Masterpiece Memo: The Social Network

To begin with I think The Social Network is a masterpiece. It’s a film that I really love, and ever since I first saw it in January 2011, I always feel like it is an event to watch. There are not many films that I have felt this strongly about. Titanic is a film that for as much as I love, I don’t watch too often because I don’t want to wear it out. Jaws is the opposite where I have now seen it so many times that it no longer matters. But with The Social Network, it feels like it’s something more than just a film to me. It’s like seeing the first moment of something monumental, and seeing what came before it – like the big bang if you will.

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When talking about the film, I have to first start with its director, David Fincher. He’s probably my favorite director of all-time. Of his ten feature films, I give seven of them an “A” score. He’s built up a reputation for creating worlds in his films that are often based upon our reality, but feel darker and dare I say dirtier. He likes films about flawed people, who make bad decisions, and sometimes do bad things. Se7en & Zodiac are about serial killers, and Fight Club is about anarchy. The Social Network is about people who are fundamentally good, but again, do bad things. That’s not to say that Mark Zuckerberg is a bad person, but he certainly stepped on many toes on his way to the top. Fincher I think chose this film as he likely saw the potential it had to be a great film because of the characters, and the choices they make. And also, I think, the story, of course largely down to Aaron Sorkin’s amazing script.

Before Sorkin wrote the screenplay, Ben Mezrich wrote the book based on Mark Zuckerberg and the founding of Facebook titled: The Accidental Billionaires: The Founding of Facebook, A Tale of Sex, Money, Genius, and Betrayal. It was published in July 2009, and most of the information came from Facebook “co-founder” Eduardo Saverin, who in the film is played by Andrew Garfield. The screenplay that Sorkin wrote was blazing, he wrote the characters almost like they were in a William Shakespeare play, with a story full of lies, jealousy, and betrayal. I especially love how Sorkin balanced the story between 2003, 2004, and then 2010. It goes back and forth between the past when Facebook was just an idea for Mark, and in the current day when he is being sued by Cameron & Tyler Winklevoss for, in their minds, having stolen their original idea, and by his former best friend Eduardo for having him pushed out of the company. In fact, some of the very best dialogue (and the film is full of great quotes) happens during the deposition scenes. One of my favorites has to be the “Do I have your full attention?” exchange.

There are many great scenes though in the film that I want to talk about, but I can’t mention them all here. One scene I really love is when Mark pulls Eduardo aside during a party and tells him about his idea for Facebook. Mark says “People want to go online and check out their friends, so why not build a website that offers that? Friends, pictures, profiles, whatever you can visit, browse around, maybe it’s someone you just met at a party. Eduardo, I’m not talking about a dating site, I’m talking about taking the entire social experience of college and putting it online.” It’s a fantastic line that spells out exactly what Mark is thinking. Another great line, this time from Sean Parker (Justin Timberlake), is near the end of the film when he’s at the Facebook after-party and says “We lived on farms, then we lived in cities, and now we’re going to live on the internet!” It was a profound statement actually, since it seems like it has come true.

Another memorable scene in the film is very early on, Mark and his girlfriend Erica Albright break-up (or rather she calls him out and dumps him), and he comes back to his dorm room and starts blogging, and building a website where he compares pictures of girls to each other called Facesmash. The scene is perfect. It’s got a great tempo, and the music playing is amazing, which is a rhythmic electronic score conducted and performed by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross. The scene goes back and forth between Mark in his dorm room writing the code for the site, and people arriving at and then partying, during the first major fraternity party of the semester. All-the-while, we hear Mark’s voice describing everything in lightning quick speed.

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I really love the choice of actors they got in the film, especially Jesse Eisenberg as Zuckerberg, Andrew Garfield as Eduardo. Armie Hammer (and body double Josh Pence) as Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss, Rooney Mara as Erica, Max Minghella as Divya Narendra, Brenda Song as Christy, and Timberlake as Parker are all also very good. I really want to say that I think Eisenberg should have won the Oscar for Best Lead Actor. I also think that both Garfield and Timberlake should have been nominated for Best Supporting Actor. Garfield was especially robbed, though he did okay since he got to play Spider-Man twice afterwards. With Timberlake, it was interesting seeing him morph from the lead singer of *NSYNC into an Oscar worthy actor. I mean, he was pretty good in Alpha Dog in 2007, but just that much better in The Social Network.

I still get mad when I think about the Oscars, when it was The King’s Speech vs The Social Network, and Tom Hooper’s film won both Best Picture and Best Director. There is absolutely no way that should have happened. It was also disappointing that Jeff Cronenweth lost to Inception for Best Cinematography. At the time I thought Inception was a worthy win, but after seeing The Social Network again and again, I have changed my mind. I am very happy though that Kirk Baxter & Angus Wall won for Best Film Editing – I’d argue that The Social Network could be the greatest edited film ever made. It’s what makes the 2 hour running time feel like 40 minutes. I’m also happy that Sorkin won for Best Adapted Screenplay, and Reznor & Ross won for Best Original Score. The music was so good that Fincher asked them to do it again for The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and Gone Girl. Both great scores as well.

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Anyway, what more can I say that I haven’t already? To sum it up, I think it’s a brilliant film that should be considered one of the greatest of all-time. Who knows, maybe by the time the film gets its recognition for being one of the all-time greats, we’ll be using Facebook while living on Mars. All I know is, based on my life to this point, and where I’m at in it, if I could sum up everything that I’d want in a film, it could well be The Social Network.

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One response to “Masterpiece Memo: The Social Network

  1. A really passionate, from the heart piece of writing Al. A pleasure to read. It’s a movie you could write a book about.

    2010 was a really tough year to pick a favorite. Inception was for me the big cinematic experience, highly original, superbly executed, my film of the year. But only just. We had Black Swan, In a Better World, for example, and of course The Social Network, there were some greats.

    I saw The Social Network with my wife at the cinema, and I remember we enjoyed it but did not think it was spectacular. At first. The thing with this gem though is that it has longevity, it creeps up on you and actually gets better and better regardless how many times you watch it again. It has depth, layers, immaculately written story and pitch-perfect direction from Fincher. As good as it is, The King’s Speech is long forgotten now in comparison. The dialogue is epic. It is a terrific screenplay to just sit down and read – try it. Marvellous writing. Also, Reznor and Ross is one of the finest collaborations in any arena of film in years and years.

    Like

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