Rewatching “The Social Network”

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Some Actress, from The Social Network

When I first saw The Social Network, I thought it was very, very good, but I didn’t cream my jeans the way some critics did, comparing it to Citizen Kane (OH SHUT UP) and calling it a Masterpiece. As it piled up awards in the winter, I kept wondering if I was wrong. I certainly thought it was one of the best films of the year, but the M-Word? Maybe compared to most of the other films in a sucky, sucky year, but I didn’t think it was David Fincher’s best film, much less “the film that defined a generation and a millennium and a decade and 1/6th of an epoch” and so forth. Could I possibly be wrong? The prospect haunted me. I wandered the woods for a fortnight, living off the land, wearing only a squirrel pelt. A park ranger found me, we got into a fight, and it turned into a whole thing. Anyway, house arrest being what it is, I decided to give The Social Network another shot.

I rewatched the film last night, and to get it out of the way the film certainly resembles a masterpiece-ish substance, at least in terms of filmmaking. David Fincher is at the height of his powers. From a sheer technical standpoint, it’s perfection. Every composition, editing cut, camera move and piece of sound design is a polished diamond, precise in a way that’s downright Kubrickian, Hitchcockified, and Spielberglescent. (This article explains it much better than I could.) There were times throughout the film that the quality of the filmmaking took me out of it, forcing me to say “Damn, look at that shot!” or “OOO, THIS THING IS SHINY AND I ENJOY ITS SHININESS!” 

The pacing alone is worthy of serious film study by smart people like this guy. The film continuously jumps different depositions and flashback, but the throughline of the story is so fluid that you almost don’t notice. The script’s focus on the characters and their evolving relationships made me care, moreso this time around than before. Both Inception and The Social Network both had flaws, but they’re a couple of the best films I’ve seen in years when it comes to combining thematic ambition with good character work.

Another plus: The acting. I wasn’t even distracted by Justin Timberlake this time around. I get why Jesse Eisenberg was nominated; It’s hard to be a stone-faced nerd with tons of buried emotions, but Eisenberg nails it. I’m guessing it’s because Jesse Eisenberg is a stone-faced nerd with tons of buried emotions, but that just means he was perfectly cast. Good job, Jesse, and great first name.

However, my view of The Social Network isn’t all rainbows and pudding cups, and it boils down to one simple factor: Aaron Sorkin. Some people think this guy is an over-the-moon genius, especially Aaron Sorkin himself. The guy adores himself. In all of his work, I keep expecting him to walk into the frame, smirking as he says “You’re welcome, America.”.Most of his scripts slather on that too-clever-by-half dialogue that takes me out of the story and makes me want to slap him. That kind of self-conscious, hyper-stylized dialogue works on occasion, but even All About Eve has a few clunkers, and that film is nearly all great lines. Batting .330 on the cleverness scale doesn’t work when it comes to writing. Hell, you’ve read my crap.

To his credit, Sorkin keeps the material much less “clever” than his other stuff, and the script is a dynamo of construction, but there are still moments that made me cringe. At one point, some Harvard kid says to his friend, “If I had a glock, I’d kill you.” I guess Sorkin’s doing the “dumb rich kids talking tough” thing, but I made a “Who farted” face.

I also thought the ending was somewhat odd. I get that Zuckerberg doesn’t have friends, so they have to tack on a scene with SOMEONE so we can wrap the story up. I also get that the irony of creating something online from home in order to build the community you desire is a pretty poignant idea.  However, I didn’t think the lawyer lady was that well-developed, at least to the point where she would want to lend a friendly ear to the guy after everyone else leaves. Sorkin tried that with a scene earlier in the movie, but I don’t think it worked. I think the ending lacked a little of the impact it should have had.

Finally, there’s a couple of scenes where they CGI the breath of people that are supposed to be outside in the cold, but it looked fake as hell.

So, in summation, there’s about 10-12 lines of dialogue I didn’t like, and 3 minutes or so were “eh.” Yeah, maybe I was too hard on this when I first saw it. Great film. Snap it up from a big red vending machine today!