Sunday, February 20, 2011

If David Fincher built a car, I'd definitely buy it - Ágúst reviews The Social Network

The Social Network is as slick as Shaft's leather coat, as technically marvelous as a spaceship and as sterile as a neutered armadillo. The very, very digital cinematography is by Jeff Cronenweth who also shot Fincher's painful Fight Club. If you have a 50 inch TV and a Blue Ray player this is the film to show those suckers off. Any spot of grain, technical imperfection or blemish has been banished to Farawayistan. Fincher has once again proven himself to be a master of camera placement, lens selection and general slickness. Kudos to editors Kirk Baxter and Angus Hall and composers Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross for making spoiled, superficial, rich people arguing in court rooms seem worth our time. The film is astoundingly exciting and zippy and represents the technical pinnacle of Hollywood filmmaking.

But why make a film about Zuckerberg?

Facebook, of course, offers us myriad interesting philosophical and spiritual questions about our day and age, our alienation and our angst, yet Fincher could care less. The film is primarily focused on a protagonist that is gleefully unapproachable and whom Fincher obviously shares a lot in common with. Fincher also found himself across large tables from people clad in Brooks Brother's suits a decade and a half earlier when he infamously screwed up the third entry in the Aliens franchise, primarily by being cowered into submission by lawyers and CEOs. Perhaps Fincher sees Zuckerberg as a kind of hero, the guy who wouldn't give up his vision and his ideal even though he was young and inexperienced. Whatever the appeal of Zuckerberg is to Fincher it never quite translates to the audience. Eisenberg is excellent, subdued and subtle, raising more questions than providing answers, yet the clever but empty script by Aaron Sorkin doesn't provide him with anywhere to go with the character or whatever it is that he might reveal about our day and age. The dialogue, though often fun, seems primarily intended to show off how clever and smart the film is - or is supposed to be. It's almost as if Sorkin wants to scream in your face that he can write dialogue so fast paced and witty that it makes Charles Lederer and David Mamet seem like whoever-the-hell wrote Mamma Mia.

Andrew Garfield as Zuckerberg's friend Eduardo Saverin is by far the most sympathetic character, though this isn't saying much since the film basically sets a world record in sleazy, unsympathetic characters. Garfield is the heart and soul of the story but he remains just as inexplicable as every other character. God knows why Eduardo wanted to be friends with Zuckerberg in the first place. Fincher doesn't seem interested in such messy silliness as emotions, friendship or compassion. The film is as calculated as the codes Zuckerberg churns out for his empire-to-be.

The Social Network director David Fincher. The shot was taken after Fincher's 7 o' clock espresso enema. Fincher was later seen dining with producer Scott Rudin at Spago's. The pair enjoyed a delightful medley of escargot in wasabi sauce, a risotto dish sprinkled with 24 carat gold flakes and a grey poupon milkshake.  

I'm making all this sound a bit worse than it really is. Everyone should see this film. It is very enjoyable and incredibly engaging, immersing you in the world of corporations, lawyers and technocrats. Which is basically the center of our modern existence. But is the film good art? I don't know. Probably not. Art is necessarily messy, unpredictable, edgy, risky and dangerous. Fincher couldn't make such a film if his life dependent on it. At least not at this stage in his career. There has to be more to beauty than craftmanship. One needs a kind of wounded sensitivity, the need to speak, to express the confusion and pain and anguish that touches the core of our time in this vale of tears. Fincher, Sorkin, Rudin, et al are all so incredibly professional, highly trained and well-dressed that they miss a lot of the more interesting sociological, philosophical and (most importantly) personal questions that surround this strange figure of Mark Zuckerberg, his need for recognition, authority and power, accomplished through the creation of a website that mirrors the most ridiculous, superficial and neurotic tendencies of our disturbed age. If only directors such as Robert Altman and Stanley Kubrick were still around they could have made a masterpiece out of this story. As it is we have an excellent example of Hollywood craftmanship and a good reason to invest in that ol' Blue Ray player.  


ross charles said...

I agree. The film is so quick and generally enjoyable that it wasn't until immediately after and the few days following that I was struck by how weightless it is--how little bearing it actually had on my mind. So Zuckerberg was kind of an asshole and the napster guy was essentially psychotic. Because he wanted to be cool? Or wanted friends? Or all of that but didn't want to admit it? Or he just wanted everyone in the world to stand up and say "you're the best programmer ever" and call it good? It could be any of these, and I don't really care...

agust symeon said...

Yeah. And the sad fact is that it seems like a missed opportunity. These people are the Kings of our age, the chosen ones, and that must have some sort of bearing on our culture. But Fincher doesn't seem particularly interested in those angles.

Great acting though. Garfield was especially great. Although his character could have been much more complex. If he had been better written he could have been like Joseph Cotten in Citizen Kane.