Wednesday, November 24, 2010
The Case for Net Networking
First off, I found it rather ironic that, for my viewing of the Social Network, through people having seen it previously, being occupied or otherwise uninterested, I ended up going by myself. Not that I was alone, as the Reading session was well attended. When the film got underway though, I forgot my crowded solidarity, and got myself completely engrossed in what is a really good film.
The first thing about the film that I will mention is that Mark Zuckerberg has the loudest footsteps on the face of the planet. Honestly. As he runs through Harvard at the start of the film, I couldn’t help but notice that the falling of his feet was most prominent noise on campus, no matter his distance from the perspective of the camera. Jesse Eisenberg as Zuckerberg has got to be fit, as that run takes a few ice ages to finish. But then, that is about the only time his character spends outside, so perhaps they needed him to get all his fresh air then.
The second thing I will mention is that the rumours are true: almost all the characters are profoundly annoying. Most of the men are b@st@rds, one way or another, having led lives of relative privilege and lording their (supposed) superiority over others in the most irritating way possible. That level of arrogance could be almost unwatchable were it not for the talent of the director and scriptwriter, who have turned almost every conversation into laugh-out-loud condescending exchanges. The most hilarious of these, in the Harvard Dean’s office, would be completely mortifying were it to happen in “real life”, but in the context that it happens between a whole bunch of fairly unlikeable characters, it all seems completely hilarious. The fact the most condescending of characters remarks that he dislikes being condescended to himself… well, as I said, the script writer (Aaron Sorkin) and director (David FIncher) are very good, and capture the follies of arrogance really well.
But, let’s face it, Zuckerberg (the film version anyway) is ridiculously smart and, obviously, incredibly successful. On the flip side, the film portrays him as petty and (as other characters fairly accurately sum him up) a lot of an @rsehole. Similarly, most of the other major characters (the twins; that of Justin Timberlake (who must have taken some antidote for his usual box office poison affliction); the aforementioned Harvard Dean) are all written as complete d!cks despite their obvious successes (and occasional failures) in several areas of their respective lives.
Getting past the egos (which is admittedly, very hard), the film itself is fascinating. It is factually true (to avoid being sued), so a lot of the duplicity and legal wranglings must be based on fact. The film left me wondering if the actual transcripts of the events (should any exist) would reveal anything as witty as what was displayed in the film. Something tells me they would not: the characters talk as if they were on some evil male version of the Gilmore Girls, and even the lovely Lauren Graham admitted that the dialogue on that verbally obese show was not how normal people talked.
So, the film is really well written, with some great actors pulling off some quite awful characters. Only the female characters (except the psycho ones, granted) are actually likeable, balancing their intelligence with dignity and a good dose of standing up for themselves – it’s hard not to feel profound respect for Zuckerberg’s “girlfriend”. And the film’s two hour plus running time flies by, though when it ended, I kind of felt I needed a long, hot shower to cleanse myself of something...
Verdict: As a well written spin on historic events, the Social Network is riveting fiction about some fairly horrible characters getting just desserts. However, stepping back, I had to tell myself that, despite the film seeming to suggest that we are meant to be appalled by most of these people, the fact remains they still made millions if not billions of dollars for themselves, and they now receive widespread adulation and respect for those efforts. As Betty Finn once said, “Nice guys finish last”, and this film does nothing to disprove that observation. 990,000 out of 1,000,000 Facebookers.