February 8, 2011
Status update on The Social Network
I went to see The Social Network for a second time last night. I saw it on opening weekend at the beginning of October, and loved it, but I tend to forget an awful lot of stuff about movies if I only see them once.
A few observations from the second time around:
- As an origin story about Facebook, it's not especially compelling or, apparently, even very accurate. But that doesn't matter. It's not really a movie about Facebook any more than Citizen Kane is about newspapers. I've seen some comments on Facebook from people saying they're not interested in seeing it because they don't care about Facebook--those people have nothing to worry about. Aaron Sorkin doesn't care about Facebook, either.
- Jesse Eisenberg is 100% on the money. He manages to convey feeling totally superior to everyone in the room while needing their acceptance and also hating his own guts, all at the same time. He's incredibly good.
- Also great is Armie Hammer as the Winklevoss twins. He's hilarious. Every time he comes on the screen I'm glad to see him. Or them. I don't think it's necessary to be rich, handsome, and privileged in real life in order to play rich, handsome and privileged, but in this case, it doesn't hurt.
- Justin Timberlake is pretty good at balancing the magnetic rockstar charisma with a streak of calculating slimeball. You see the selfish jerk side come out here and there before the end when he really emerges as the bad guy. Watch this movie and Black Snake Moan and you can see he's got some chops.
- One part that's less good: Eduardo. The script was largely drawn from the book The Accidental Billionaires that used Eduardo as its main source. The basic story is sympathetic to Eduardo and presents him as the loyal friend that Zuckerberg betrayed. But it's hard to feel that way, even though I guess we're supposed to, because of the long stretch we spend with Mark, et al in Palo Alto when things start heating up for the company, while Eduardo is off in New York riding the subway for 14 hours a day or whatever. When he shows up and eventually gets the shaft, we're meant to sympathize with him, but by then the story has moved in another direction and isn't really about him anymore. It's a structural/emotional flaw. Also, Andrew Garfield seems like he's faking--his acting is opaque and awkward compared with everyone else.
- About women in the movie: a lot of people have complained that women are presented as peripheral objects for the male characters to play with or insult as they wish. I understand this is probably an accurate representation of how these characters, 20 year-old guys with something to prove, might behave. Sorkin says this is what these guys are really like. Sometimes the movie itself seems to support this viewpoint, though, and women are made to look trivial through camera work and editing, not because of anything a character says. A movie can make female characters human even as male characters dehumanize them (like in "Mad Men") but that doesn't happen very often here. Rooney Mara standing up for herself and telling Zuckerberg off, twice, helps.
- The Trent Reznor soundtrack is awesome. Especially the music during the Facemash creation, it really makes what could have been a tedious scene about anti-social drunk programmers into an exciting action sequence.
- My least favorite moment is the song in the final scene: "Baby You're a Rich Man" by the Beatles. It's gaggingly on the nose, and after such great soundtrack choices that are so time-and-place specific, we get The Beatles? David Fincher usually screws something up at the end of his otherwise great movies, so I guess in the scheme of things this isn't that bad.
Best movie of the year? It's up there.
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