Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Fincher/Sorkin's THE SOCIAL NETWORK: everything you expected -- and more

How "current" is THE SOCIAL NETWORK? You won't under-stand until you sit there in the theater, hanging on for dear life, struggling to keep up with dialog that's both cracker-jack and fire-cracker, coming as it does from some mostly very smart people who know a lot more than you and are happy to make you aware of this fact. I can't remember any movie as dialog-prone as this one -- written by Aaron Sorkin (The West Wing) and directed by David Fincher (Zodiac) -- that barrels along at 90 miles-a-minute for two full hours, after which you'd be exhausted,
if your weren't so exhilarated.

As director, Mr. Fincher (above left) has wisely given over to that dialog of Mr. Sorkin (above right), letting his movie run, race, rise, crest then smash down on your ears with shock and delight, sometimes easing smoothly into those orifices, the better to allow that tiny, nasty jolt to come later. "You would do that for me?" asks Rooney Mara (below, as the about-to-be-ex girlfriend of our anti-hero, the as-usual-fabulous Jesse Eisenberg), with such delicate, stiletto-sharp shadings, that we cringe in delight. Humor consistently bubbles up through the nastiness and strivings of  the youth on display, and this helps keep our enjoyment level extremely high.

When in fact (and I believe, for the first time in the film), the dialog suddenly stops (this is at the introduction of the Sean Parker character, played very well indeed by Justin Timberlake, below), it's a shock -- and a reprieve.  We can take a short visual break, as we watch the morning-after routine of Parker and his one-night-stand, played with just the right combination of naïveté and smarts by Dakota Johnson. Once both parties are sufficiently awake, we're off and running with some more great dialog. Sorkin's writing gift is not so much to create the differing manner and speech patterns through which many different types of people talk (there's really little variation from character to character), but rather to take a subject, just about any subject, and let his characters run with it believably and generously so that not just conversations, but whole worlds open in front of us, which we can be a part of -- if only we can keep up.

The story here, if case you have been in a media-free cave for the past six months, details the creation of the internet social phenomenon, Facebook, by Mark Zuckerberg and his best friend Eduardo Saverin (Andrew Garfield, shown at bottom) plus a few hangers-on (played by Arnie Hammerbelow, right, and in the penultimate photo, and Max Minghella, below, left) who, from what we see, probably provided a good portion of the idea behind the idea for the site. Women are definitely secondary, mostly sexual, objects in the movie, which is no doubt how it was and is in the technological realm, big business-style -- unless, of course, it's the woman who has the idea and/or the business. The major females of The Social Network include Ms Mara, as the early and never-quite-forgotten "love" object (or whatever passes for love in the Zucker-berg brain) and Brenda Song (two photos below) as a blow-job-in-a-bathroom sex object who lingers a lot longer. Working with a truly enormous cast of speaking roles, Fincher makes sure that every one of them registers strongly in his or her moment(s), and this ability adds immeasurably to the movie's "reality" credentials.

One of the special glories of the film is how Sorkin and Fincher dole out things like responsibility and truth. Nobody is blameless or heroic here, though Garfield's Saverin becomes pretty much the movie's beating heart, just as Zuckerberg is definitely its narcissistic, ego-bloated brain. Our Facebook fellow begins the movie as an asshole, and ends up as one, too. And yet, if he is never likable (Eisenberg does a wonderful job of keeping him just this side of impossible), his abilities and motives are always comprehensible. We might wish him otherwise, but we must finally accept him, warts and warts and all.

As for Facebook itself -- though the movie ends much prior to the internet behemoth's invasions of privacy or courting/caving into corporate wishes regarding which sites can be seen and which not -- it is no great leap from the characters we see on display here to the realization that we may think we're using Facebook, while Facebook is using us.  (For a possible alternative to the site, check out the article in this weeks New York magazine about a new "fab four" and their Diaspora*.)

There has been talk -- more than that, admissions -- of fully made-up scenes in this film. Well, it isn't a documentary, after all. And since Mr. Zuckerberg is now a multi-millionaire, or billionaire, or who-gives-a-sh-aire, we can't feel too sorry for the little guy.  He'll get by. And so will we. TrustMovies, with his advanced years and ever more cynical view of our world, prefers Never Let Me Go, as this year's more important and profound look at life in our world. But for intelligent mainstream audiences (do these still exist? The Social Contract's box-office grosses will tell the tale) willing to be challenged, this film will likely win the awards, as well as the coin of the realm.  It is certainly a don't-miss movie and an enormous achievement in terms of American movie-making.

Someday, I suspect -- long after we're gone and if repertory cinema still exists -- Film Forum will offer a double bill of The Social Network and Catfish, at which viewers will marvel that such old-fashioned technology ever existed -- and wonder how human beings could have actually believed in, and given such power to, a concept as paltry as this one.  "Friends" indeed.

The Social Network, from Columbia Pictures/Sony, which made its debut at the opening night of the NY Film Festival last week, opens theatrically Friday, October 1, nationwide (in the bigger cities, at least). Go to this link, scroll down a bit, type in your zip code to find a theater near you -- then hope for the best.

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