Posted on 10/09/10 05:30 PM | Last edited on 10/09/10 05:30 PM
I’ve now seen The Social Network twice – logged in twice if you will. My experience has variated, intensified, become great – this film is a masterpiece. I bit my tongue when my co-host of The Final Take called it “the Citizen Kane of our generation” but now my tongue loses that grasp.
This film is, first off, so exciting. It proves that entertainment does not fall under the radar of explosions, gun fights, and cheap love affairs – ironically, the first two of those dominated Fincher’s macho masterpiece Fight Club. But what The Social Network offers us is a story of young prosperity that feels, due to Fincher’s method and direction, almost cathartic. It excites us, tenaciously ensnares us because we feel like an observant Mark Zuckerberg – we are the rich man (as The Beatles tune at the end reminds us) and also the monster.
The theatre, in both my experiences watching this film, was deadly quiet. They laughed when writer Aaron Sorkin impishly asked for that relief, but kept our interest because these were characters not caricatures resembling the Facebook sensation, but tycoons that are burdened in humanity. That silence means something other than just absorption. It is, I think, the inundation of emotions, the cavalcade of ambiguities Fincher bombards us with, which could not frustrate even a mainstream audience. Any type of crowd loves playing jig saw puzzles with their characters.
Now what fascinated me was how little this is exactly about ‘Facebook’. I put Facebook in quotes because it seems to be a part of the background of the action. Facebook is the motive, the elephant in the room, the drive, the game, and the catalyst. If you removed Facebook from The Social Network, the film could still, brilliantly, work because Fincher, as a great director should do, makes this about characters who seem to have traits that don’t rectify out of Facebook but of themselves. They are human, who in a bitter-sweet way, become objects of the internet netherworld.
I’ve talked (in my first review) much about the performances. The million dollar question is who stands out the most? Who is not necessarily the most important but the most dimensional. I think it is Jesse Eisenberg, mainly because he breaks away from the plain embodiment of the shy-awkward. It’s fairly predictable to call Eisenberg’s Zuckerberg the most endearing. I’m sure for all critics, they were wowed by Welles’s Kane in Citizen Kane. But we sense an anger in Zuckerberg; he’s taciturn yet aggressive, a manipulator, a genius, and perhaps an obsessed cyber whiz who becomes an icon out of spite.
The Social Network is Citizen Kane in the sense that the success of its protagonist is never heroic, jovial, or worthy – it is ruthless, hateful, and unscrupulous. Zuckerberg does many terrible things but his arguments are not untenable. When confronted by the Winklevos twins, Zuckerberg, rightfully, states: “if you were the inventors of Facebook, you would have invented Facebook.” He has a point. An idea is an idea, but Zuckerberg transcended a concept. He took the branches of the Winklevos and made a full-grown tree.
When Eduardo (Andrew Garfield) realizes Mark has cut his shares, we become angry. Mark is never credible or trustworthy; but his intentions are only human – individualistic, ambitious, and strongly insatiable. When Eduardo submits he will come back not for 30% of Facebook but for everything, we sense a downfall. But the fascinating aspect of Zuckerberg’s story is that he never had a downfall (yet); in fact, he began on the ground and built his way up. As the movie ends, Fincher understands Zuckerberg has not changed, but has actually gotten worse, yet more successful. Isn’t that the awful truth?
I wouldn’t place a caveat on The Social Network with respect to its approach to women. In fact the two most essential character are Erica Albright (Rooney Mara) and an attorney played by I Love You Man’s Rashida Jones. At the beginning of the film, Erica tells Mark: “you won’t get women because you’re a nerd, it’s because you’ll always be an asshole.” By the end, Jones gives Mark some credence: “You’re not an asshole, Mark. You just try to be.” It’s a perfect parallel; it is perfect in a sense that Fincher gets as close to the enigma as Zuckerberg as he possibly can.
In the grand speed of things, The Social Network is masterful because Fincher is not interpreting Facebook, but the characters that are occupied by it. Facebook, according to Fincher, does not represent our social connections but rather our disconnections from each other and the painful irony that as internet finds its place in the world, human nature will never be the same.
Does The Social Network surpass Zodiac? I would still hesitate because Zodiac really expands throughout that 162 minute runtime. The Social Network does cease up, but Fincher, for better or worse, had to. This is not about characters who have come full circle but are only half-way. Facebook still thrives on every leg and the scary thing that, I think, astounds us all (at least 500 million of us) is that we are probably using it right now.
I gave The Social Network a solidified three-and-a-half stars upon first view. Now without question, it’s a certified four star.