Archive for November, 2010

Weekly Poll #13


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From an early age, we are conditioned to believe that the impression we make on others is perhaps the most significant thing we have to offer. It’s a mentality that drives us to aggrandize our own esteem and to diminish those we see less fit. Ultimately, life is a competition, and we are mammals of sport. We strive for the highest degree of importance, either in support or in spite of our impression.

However humanly sordid this subject may seem, its correlation with the world of today provides a perfect story to tell in David Fincher’s The Social Network. Through dramatized insight into the life of the youngest billionaire on the planet, Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg), we see imperfect, damaged individuals interact with success and competition in a way that sadly worsens their overall image.

The film begins at a Harvard bar where Zuckerberg gets dumped. In a short scene, writer Aaron Sorkin and director David Fincher depict the man (or child, to be more specific) we are about to follow on screen for two hours. He is condescending, flippant, and vindictive, but it’s difficult to loathe him completely. His behavior is reactive to the frustrating exclusivity of the world encircling him. All Zuckerberg wants is to be accepted by Harvard’s most elite societies, and when he knows he can’t have that, he believes that his only choice is to be just as relentless.

Getting dumped works as enough incentive for Zuckerberg. He has no final clubs, no girlfriend, and not enough sociability to obtain either one of them directly. With his drunken woes, he realizes that he must make an impression peripherally, behind a computer screen. With the help of his best friend Eduardo Saverin (Andrew Garfield), he concocts Facemash.com, a site that compares the attractiveness of girls at Harvard University. The resulting sensation attracts entrepreneurs Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss to hire Mark for their website, Harvard Connection. Although Mark agrees to work for them, he uses his time and their ideas to create The Facebook. Thereafter, things begin to swell.

What makes The Social Network captivating isn’t its reliance on our familiarity with the world’s most popular website. Rather, it’s the intricate bravura that drives the storytelling. Fincher and Sorkin narrate from three different angles; one is the linear set of events that capture the genesis of Facebook, and the other two are in the form of litigations when both Saverin and the Winklevoss twins are respectively suing Mark years after Facebook’s inception. The film successfully hopscotches around time and space to tell one cohesive tale.

Again, my fascination with this film doesn’t stem from its brutal action because there is, in fact, none. Instead, it’s people just talking. However, the fervor with which all the characters speak is magnetic and almost poetic; writer Aaron Sorkin, best known for his work on The West Wing, writes such sharp dialogue with enough contrast between characters to give each scene its own arc and momentum. David Fincher, who is notorious for fashionable cinematography, reserves grandiose camera work only for the film’s most important scenes. Otherwise, he utilizes much quieter movement to create natural, unstoppable momentum.

Similarly, Fincher’s actors take on their roles carefully. Jesse Eisenberg plays an insecure anti-hero whose flaws are easy to sympathize with. Throughout Sorkin’s energetic script, Eisenberg finds solace in the silent moments with fierce facial expressions that are as defined as they are insidious. The Mark Zuckerberg featured in The Social Network is a hero in the most classical sense, and he is one of the most interesting characters of the year because of that.

Andrew Garfield’s Eduardo Saverin is brutally sympathetic, but I feel there is not as much development with him. His passivity leads me to question why he is friends with Zuckerberg in the first place; their relationship on screen is rightfully represented, but it’s still difficult to see what Saverin sees in Zuckerberg. Yes, he wants to be a successful business man; yes, he wants to impress his father; yes, he wants to be accepted just as Mark does. However, this aspect of the film could have used a little more aggression to further enhance his despairing side of the story.

The Social Network currently stands as one of my favorite films of the year. Its Shakespearean approach to telling a tale about greed, ambition, and betrayal is something I haven’t seen in some time, and it should be commended for that. Despite its few issues–Saverin’s underdevelopment and the tonal and thematic misogyny–Fincher’s latest movie is wonderful. Zuckerberg is a man blinded by his desire to leave a lasting impression of importance. He has no regard for those around him, but he wants to be accepted. Easily corrupted by the conniving Sean Parker (Justin Timberlake), Zuckerberg transforms into a character that isn’t so easily defined. He’s complicated and well written, and Jesse Eisenberg gives him full life.

9.5 out of 10

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