The Social Network in a way defies logic. If it was written out as a musical scale the first ten minutes would be in accelerando. You’d expect that eventually that would have to cease and the consistent popping dialogue of the opening would abate, you’d be wrong. I could probably preface my review by indicating that I’m not a member of facebook and have a general lack of interest in social network sites but that statement would not only be innocuous, it’d be superfluous too. True, underneath it’s sophistication, witty dialogue and snazzy direction The Social Network seems to exist technically as a biopic but when stripped to the bare essentials it’s less about the founding members of facebook. It’s not even an assessment of society’s flawed values – at least not in absolution. At its core its basis is really just one of the simplest of paradigms – battling friends. This estimation isn’t a slight at the film itself because the fact that Sorkin’s screenplay and Fincher’s direction manage to turn this decidedly primeval concept into this is only proof of how much they’ve got going for them.
I’m not the least interested in how accurate the story is, my favourite biopic (a term I use loosely) is The Lion in Winter which is probably more accurately classified as literary/historic fiction. Like The Lion in Winter The Social Network depends – slavishly so at times – on its writing. Sorkin has an ear for dialogue, he’s always had this gift what he’s been lacking is a director to complement this and Fincher doesn’t emerge as the obvious choice. Truth be told I’ve always admired Fincher’s ability to turn good scripts into excellent ventures. He doesn’t strike you as the obvious subtle director but in his mindfulness of technique it all ends up the same place in a weird way. There’s a line where Eduardo turns to Mark and Sean and says, “Sorry, my Prada is at the cleaners, along with hoodie and “fuck you” flip flops”. It’s a line that has the potential to be so tongue-in-cheek I almost cringe, because that right there could be an indicator of The Social Network potential flaw. There’s a thin line between being cool and trying too hard but somehow Fincher manages to make it work. There’s a whole lot that’s going on, maybe even too much but for some reason it works. Maybe it’s because Fincher is able to match Sorkin’s relentless onslaught of dialogue with a direction that’s simultaneously exuberant and snazzy and yet interesting enough to distract us from the fact that the dialogue is the movie. It’s not that Fincher’s direction is smoke and mirrors but it ends up like communications theory – the means really is the message (or vice versa)
It’s this pop-pop-pop nature of the film that concurrently pushes its actors to step up their game while preventing from getting the usual “best performance” edicts that one would anticipate from a standard biopic. The Social Network is an ensemble film in absolution, and I’d be the first to point out a number of the cast members for individual awards. There doesn’t seem to be a false note among the cast and whether that’s Fincher’s niche casting or just the talent of the group is beyond me. Really, I’m least interested. It would be impractical of me to look under the hood and see what keeps The Social Network running: Eisenberg grounds the film, he’s the lead after all (a de facto one somewhat) but I’m as impressed with his turn as I am with Rashida Jones who has about ten minutes of screentime with a character that should be insignificant but emerges as one of my favourites of the film. It’s difficult to measure if Andrew Garfield, Justin Timberlake or Rooney Mara plays their roles best. Each has varying screen-time, each nails their performances. I’m not sure what algorithm Fincher and Sorkin use but the The Social Network works. I won’t say that it’ll be the film that defines our generation or whatnot, I mean who can really tell that sort of things until it happens. I will admit that after having been privy to a long spell of movies I was always somewhat reticent about I didn’t even realise that I was in need of a good 2010 film. When The Social Network finished I had that sort of naive feeling that cinema really was the greatest art form. It’s probably like the drunken stupor that Zuckerberg experiences at the film’s beginning – but that doesn’t make it any less real to me. I hate to sound sycophantic, but I’m a fan – a big one.