Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The Social Network ****


Director: David Fincher
Cast: Jesse Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield
Armie Hammer, Rooney Mara, Max Minghella
Justin Timberlake, Brenda Song, Rashida Jones

It should be ironic to think that a movie that deals with the creation of Facebook never seems to be aiming for our "like"s. Yet that's just what David Fincher does in his transcendental The Social Network; a harsh film that deals with the way in which we search for humanity in a world that's constantly trying to rob us of it.
The plot centers on Mark Zuckerberg (Eisenberg), the Harvard undergrad who patented what came to be the largest social club on Earth. We see him struggle with his awkward social skills, his relentless need for approval and success, and eventually with the lawsuits he got from people claiming he'd robbed the idea from them.
As played by Eisenberg, Mark is a complicated, trying to be complex, guy who seems to be looking for acceptance while being driven by overpowering ambition. When we first meet him, he's practically insulting his girlfriend Erica (Mara) but he reacts in a way that we understand he means to do no harm. His defense mechanism of using bitterness, sarcasm and asshole-ness have become his modus operandi.
When he's approached by the Winklevoss twins (played brilliantly by Hammer) who want him to take part in their new project, Mark's faux condescending reaches a turning point: we see this man has chosen his identity and like the website he would create, has decided to create a facade of who he is.
Because regardless of how much people show on Facebook, the truth is that it still remains a canvas where we paint our lives the way we want others to see them. Regardless of the nature of the contents, everything that's on Facebook is there because we know people will see it and more than that, we want people to see it.
Therefore Eisenberg's immersion into Zuckerberg is not as much an impersonation as it's an embodiment of a spirit. Not to say that he makes Mark just a symbol, because he infuses him with painful human traits, but he seems to be aiming more towards understanding what would drive someone to do the things Zuckerberg allegedly did; instead of focusing on representing the way in which he comes off in public.
This dialectic between what we are and what we show might be the center of the film. One that's already a strange beast for what it is on a technical level.
On one side we have Aaron Sorkin's screenplay, which recalls the fast paced exchanges of classics like His Girl Friday and anything Woody Allen has done. Despite the extreme quotability of the dialogs, the painfully funny jokes that Sorkin inserts in the most unexpected moments and the overall "movie" feeling of the way in which he constructs these characters, at the end of the film they are essentially human and real.
This, in combination with the supreme cast, make for an odd, but never awkward, pairing of clever wording and natural representation. Each character and each scene in the film have been structured in such a classic way that we understand what some people mean when they said that "they don't make them like they used to". The Social Network has the kind of screenplay that defies categorization: it can make you laugh, gasp and jump in excitement, yet with all of its wit and shattering sarcasm it's also the kind of movie that will break your heart.
When the film ends we might not understand more about the characters and the creation of Facebook (we certainly don't like or identify with most of what we've seen) but this is a movie where you leave the theater and have the impression that the characters' lives continued after the credits started rolling.
This isn't owed to the obvious fact that all of these people are still alive but the story is told with such urgency that it just can not be bound by celluloid.
This energy is owed to David Fincher, the maverick genius who has specialized in pushing the boundaries of what people are comfortable watching onscreen. His ability to extract cheap sentiment from even the most seemingly manipulative screenplay might be compared by some to extracting someone's soul.
Yet the truth is that Fincher is no demonic exorcist, in fact he's an avid student of what makes the soul what it is. He fools us by doing this, not in the way Hollywood has used us to (i.e. using melodrama and extreme manipulation) but by doing it in an almost procedural way. Fincher dissects everything until getting to the heart of it.
It's even more surprising that he grabs onto the very structure of Facebook to create his film. It might take several screenings to realize that The Social Network isn't very different from the site it discusses so much. Like Facebook we perceive mostly walls in which the characters express themselves.
We see Zuckerberg's obnoxious nerdiness, the Winklevoss' studly All-American poses and Eduardo Saverin's (Garfield) inherent goodness. Yet taking a deeper look at what lies beneath their facades, what they keep "private" so to speak, they become completely different beings.
Like Facebook, the film is selfcontained on an ever changing canvas that varies on mood, feeling and even state of sobriety.
Because of this, the site's creation during the film becomes less "geek talk" and more encoded language for these people's true identities. There is not much difference between the societal circles in Network and say the constricted, almost baroque stylistic choices of Edith Wharton in The Age of Innocence.
Perhaps what Fincher is pointing to all along, is that despite the migration from traditional values to virtual ones, we're still essentially the same people, looking for the same things.
Our pursuit of happiness hasn't changed, what's changed is the way in which we conceal it. Whether we create corporations to get over the one that got away, or sink in eternal self pity and tragedy, The Social Network makes a case for what keeps on being our collective innermost fear: the curse of lifelong solitude.

3 comments:

Robert said...

Fantastic review. It really is a brilliant film.

Lucas Dantas said...

wonderful review hosie! you just convinced me to see this film again.

Jose said...

Thanks Robert!

Glad to do that cookie, it's so freaking re-watchable!