Sunday, October 10, 2010

He said/She said: The Social Network review

They say that two heads are better than one, and that principle lies in a new blogging experience that begins with this post.

There is now not only one film buff working at Cox Media Group's southwest newspapers, there are two. Just as I maintain this film site, my colleague Hannah Porturalski maintains her film own site, One Chick's Take on Flicks.

From time to time, Hannah and I will co-review a film, each bringing our own perspectives to it and hopefully making our sites even more interesting to read. Since this is our first outing, and I am the chvalrous sort, I will let Hannah go first. Here's an excerpt from her review; mine follows after the jump.

"I never thought I would think of Jesse Eisenberg as a jerk, but man does he know how to play a neurotic ass, and well. He was the opposite type of character in 2009′s Zombieland when he played a soft-spoken sweetheart. The Social Network shed a lot of light on Mark Zuckerberg’s mindset and life. But you’ve got to take the unauthorized Facebook movie with a grain of salt, seeing as Zuckerberg has said, “It’s a movie, it’s fun.” It’s hard for me, the average viewer, to know how true it really rings.

"While the film was very entertaining it was also draining. Eisenberg as Zuckerberg was great at acting as a fast-talking, fast-thinking, fast-acting college student with nothing but time to waste. Zuckerberg was portrayed as a loner with insecurities as large as his ego. It was great though to watch the mind of a computer-obsessed guy just whiz by everyone else and dominate the Internet. These character flaws were effective at making the viewer jump between liking Zuckerberg and hating him. He was extremely intelligent and witty, but was almost bipolar because he’d switch to a cold, calculating jerk. Even when Zuckerberg tried to act sincere, i.e. the bar scene when he tries to apologize to Erica Albright (Rooney Mara), he does it in a condescending way that shows it isn’t sincere. Zuckerberg seemed to have a very hard time relating to people and the root of that problem never became apparent."

My review is after the jump.

Most people who know me know I'm a Facebook freak; I've been hard-wired into Crackbook for two years and counting. The site has also paid me enormous personal dividends in finding new friends and especially making old friends new again.

So it came as no surprise that I absolutely loved The Social Network. What DID come as a surprise was what I loved about it.

Who knew a David Fincher film could be so funny?

Granted, much of that is due to screenwriter Aaron Sorkin (A Few Good Men), whose rapid-fire dialogue hits the bullseye in the very opening scene and never lets up. Facebook creator Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenbeberg) talks and thinks a mile a minute. His hyper-intelligence is both his blessing and his curse. While he is intellectually brilliant, that very quality also makes him socially inept. His girlfriend Erica (Rooney Mara) tells him, "Dating you is like dating a Stairmaster."

It's the souring of their relationship that gives rise to Facebook, and Sorkin and Fincher chronicle that rise with  remarkable flair that made me laugh throughout. And that's not just through Sorkin's words. This is every inch a Fincher film too. One of his strengths is capturing the mood and tone of a particular time and place, and his editing is key to this film. The speed of it within scenes is breathtaking; the way the film cross-cuts from room to room and scene to scene is riveting, brilliantly capturing how Facebook has made the world both faster and smaller.

The emotional core is strong as well. Fincher routinely gets good performances from his actors, but three in particular caught my attention.

Some have accused Jesse Eisenberg of playing the same lovably geeky character every time, whether it be in Adventureland  or Zombieland - but The Social Network shatters that persona. Eisenberg does retain some of his likability, so Zuckerberg isn't totally off-putting but the actor also makes him painfully withdrawn so that the character never fully lets the viewer in. The balancing act is impressive.

Then there's Justin Timberlake, playing Napster founder Sean Parker, who played a key role in the founding of Facebook. I new Timberlake could act, but he's so convincing here I actually forgot that it was "Justin Timberlake." That's proof positive he's fully arrived as an actor.

There's also Mara, whose caught a lot of attention lately because Fincher has cast her in the title role of his upcoming Girl With the Dragon Tattoo remake. Her role in The Social Network is small but absolutely pivotal. Rooney creates a strking presence that haunts the entire picture.

Near the beginning of The Social Network, one girl tells Zuckerberg, "If somebody dumps you, it won't be because you're a nerd. It'll be because you're an asshole." Then, towards the end of the film someone else tells him, "You're not an asshole, Mark. You just try too hard to be one."

The heart of this film lies in the valley between those two quotes. The ultimate irony is that the man who made the world more social had only one  true friend, and he betrayed even that one. The note-perfect conlusion of the film drives the point home powerfully.  And, when you see the film, those who know me will understand why I say "note-perfect."

If The Social Network isn't Fincher's best film, and it just might be; it's certainly his most flat-out entertaining. And that makes it one of the best films of the year.

Eric Robinette likes this.


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