First Reaction: David Fincher's Fantastic 'The Social Network'
by Alex Billington
September 17, 2010
Last night I finally caught a screening of David Fincher's The Social Network, otherwise known as "The Facebook Movie" (it's so much more than that), and like everyone else, I thought it was fantastic. However, unlike everyone else, I didn't love it. But it's also one of those incredible films that makes your mind whirl with so many thoughts as soon as it ends, and it's one of those films that I must see a second time to get a true grasp of my actual feelings on it (that seems to be happening often this year). As you may have already heard, it truly represents our contemporary society and this new generation in way no film has ever before.
The Social Network is, first and foremost, an utterly fascinating character study the likes of only someone as talented/brilliant as David Fincher could deliver. In anyone else's hands, this wouldn't have been crafted with as much attention-to-detail and subtle finesse, and I truly love Fincher for that. It's a hell of a year for character studies and, along with Darren Aronofsky's Black Swan, I think The Social Network stands at the top. It's less about Facebook and more about the relationships between the key people the story is about and what it's like in modern society for someone that young to work his way to the top of the power/money food chain. Each one of those "characters" is crafted so flawlessly and Aaron Sorkin deserves the Oscar for this.
Again, this is one of those films that I'm fighting my feelings over, because I wanted to love it with every last ounce, but couldn't. I think it's just missing a small bit of Fincher "magic" in my honest opinion, the same bit of "magic" that makes Fight Club as untouchably amazing as it is, and I don't think The Social Network tops that Fincher film. However, it does deliver along the same lines as Zodiac or Benjamin Button as a film that without too much Hollywood influence explores a story of one individual and how his life affects and is affected by those around him. It just so happens that this story is about Mark Zuckerberg, the co-founder of Facebook, and the script about his captivating story is one of the best that Aaron Sorkin has ever written.
One area I'm not going to touch on is the accuracy of Zuckerberg's story and the controversial founding of Facebook, as that's a topic that can be debated endlessly another time. But as for the film, the topics that it delves into regarding relationships amongst the characters (each with their own unique traits: loneliness, individualism, jealousy, selfishness, lust for power) were fascinating. There were many times I found myself sitting in awe watching some brilliantly filmed scenes unfolding on the screen in front of me. It plays like an incredible book that you can't put down and just want to keep reading straight through to the end. And how often does anyone feel that way about a movie? Not often, I'd say, which is mostly what makes this so great.
Yes, Jesse Eisenberg (who I'm not normally fond of) as Zuckerberg even impressed me. Never once did I even think I was watching Eisenberg, only Mark as he, often foolishly, attempted to battle legal threats and defend his creation. Andrew Garfield, as the other co-founder Eduardo Saverin, steps up his game, too. Justin Timberlake as Sean Parker was also great. The performances are all fantastic, the cinematography is gorgeous as always in a Fincher film, the editing is phenomenal (another great aspect that deserves Oscar consideration), the dialogue was fast-paced in a completely modern societal way, and Fincher made sure to get every detail correct (which included properly using tech terms like Apache, MySQL and wget).
A few of my complaints stem from the ending, which was a bit too abrupt and lacked the truly monumental revelation that it felt like it was going to eventually deliver; as well as a few other campier moments in the film, especially one scene where Saverin's girlfriend (played by Brenda Song) was yelling at him about his Facebook relationship status. But my issues were few and far between and as I mentioned earlier, it was easy to find myself completely lost in this. In fact, that's why I thought the ending hit so soon, I was still lost in it and all of a sudden it was over. But then comes the immediate reaction/reflection, though, and that's where The Social Network really hits it home. It's the fact that the discussions this is causing are so vividly thought provoking that, in retrospect, they are what makes this better than my own feelings are initially telling me.
What I'm actually on the edge of my seat about is what will happen with this upon release. It's a film that is truly representative of this generation (in so many perfect ways) and is also the first to treat a riveting story from this generation with as much respect as a classic story from far back in history. Even the tech terms I mentioned, the fact that they were used, shows that Sorkin and Fincher are proving to Hollywood that you can tell an incredible story without dumbing down those elements. It is that care and concern that Sorkin and Fincher and everyone involved put into it that makes this such a fantastic, instantly unforgettable, and endlessly discussable movie, that will hopefully have as lasting of a societal impact as Facebook has itself.