Thursday, October 14, 2010
The Social Network
Spoiler alert-o-meter: Mild to medium spoiler alerts ahead.
Week 2. There are a lot of ideas in David Fincher’s latest film, The Social Network, as least as many as there were in the head of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg when he was a sophomore at Harvard in 2003. The movie covers the year Mark took Harvard’s campus-only student connection network, the Face Book, into the invite-only world of juried friendship known today as Facebook. One year. It’s incredible how quickly the landscape, attitude, and texture of online communication exponentially changes.
The film breathlessly takes us from the early decisions Mark makes regarding how and why he does what he does, to the many repercussions of creating Facebook out of someone else’s idea, and turning it into a powerhouse of social networking, where friends yeah or nay your inclusion into their world.
Mark has a best friend, Eduardo (Andrew Garfield), a fellow student and outcast who provides early seed money for Mark's venture. Mark's jealousy flares when Eduardo is chosen to join an exclusive Harvard club, one that won’t consider him. Other objects of his jealousy take the form of the blond, athletic Winklevoss twins, Cameron and Tyler (both played by actor Armie Hammer), seniors at Harvard, and expert rowers who consider themselves specimens of Harvard ethics.
The twins hire Mark to expand their idea for a social network on Harvard’s campus. Mark listens to their ideas, then goes off and writes his own code for a similar site. When his site, The Facebook, goes live, the twins find out about it nearly two days later after hundreds of students have already joined. They have been beaten to the gate. In the lightning-fast world of hype and the Internet, getting there first means everything. And since Mark essentially wrote all his own code, he believes he did not steal anything.
While the film is constructed within the framework of legal maneuvers and the legalese of who did what to whom when, it is mainly concerned with the brilliant young men who want to make a mark. There is a bemused detachment to the presentation, a feeling of marching just behind the action. We are not necessarily part of the action, but, like Eduardo and the Winklevoss twins, we are stragglers trying always to keep up.
When Mark spouts computer-language speak as fast as he can to keep up with his ever-shifting brain, the audience can only marvel. Maybe that’s the point—those who aren’t fast enough for the business of the Internet have no business attempting to tame it. And those who are blessed with fleet ideas and C++ get there first. The music by Trent Rezner keeps things atmospheric, always marching, and slightly ominous. Reminding viewers to stay on their toes, and that nothing is quite as it appears.
After the movie I mentioned to Liz that there were few female characters, and only one in a position of power and decision-making (Eduardo's lawyer). The girls in the movie are spurned girlfriends, partying college girls, or shrill club sluts. Is this a reflection on the writers (Aaron Sorkin did the screenplay, based on the book The Accidental Billionaires, by Ben Mezrich) or on the characters who fuel the story? Boys playing at men. Boys who have an arrested adolescent approach to feelings and love, and think girls are no deeper or meaningful than the latest issue of Maxim. (Sorkin talks about this subject here.) There are also no parents around--except for the twins' father, fleetingly. So where did these precocious rug rats learn their ethics? On the debate team? The Internet?
Toward the end of the film, Sean Parker is arrested at a house party where there are drugs and underage girls. He seems small now, scared, pimply. In his pockets, instead of a bag of cocaine and money, the police find his asthma inhaler. These accidental billionaires are all adolescent bravado, playing at being rich and popular. The Social Network brings this microcosm of a specific moment in the very short history of social networking and makes fun, engrossing, and thoroughly realistic. Even if we can never be sure how it all really went down.
Theater location: Lowell Showcase, Tuesday night bargain show. Price $6.00. Viewed with Liz.
The Dilemma. Vince Vaughn, Kevin James, Jennifer Connolly, Winona Ryder. Directed by Ron Howard. This could also be called, "Where Starlets Go After They Turn 35." All I can think is that Jennifer and Winona, who can be wonderful actresses, take these types of supporting roles because there are no other roles offered. Both actresses are relegated to wife roles. Winona plays a woman who cheats on her husband (James) but is discovered by his best friend (Vaughn). So, the movie’s dilemma is, should Vaughn tell his best friend his wife’s cheating. Regardless, it’s great to see Winona Ryder in a mainstream movie again.
The Tourist. Johnny Depp, Angelina Jolie. “Revolves around Frank, an American tourist visiting Italy to mend a broken heart. Elise is an extraordinary woman who deliberately crosses his path.” Is she a spy? Is he? Nothing is as it seems…
I Am Number 4. Looks like a cheesy video game. More of a teaser for the movie than a preview. Maybe it’s an early version of the trailer. Or, there’s trouble in the editing room as the producers figure out what kind of movie they’ve been saddled with.
Love and Other Drugs. Jake Gyllenhaal, Anne Hathaway. It’s a rom-com. Liz said, “It’s weird to see Jake Gyllenhaal smile.” He plays a slick salesman who falls for a beautiful free spirit. So, maybe we’re not supposed to trust his smile.
How do you know? Reese Witherspoon, Owen Wilson, Paul Rudd, Jack Nicholson. Directed by James L. Brooks. All star cast, big director. What could go wrong? It looks entertaining enough, but Brooks has had a very spotty record in the last decade and what he thinks is funny hasn’t been since the late-80s. Still, great cast. Looks cute and honest. Promises to be a large-ish Christmas movie.