Friday, November 12, 2010

The Social Network (2010) - Review

The Social Network is nothing without facebook. It is probably also the easiest film to publicize, because nothing else in the world right now could be more famous and ordinary than the existence of facebook.

First off, the good part: everything. The film is perfect. Flawless. The cast, the writing, the stunning look and cinematography, and the music - everything is top notch. So everything I say about it below is besides it being one of the best films of the year, probably my favorite for the year. So my opinion about some of the things in the film does not change the fact that this is one of the finest films I’ve seen, thanks to the entire ensemble. This film is one of the best character studies in a long time.

Now, everything about the concept of making and watching this film demands not to be taken seriously - something the filmmakers knew very well. Which is why they hired Aaron Sorkin (A Few Good Men, The West Wing series) to write the film and David Fincher (Fight Club, Seven, Curious Case of Benjamin Button) to direct - pretty much the most subject-oriented A-list writers/directors.

The film is exactly what Mark describes facebook as in the film - it’s cool. But I think it is probably easier to make something look cool - and say (in the film) that facebook has the “potential” to be a billion dollar company - if it already has. For a film that is being promoted as “not about facebook” (to make people go to the theatres), it does take a lot of credibility from facebook’s image and status to help make the plot more understandable.

So, for a film that is trying to say so much about a website, a company, a “movement”, it also wants to say “you don’t have to like or care about or have an opinion about facebook to watch and like this film”. Also, and maybe I feel this because I’ve always seen Aaron Sorkin as a series writer, but I wanted to see more of many scenes/situations. I may be biased but sometimes it felt more like a tv show pilot episode to me (but a reallyyyy good one). This isn't necessarily a bad thing though. I love films that end at a high point, leaving you wanting more - something tv show writers are very good at. It's a hard sell to a studio though, but Sorkin's image and quality of writing pretty much lets him get away with anything.

Another observation, the film rarely shows Mark making decisions that affect the story (once he starts the website) - which gives him more of a puppeteer’s image while looking like a puppet. Since the film is told from 3 different opinions (depositions), it is hard to say which is true; which works great in the scenes when Mark is accused of, in separate situations, sabotaging Edoardo's share in the company (through the 'chicken' story in the newspaper), and taking Sean out of the equation (not being present at the frat party). Both scenes were my favorite since even though it's hard to believe that he did do those things, it does sound really cool in a Al Pacino from the end of The Godfather sort of way. Obviously, he could have easily done those two things, but his character's mysteriousness and ambiguity are brilliantly portrayed by Jesse Eisenberg and Aaron Sorkin.

The cast is perfect - basing half the film in college and using young actors gives it the most casual look - even though deeper down the film is about CEOs that run billion dollar companies that affect the lives of 500 million people (1 in every 12 people on earth, approximately). And the big themes - friendship, loyalty, lies, betrayal would have come off more drama-like if Mark was played by Leonardo Dicaprio and Edoardo by Brad Pitt. BUT every major shift in plot is caused by a decision which is “allegedly” made by Mark. The film makes him look like a billionaire nerd and a billionaire godfather at the same time - but it does it very well. That is the best part- this film does everything well. And when a film with such a debatable concept and plot does everything right - it is very easy to find bad things to say about it.

(Quick note: Jesse Eisenberg is one of the best actors in the industry. People will talk about his work in this film for a long time, and I really hope he gets an oscar nod.)

Still, let’s face it - if you’ve seen the film - you had no idea going into this biopic (that too about the invention of a social networking website) that it would be such a thrillride with flawless execution by everyone involved. This film is amazing. The writing, the direction, and the awesome music is flawless. But even all of those things can not make the package look less stupid. Deep, deep, deep down the plastic surgery of acting, music, writing, and direction, this film is about nerdy best friends who became rivals and fought for millions of dollars of damages to their egos.

This film is art - and the credit goes to the director, writer, music composer, editor, and the entire production - so what if the subject is something as mundane as facebook? Facebook is a genius idea - a business plan that should make anyone envious, and this is what the film does - it make you want to hate Mark Zuckerberg. But didn’t many people already hate him? Aren’t there already many reasons to be jealous of the guy’s success? Youngest billionaire? His worth increasing exponentially every year? This film helps his fame, but not his image.

Bill Gates dropped out of Harvard and became the richest person in the world. Steve Jobs too dropped out of college, then started Apple and is the largest shareholder of the Walt Disney Company which is the biggest entertainment conglomerate in the world. Mark Zuckerberg has the same genius genes and is the youngest billionaire, worth more than Steve Jobs and many others. But people don’t respect him as much as Bill Gates or Steve Jobs. This film won’t help that - but it will make him more famous than facebook could or has so far. It’ll win oscars and other awards and everyone will applaud everyone involved - except the man it is about.

But well - the internet does that sometimes.

Epilogue: When the film ended, I didn’t like it. I wanted to see more. But that is a problem I have with all good films and tv shows - especially those written by Aaron Sorkin. His dialogues and script are addictive. It can even make a show like Studio 60 On The Sunset Strip (2006) look very good. Even though that again was a serious drama about the behind the scenes of a live television sketch show. But that show failed where The Social Network succeeded - subject matter. Facebook is huge - and if every facebook user in the world were to go and watch this film, it would make over 4 billion dollars. But it didn’t. And it won’t. Because in the end, no matter how great the acting, direction, writing, music, etc. all is - it’s still a movie about a website. It doesn’t change the world or the medium, and it probably won’t be as entertaining to everyone as it was to me. Still, it does absolutely nothing wrong, once it starts. Also, I can’t imagine how less interesting the film would have been if it was actually all true, since accuracy is a liability when you’re making a film about people who are still alive.

Also, just a quick mention - Andrew Garfield ( the actor who plays Eduardo) is going to be the next Spiderman in the rebooted film franchise which will probably make a few billion dollars. So anyone who feels bad for his character in the film shouldn’t because the actor already is the next big thing in hollywood.


  1. Lovely review, I avoided seeing this at the cinema as i usually avoid Holly films at the cinema and just wait for them on dvd but I'm quite surprised this film hasn't made as much given that a quarter or so of the world are on facebook i would have expected it to be a super blockbuster

  2. Had been eagerly awaiting this one! didn't get to see it yet .. I hope I enjoy it as much as I enjoyed reading your review!

  3. @bollywooddeewana - agreed on the potential of this film. but ironically people who like facebook don't like to admit they do (since it kinda says you don't have a life), so not going for such a movie is their way of saying how less they care about facebook. and well the outlook of the film is very geeky.
    this is precisely why the studio hired overqualified writer/director - to counter such effect.
    @mansi - definitely watch it sis. its very engaging and will leave you wanting more.

  4. Havn't seen this one yet and hence will probably drop in once I view it this weekend...

    Just one correction though : Gates is a Harvard dropout, not Stanford :)

  5. duly noted about Gates, thanks for the edit

  6. I'm going to watch this one on the weekend...

  7. Harward isnt that great for computer science :D I loved the way this movie ended :)


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