The Social Network – a withapassion.com trip to the movies

October 1, 2010 § Leave a comment

There are many film titles worse than “The Social Network,” and many have been calling this film, directed by David Fincher and written by Aaron Sorkin, by other names. THAT FACEBOOK MOVIE, is how Nylon Men explains Jesse Eisenberg’s placement on their cover, where as Jon Stewart calls it “This facebook film.” “Facebookland,” I’ve joked, would have fit into the IMDB.com page of Eisenberg’s much more smoothly, alongside “Adventureland” and “Zombieland.”

These quibbles aside, The Social Network is the perfect title for this movie. According to the tell all that this film is baed on, Mark Zuckerberg’s lack of social graces and personal anxieties were the driving factor in the creation of Facebook.com. When I saw the film last Sunday, it was at a preview screening held by, of all things, MySpace,[0] and featuring a panel of the stars of the film and Sorkin himself. The popular arguments are saying the film is a statement against the rampant narcissism of the generation of young people who are social networking their asses off. At the same time, though, Facebook didn’t become the zeitgeist pwner it is until it opened up to the entire public. Farmville didn’t become a thing until your relatives could fill their hours with it as much as the Tracy Flick lookalike you went to college with does. Further, Sorkin himself doesn’t care about the technological aspects of the film, as he’s said every time he’s interviewed.

The film is about how something was created to simulate college social life, and ended up destroying friendships in the process. His script gives the tech prospects their due, as it had to, but it also knows that the meat of the story is Zuckerberg himself. The first conversation has Sorkin’s standard walk-and-talk dialogue style, pioneered in the Bartlett White House, but at a bar table, and multiplied to an amazing degree. Zuckerberg’s then-girlfriend is having one conversation with him, he’s having at least five with her. As an introduction to the character, the scene works perfectly, and tells you that your fears about a boring movie about website creation were completely misplaced.

The Social Network is being pegged by some as a Revenge Of The Nerds for the 21th Century, which isn’t lazy as it is incomplete. One of the best scenes in the film, wherein a Beck’s[1] pounding Zuckerberg, dejected from a breakup of his own making, simultaneously codes a website where peers can rate the looks of girls[2] on campus and blogs a petty rant about his ex, her body, and her family on his LiveJournal[3]. This will be pointed to for generations as one of the best depictions of the code writing process that’s ever been done. The layering of shots of screens that Fincher pulls off, where Zuckerberg is writing code in something called Apache, ripping photo libraries from different campus houses, writing blip after angry blip on his blog, and tying it all together with an amazing narration penned from Aaron Sorkin and delivered by Eisenberg. These aren’t your father’s nerds, they are angry, antisocial, and ready to sell each other out and down the river to get ahead.

Back in the club, though, Timberlake’s Parker doesn’t always work. His line delivery is excellent, but his story about a girl he couldn’t get doesn’t play as believable, because, well, Parker looks like Justin fucking Timberlake. The guy gives a great performance, but the hype surrounding it overlooks the fact that he’s frequently in danger of being viewed as blatant stunt casting. He overcomes expectations, but that’s not always something to be amazed by.

Finally, the movie’s secret weapon is Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross’ score. It keeps the movie pushing along at a furious pace, similar to the breakneck speed at which Zuckerberg’s brain is functioning. It’s mostly been kept from the public as Kanye West’s single “Power” is the song in the TV ads, and the choral cover of Radiohead’s “Creep” is the in theaters trailer song. Once people get ahold of the score, they’ll realize that Reznor’s still to be respected, even if Nine Inch Nails is retired.

This is all to say that while The Social Network isn’t the greatest film of the year (the title is still being held by Winter’s Bone), it offers a lot to all audiences, from the kids who’ll be checking into Four Square at the theater and their parents who, much like Justing Timberlake and Jon Stewart[4], claim to have no idea what changing your status means.

[0] The screening’s obsession with crowd sourcing the questions for the panel from MySpace, and doing no work at all to make sure the questions were worth the cast’s time, was a greater indictment of the youth than anything the movie has to offer.

[1] the award for product placement of the year, this is something Sorkin talked about at the Q&A. Initially, he liked the visuals and idea of Zuckerberg pouring himself a screwdriver, which would suggest drinking to get drunk. But, their researchers found out the exact beverage that was the Ambrosia which helped birth facemash.com, the predecessor to Facebook.

[2] Slate.com’s Luke O’Brien reports that the actual facemash.com was for rating the looks of both genders, so apparently, Sorkin took some creative license here and there.

[3] Which goes to show that these tech trends come and go. I mean LIVEJOURNAL? They would kill to be mentioned in any movie, much less the biopic of the internet generation.

[4] The Daily Show interview, 9/30/10.

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