Fincher’s The Social Network is a perfect marriage about an imperfect team

The Social Network – 2010

Director David Fincher

Starring Jessie Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield, Justin Timberlake, Rashida Jones, Rooney Mara, Armie Hammer, Brenda Song, Max Minghella, Joseph Mazzello

Screenplay by Aaron Sorkin based on the book The Accidental Billionaires by Ben Mezrich

David Fincher is perhaps the finest director working today.  He certainly is my favorite.  First discovering him cleaning up the

Fincher makes scenes like these exciting, through special effects

scrap heap that was Alien3, his stature grew immensely for me with his next film, Se7en. By the time he got to Fight Club, I was in full on geek mode.  It was no surprise to me that he was able to make the decades old story of Zodiac into a freshly intense experience.  The Curious Case of Benjamin Button was a beautiful film that nonetheless lacked a powerful narrative to compliment the story’s intriguing premise.  Upon hearing that he was making a movie about the creation of Facebook, and it was going to be written by Aaron Sorkin, the feeling was that perhaps the writing would be more intriguing than the premise.

This assessment couldn’t have been more wrong.  Sorkin definitely writes the hell out of this story, getting every ounce of nuance and basic truth out of it in the process.  Fincher does not disappoint in the slightest, as he shows his passion for using digital and special effects to make things look normal perfectly compliments his ability to draw the best out of his considerable acting talent.

This is a film built on nuance, perception and regret.  Fincher does an incredible job of bringing these things going into a cohesive blend that makes you feel like you are in the room .  Sorkin gives each of his characters a sharpness to express each of these layers, while still allowing each of them to be people with differing motives.    These skills in writing and directing are not common.  That they work together so well is even more uncommon.

Sorkin, whose credits include playwriting, movies and television, provides a rapid fire script that keeps everyone verbally active while they are not moving across the screen.  Fincher, providing a calm, warm atmosphere at first that feels like one waking out of a long slumber in a cradle.  You get the feeling of warmth, even as the snake crawls into the cradle with you.  Contrast these scenes with the cold, sterile deposition scenes and you have the gist of the film: a loss of innocence.

As if waking from a dream.

There is an incredibly moving sequence at the Henley Royal Regatta where a race takes place.  This is a crucial scene that starts off in the state of waking from a dream.  Parts of the frame are crystal clear, and other parts a blur.  As the scene concludes, you get the clearest vision of two brothers just losing a race.  They are just losing in this movie, too.  They decide to act on it.

Those brothers are the Winklevoss twins, Cameron and Tyler.  Along with their friend Divia Nerenda, they conceived the idea of the Facebook as somewhat of an exclusive Harvard social website.  The Winklevoss twins are played by two people, but not in the way that one would expect.  Armie Hammer provides the heads for both brothers, and one of the bodies (Cameron).  Tyler’s body is actually that of Josh Pence, with Armie Hammer’s face superimposed over it.

Pence, Winklevoss, Hammer & Winklevoss

The result of this casting, although subtle, was incredibly magical.  So much money went into something that most people would never notice, but makes an incredibly real difference in the performance(s).   The other touches, like the scene where women are bussed in to an exclusive Harvard frat party contrasted with Zuckerberg’s (Eisenberg) creation of face mash, show more than dialogue ever could.

The performances throughout are deserving of Award nominations.  Jesse Eisenberg and Mark Garfield foremost among them.

One of these two knows they are watching a Bill Gates speech.

Eisenberg, for his part, creates a Zuckerberg character so simultaneously standoffish, obsessed with his project and desperate for contact, he will not be forgotten any time soon.  Garfield’s performance is off-putting in its openness.  A smart, capable young man, he shows Eduardo Saverin as a steady friend, lacking any flash, but nonetheless dedicated to his friend.  To portray a character with no real fault, other than not being there at crucial times, is not easy.  Garfield manages this quite easily, affecting a charm that is both innocent and wise enough to recognize a snake when he sees one.

The snake, Sean Parker, is delivered with as much slickness and smarts as one would expect the creator of Napster to have by Justin

Snake on the couch - Timberlake as Sean Taylor

Timberlake.  He exists on a different plane from the rest of the characters.  Impressing Zuckerberg as some sort of higher being, but fully aware that Severin sees him for his belly crawling ways.  This is a virtuoso performance that gives the movie its much-needed gristle in the most appealing package possible.

Gage: Mr. Zuckerberg, do I have your full attention?
Mark Zuckerberg: [stares out the window] No.
Gage: Do you think I deserve it?
Mark Zuckerberg: [looks at Gage] What?
Gage: Do you think I deserve your full attention?
Mark Zuckerberg: I had to swear an oath before we began this deposition, and I don’t want to perjure myself, so I have a legal obligation to say no.
Gage: Okay – no. You don’t think I deserve your attention.
Mark Zuckerberg: I think if your clients want to sit on my shoulders and call themselves tall, they have the right to give it a try – but there’s no requirement that I enjoy sitting here listening to people lie. You have part of my attention – you have the minimum amount. The rest of my attention is back at the offices of Facebook, where my colleagues and I are doing things that no one in this room, including and especially your clients, are intellectually or creatively capable of doing.
[pauses]
Mark Zuckerberg: Did I adequately answer your condescending question?

Giving as much attention as deserved.

As the Narendra and the Winklevoss brothers, Max Minghella and Armie Hammer give a view of the privileged that want to present themselves as the honorable wronged, when in truth, while they may have been wronged, their extent of their grievance is debatable.    In one of the best moves of the film, they are not presented as absolute snobs by their portrayers, but they are snobs enough to want a piece of the life that moves beyond them, ignorant of their status.  They move only as a team, which holds them back from their baser instincts, but also allows Zuckerberg enough time to move unencumbered by their lack of imagination.  If it were up to them, Zuckerberg would still be eating Cheetos and drinking beer working as the creative force for the Harvard Connection while only getting to grace the bicycle room of their club.  It takes only losing the Henley Royal Regatta by a close margin before they decide to go after the “nerd.”

Rooney Mara has a small but crucial role in the film as Erica Albright, the object of Zuckerberg’s affections.  Her common sense provides a sharp contrast in the crucial opening scene of the film.  She is an effective touch-point for the viewer to identify with.  She does a great job showing the befuddling nature of Zuckerberg’s social existence, thereby making his transformation as the creator of the world’s most significant social network all the more amazing.  In essence, she represents all of us, who see well within the confines of the box, while Zuckerberg, lacking that ability, builds another box that contains and expands our lives at the same time.  All so he can get back to waiting for her response to his friend request.

This is easily the second best film I have seen this year, after Inception.  Fincher has done better, but just barely.

(***** out of *****)

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