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REVIEW: The Social Network

Ah, David Fincher. I reviewed Se7en a couple days ago. You remember that, right? I said I wasn’t really a big fan of David Fincher’s, finding that he makes poor to average movies that are still worth something for not being your typical Hollywood affair. So, you wanna know what The Social Network is? It’s a poor to average movie that is still worth something for not being your typical Hollywood affair. Honestly, I feel like throwing in the towel on Fincher and this review at the same time. It’s a three star. That’s it. If all you were waiting for was a thumbs up or down, it’s a thumbs up. That’s it.

So, given that I am obliged to write more in a review than yea or nay, what did I like and not like about The Social Network? First, we need to know what it is. Having seen the very first trailer, I knew going in that I was to expect a lot of talking. And I mean a lot of talking. This is directed from a screenplay by Aaron “West Wing” Sorkin, there’s going to be a lot of talking. One of the things that surprised me about Aaron Sorkin: he isn’t like, seventy-something. Surprising. There is, indeed, a lot of talking.

The rest of the trailers promise some weird mix between John Hughes and Orson Welles, framing the story as “the Citizen Kane of our generation”. First of all, if there is a Citizen Kane in terms of affecting how we make movies and tying together all the things that were being done at the time into a film more spectacular than the sum of its parts, it’s The Matrix. Second, that’s not actually that far off. The Social Network is as much concerned with Facebook as Kane was concerned with newspapers. The story is not one of the founding of Facebook, but instead the fragmented relationship between two young men who were once best friends: Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) and Eduardo Saverin (Andrew Garfield). Incidentally, their relationship was fragmented because of the founding of Facebook. It’s a tale as old as time, and standing in for Kane is a quiet, nerdy guy who just doesn’t know what to say, when.

We open the film with Zuckerberg trying to have a conversation with his girlfriend, Erica (Rooney Mara). It’s here that we first get a glimpse of how socially inept Zuckerberg really is. I say inept, and I insist that he’s inept, because I don’t believe he would say any of the downright mean things he says out of malice. The conversation spirals out of his control and before he can find the right way to apologize, Erica has dumped him and left him at the bar. Drunk, angry and blogging about how much he hates her, he makes up a Harvard Hot-or-Not called Facemash. In the course of a single night. Using stolen photos from all the different online face books for the university. This is the first taste we get of not only how petty and vindictive Zuckerberg can be, but also how plain intelligent he is. The guy’s a phenomenon.

Helping Zuckerberg through all of this with the algorithms necessary to rank girls on hotness is his best friend, Eduardo. Andrew Garfield has the thankless role of playing Jedediah Leland to Eisenberg’s Kane. Most reviews I’ve read of Social Network–or at least, one that stuck with me–name Eduardo as the “default protagonist” of the film for being the only relatable character. I cannot stress enough how much this irks me. A protagonist is your protagonist, through and through. You don’t watch The Social Network to examine a normal, brighter-than-average Harvard graduate who got screwed in a business deal made with his best friend. You watch it to see the best friend that would screw over someone who had been nothing but kind, supportive and financially supportive throughout the early run of the company. This is why Garfield has such a tough job. He has to play the kind, benevolent friend to a guy who accidentally insults everyone he meets, and make that believable. To Garfield’s credit, he does it well, and when he’s betrayed at the film’s climax, it hits you in the gut.

Now the issues I have with this movie. It’s poorly edited. As I exited the theater last night, I was texting Mel (who’d also just seen it) and I asked her when people were going to start editing movies as movies again, instead of as Oscar Winners. Honestly, that’s what this feels like. It’s a slow, talky, meandering feature that is only further slowed by editing that never quite picks up the pace in the second act and just drops the ball by the end of the feature. When I see a movie, I want to see a movie–not two hours of Academy Pacing.

There are no women. I realize there were no women involved in the maverick days of Facebook, but what gets at me is not the fact that there are no women who are important to the plot. If there are no women involved in the plot, excise them entirely. Be brave. Don’t give me an entire supporting cast of female characters who are no more than glorified Penelopes, serving as motivation for the odyssey of Zuckerberg. Yes, Zuckerberg got dumped. But did he really make Facebook as a form of petty revenge? There are three women, all of whom are worthless stereotypes of femininity, included for token appreciation.

The soundtrack by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross is a mixed blessing. While I love Nine Inch Nails, How to Destroy Angels and the like, I always hope for a proper score when I go to see a movie. You know, a score with themes and character motifs. Instead, I get music a composer made for no purpose, cut back to picture. Does it enhance the storytelling and the emotion of the film? Yes. Is it better than a proper film score, made by a real composer? Depends. If you count any of Hans Zimmer’s work as a proper film score, then yes, definitely.

At the end of the day, I can’t recommend skipping this movie. Like all of Fincher’s work, it does too much well to be handily ignored. But by now, his shortcomings as a director are becoming more and more apparent. I can’t be the only one losing patience. THREE STARS

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