 

Erica Albright: I think we should just be friends.
Mark Zuckerberg: I don't want friends.
Erica Albright: I was being polite, I had no intention of being friends with you.

The title of the flick The Social Network at first glance is lame, and understated, but it turns out that there is a lot of suggestion and innuendo in the movie, much of it very thinly veiled from what is obviously the reigning  hypothesis on how the Facebook thing happened.

The way the flick is filmed, fascinatingly, is also metaphor for reality, as this extract from a New York Times review attests:
Shooting in digital and working with the cinematographer Jeff Cronenweth, Mr. Fincher turns down the lights and tamps down his visual style, deploying fewer special-effects sleights of hand than he did in “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” with its wizened and baby Brad Pitt, while also maintaining the familiar Fincher atmosphere of dread. Harvard has rarely been represented to such dolorous effect as in “The Social Network,” where even the colors seem leached of joy. A restrained, somber palette and the shallow depth of field express the limits of Mark’s world, while the rapid, seamless cutting among different times and spaces — scenes of him creating Facebook are woven together with scenes of him in separate depositions — evokes the speed of his success, giving the narrative terrific momentum.
As for 'the atmosphere for dread', here's a foretaste:

Eduardo Saverin: Sorry, my Prada is at the cleaners, along with my hoodie and my 'fuck you' flip-flops, you pretentious douche bag!

The tagline for this flick is that Zuckerberg had virtually no real friends, and made plenty of enemies on the road to becoming a billionaire.  This is no exaggeration.  In the end, this flick leaves you feeling giddy with possibilities, but also has you recoiling at Zuckerberg's brazen, and calculating ambition. For me this felt a lot like a modern Rocky movie.  Inspiring, and wonderful, and it is somehow impressive that an unlikely contender can emerge from the ring the champion, leaving all opponents battered and bruised in the process.  Unlike Rocky, Zuckerberg is no hero.  He's something else.  And that story is still underway.

Mark Zuckerberg: As for the charges, I believe I deserve some recognition from this board.
Ad Board Chairwoman: I'm sorry?
Mark Zuckerberg: Yes.
Ad Board Chairwoman: I don't understand...
Mark Zuckerberg: Which part?

SHOOT scores The Social Network as a very rare 9/10 [equal to The Dark Knight].  IMDB currently gives it 8.4/10

Read more The Social Network.

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