Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Review: The Social Network

The Social Network is a textbook example of a movie that has been poorly, or at least misleadingly, marketed. So far it's been marketed, almost exclusively as a movie about Facebook, which will instantly turn a lot of people off it, myself included. What it should be marketed as, is a character driven movie, with a bit of legal drama included, where the central theme just happens to involve Facebook. Whether or not this makes the movie more or less attractive is up to you, but it does put an interesting spin on the movie. Next time guys, de-emphasize the Facebook aspect and emphasize the shit out of the “Directed by David Fincher” aspect.

Anywho, the plot is chiefly concerned with David Zuckerburg (played by Jesse Eisenberg) a character who closely resembles what would happen if the blind guy from Sneakers and Gregory House somehow had children. While drunk and miserable one night, he hacks open a group of dorm websites to create a “Rate their hotness” website which makes him instantly infamous across the campus. In short order, the idea has mushroomed into the website we know as Facebook. The entire film is told in flashback, as Zuckerberg is being sued, firstly by a pair of twins who believe he stole the idea from them and secondly by his best friend who believes Zuckerberg cut him out of the company.

Before I move on with the review, I'd like to give the special effects team a big kudos for the aforementioned twins effect. Most of the few other effects in the movie are pretty bad (most notably what appears to be some truly awful CGI snow) but the mix of body doubles, subtle CGI and some good old fashion twinning techniques, not mention a fantastic performance by Armie Hammer make the Twins easily the best movie-twins since...I can't remember when to be honest. It is notable, however, that this is ANOTHER thing that Lord of the Rings added to cinema, as their primary technique (IE, putting the actor's head on a body double's body) is something ripped almost directly from one of the many, many techniques Lord of the Rings used to simulate the size difference between the Hobbits and...everyone else.

Anyway. On to the movie. Since this is primarily a character driven movie, the writing and acting deserve the closest observation, which is good because they're the highlight of the movie. Most interesting is the character of Zuckerburg, who the movies gradually shifts in perspective from a plain too-smart-for-his-own-good anti-social asshole, to someone who very clearly picks up that society expects him to be an anti-social asshole and is trying desperately to live up to that expectation. Edwardo, the man who believes Zuckerburg screwed him out of his share of the company, does a great job as an eye level character for the audience. The twins, as mentioned, do a great job and, surprise surprise, Justin Timberlake does a disconcertingly good job as what amounts to the real villain of the movie (you'll see what I mean when you get there).

The writing and story are all good, dialogue mostly consisting of fast paced computer language and occasional jokes. The story is good and well paced, but I can't shake the feeling that telling it in flashback was something of a mistake; knowing as we do, from the get go that Edwardo and the twins are going to end up suing Zuckerburg pulls a big slice of suspense from the movie and reveals the end of Edwardo's fairly interesting character arc from the get go. It's not a big problem, but it does damage it mildly.

There are some larger problems that keep it from the heights attained by some other David Fincher films like Se7en or Zodiac. The first, and most notable, is that the non ambient soundtrack is ranges from poorly used to trite and predictable (Baby You're a Rich Man for a movie about the world's youngest billionaire? Really David?) Also, there are more than a few scenes that seem to suggest that they were going for an R-Rating and changed their minds halfway. A couple other problems are common for David Fincher movies: A lot of scenes feel superfluous or at least not strictly relevant and none of the minor characters get any development at all. It also becomes apparent that the film was initially going to be pushed into the Boogies Nights mold of recent biopics, which makes more than a couple scenes feel forced.

I can't honestly say The Social Network is a “best movie of the year” movie, but it is good, and it's certainly better than most other things in theaters now, so if you want to go to the movies, this is probably your best bet.

Or you could just go see the slasher flick based around chain letters.

Elessar is a 20 year old Alaskan born cinephile and in a fantastically metatextual moment Facebook went down for 10 minutes while he was writing this review.

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