Saturday, October 02, 2010

Review: The Social Network

Why not spend a couple of hours with really unpleasant people? No? Well, I did so you don't have to do so. Yes, intrepid movie pal Peg and I headed over to the Spectrum, fortified by a good lunch at the Fountain. As many of you know, I am a happy user of "The Facebook" and have written about it once or twice -- or maybe a lot. So I had to see if for professional reasons.

Sigh.

There are all kinds of problems with this film; I'll get to a few of them in a moment, but let me start with the most irksome because it's a problem bigger than this picture. Sorkin's screenplay paints Zuckerberg as a pathetic misogynist whose empire is based on rejection by one woman. No, I don't have a problem with that portrayal, it looks to jibe with the facts as known. It rings a little hollow, however, coming from the same misogynist Hollywood system that cannot conceive of women as anything but sexual trophies or emotional security blankets. This is film is yet another example of the dread Movie Without Women.

Yeah, there are female actors in the film, but not a one is a character. They're just props: one to make him angry, others as trophies to demonstrate success, one to cross examine him, one to offer an emotional pat on the head. There's even a "crazy girlfriend out of left field" to ramp up the tension pointlessly -- and then immediately abandoned.

The opening scene is painful -- as intended. We need to see what a schmuck Zuckerberg is and Jesse Eisenberg makes him completely unsympathetic (while looking like Michael Cera's older cousin). But it creates problems for an audience looking for someone to connect with -- and will look in vain. The nearest we come is Andrew Garfield's Eduardo Saverin, but he becomes a character far too late in the film. Attempts to set up the Winklevoss twins as the opposition fail, too; Syracuse-grad Sorkin's loathing for the privileged Harvard elite is palpable, but ineffective (and I've dealt with the Harvard snootiness on a first hand basis while working there).

It's only with the arrival of Justin Timberlake as Napster creator Sean Parker that the film sparks a little. I admit to having never thought much of Timberlake until his stellar turn on SNL, but he did a lot with a part that was not up to much. A very flawed character, he's nonetheless compelling to watch -- and that's what's missing with Zuckerberg's character. Perhaps it's a flaw of the original model, but this ain't a documentary.

The screenplay is the biggest problem: in addition to the above problems, it also attempts to juggle two lawsuits with the unfolding historical narrative. The lawsuits however are not equal in importance, but set up as if they are. The whole Winklevoss storyline seems to focus primarily on sneering at the old money wealth and privilege (while nonetheless glamorizing it). And so clunky! As soon as Larry Summer's admin talks to the twins about how old the building is and how they need to be careful, you just count the minutes until they break something. Later, when Zuckerberg uncharacteristically asks Eduardo how his girlfriend is and he says she's acting crazy and scaring him, you count the minutes until -- shock! -- she's acting crazy for the first time.

They seem to be using Wall Street greed as a model, when that's not what this story is about; they do realise that Zuckerberg is not motivated by money, but it's clear that while they know what Facebook looks like and they know what the trajectory of the network is -- there's a pointless "dramatic" interweaving of coding at one point as if it were somehow like explaining the Dow Jones ticker -- it's clear none of the key people involved in the film have used Facebook or social media or have the slightest understanding of its significance.

I suppose this is no different than most Hollywood attempts to capitalize on a popular phenomenon. But their contempt for the public and the fact that money seems to be their only motivation blinds them to what's really going on.

To get the taste of this out of our mouths, we headed off to the Filament fest at EMPAC. Oh, how I love this space! But it will get a separate review to avoid the taint of this film. Random words to intrigue you: crows, giant panda, R. Buckminster Fuller, nations, installations, performance, studios, cheese. Intrigued? :-)

12 comments:

The Queen said...

I think it was either Stewart or Colbert who asked the screenwriter why there were no female characters in the movie....good call.

K. A. Laity said...

I'm puzzled by the stellar reviews. It was really a mess.

Anonymous said...

jesse eisenberg is dreamy
-bertie

K. A. Laity said...

If you say so -- I'd much sooner have Timberlake. At least he's funny!

Todd Mason said...

And somehow Timberlake always reminds me of Young Popeye.

Kit Marlowe said...

Popeye?! I guess I don't see it -- nor can I picture Popeye young...

Todd Mason said...

He strikes me as having the shape of face and coloring a living Popeye would have.

Todd Mason said...

And, of course, the dancing. Just imagine he's dancing about spinach. Actually, his attractiveness eludes me, even intellectually (not that I'd feel it too viscerally--but I can see why George Clooney or Johnny Depp or Arnold S might be seen as handsome, etc.), but he seems competent enough an actor in what little I've seen him in.

K. A. Laity said...

I don't think he's amazingly attractive physically, but in person (or on film, I suppose) he has a certain charm. Ahnold -- no. Not attractive at all. Clooney again, part of it is charm, but then I liked him back when he was Falconer on Sisters (sigh).

Popeye

Timberlake

Best I could find: in photos, Timberlake just looks kind of dorky. I'm remembering my mystification about the appeal of the much-younger Frank Langella, who I'd only seen in photos back when he was starring on stage in Dracula; then I saw him in The Twelve Chairs and understood at once his appeal. Some people have to be in motion.

K. A. Laity said...

And LOL! dancing about spinach!!

Todd Mason said...

He's bringing spinacio back.

Wait...there was someone other than Sela Ward in the cast of SISTERS?

K. A. Laity said...

Ha ha ha hah! Yes!