Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Movie Review: The Social Network


I wanted my review of The Social Network to sit for a bit. It just seems like there is too much static both ways about this film. For those that have been hiding under a rock for the last few months, The Social Network is about the founding of Internet social networking website Facebook. It's largely based on the book, The Accidental Billionaires by Ben Mezrich, that I reviewed last year.

I think the best way to go into this movie is to not attach significance that was not intended, but also don't ignore its implications. Linda Holmes at NPR has a nice review, encouraging viewers to not "overload the allegory". Just enjoy the movie as a character study. There's crisp dialog by Aaron Sorkin (West Wing) and a distinct visual style by director David Fincher (Fight Club).

The movie may or may not be true ... or something in-between.

The movie may or may not be about society's increasing narcissism that's been encouraged by social networking. But, it doesn't really matter.

I mean ... are we really debating whether Facebook has altered the dynamic of relationships? It'd be stupid to try and claim that it hasn't, at least for a certain segment of society.

There seems to be a lot of talk of the veracity of the info, but none of the affected parties are really saying there's anything libelous in it.

As Frank Rich put it in the New York Times: " ... From the noisy debate over its harsh portrait of Zuckerberg, you’d think it’s a documentary. It’s not. Its genre is historical fiction — with a sardonic undertow ..."

I think some believe that Zuckerberg is portrayed as a thoughtless sociopath who left a string of people in his wake. I don't see that at all. Both the portrayal and Eisenberg's performance are nuanced. Andrew Garfield as Zuckerberg best friend Eduardo Saverin is very good. Justin Timberlake is fantastic as Napster founder Sean Parker, playing it with flashy zeal.

The Social Network is just good clean fun. It moves. Obviously Sorkin has shown his ability in the past to make simple legal proceedings dynamic and entertaining. And The Social Network is no exception, with depositions given humor and tension every bit as exciting as A Few Good Men.  Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails scores the movie effectively.

It's kinda hard to understand what all the fuss is about? Did Zuckerberg make huge out-of-court payoffs to business associates that had made claims of intellectual property infringement? Yes. Obviously they had some beef or they wouldn't be ridiculously rich now (Saverin, for example). Is the story told from the perspective of some of these associates? Yes. Does it push one perspective over another? No. Fincher and Sorkin intertwine them in an entertaining manner that allows you to make your own conclusions.

I heard on the radio some poll that said that older viewers of the movie came out of it less inclined to use Facebook whereas younger viewers were more likely. That's pretty illustrative of social networking and our generation in general. The older generation is more put off by the ethical implications of Zuckerberg's rise, whereas twenty-somethings, in true reality-TV style, don't see anything as bad publicity. Celebrity is its own end.

Like real life, social interactions are often about constructing an idealized version of you for public consumption. There is the person we want to be and the person we are. Too often there is a great divide between the two and Facebook and Twitter certainly magnify that. But, social networks are just a tool and not the cause. You get out what you put in. Maybe they even help people to see a side of us closer to what we really are. Some people are a lot wittier, more social and cogent in writing than in person.   Some that seam reasonably intelligent face-to-face could not string a simple sentence together on a page.  Whatever the case is, we shouldn't be judging people solely by superficial and limited interactions.

4 comments:

wunelle said...

Rushing to the superficial side of the argument, I was so put off by Facebook that I killed off my account. It just came to seem like a colossal waste of time intended for someone else's benefit. This, somehow, makes me less inclined to learn the story of its founding and founder.

I'll have to go back and read your book review.

dbackdad said...

I think the movie is a good watch regardless of your feelings about Facebook or even if someone had ever used it.

I had read some review that basically said that the story could have been about any company. This particular story just happened to use Facebook as a setting. It's more about the nature of friendships and success.

wunelle said...

I think my wife (who IS a FB junkie) wants to see it, so I'll probably end up testing your hypothesis!

Free Movies said...

I recommend this movie to everyone, it deals with betrayal and greed. The movie definitely deserves an Academy award for Best Picture.