The Social Network

If I could sum up my opinion of The Social Network in one word, it would be: standard.

I couldn’t help thinking this was nothing special. I know I’m in the minority saying this, and maybe I’ll watch it again to see if my mind can be changed (doubtful), but I couldn’t get over the fact that this was Aaron Sorkin and David Fincher. Making a film. Together. It’s a recipe for greatness, if ever there was one. But these two titans haven’t created a masterpiece, just a pretty good film about an incredibly important subject.

Fincher is known for his visual flair and his technical ability. His knack for pulling great performances from his cast, for choosing unexpected projects and for seamlessly meshing CGI (Fight Club was the most visually arresting film of that decade) creates a heady mix of great aesthetic and fascinating content. He’s known for his attention to detail and re-doing takes over and over again. He’s an auteur and has a clear vision for his films. Which goes a long way to explain why this one is such a let-down for me.

The camera is static for almost the entire film, except a great looking boat race  that lasts all of 30 seconds. There is no flair, no excitement, no movement. It plays like a documentary, and Fincher can do little but observe the characters as they interact with each other. And that’s because this is the Aaron Sorkin show. His dialogue just isn’t suited to Fincher’s style. This is a good script, crammed with information, but it leaves no room for Fincher to get creative – it’s telling that this is the only script he has not been actively involved in writing.

Fincher does a fairly good job of standing back and allowing the actors to deliver their lines. But the performances aren’t great. Jesse Eisenberg comes across as a poor man’s Rain Man, without the warmth. There is no redeeming feature to his portrayal of Zuckerberg and I couldn’t sympathise with his character at all.

The story of how Facebook was formed is an interesting one, certainly. It’s the most influential piece of media (social or otherwise) to have ever been created, so charting it’s birth is a great idea for a film. But to really understand how this behemoth of cyberspace was created, I’d rather read the book. (book to be reviewed at a later date) This is fiction, seen through Sorkin’s eyes. And that means the lines just don’t ring true. You can almost see Sorkin hunched over his typewriter writing a line like this; “I think if your clients want to sit on my shoulders and call themselves tall, they have the right to give it a try.” But coming from the mouths of teenagers, it’s more like watching Dawson’s Creek.

Perhaps my (slight) bitterness is because I’m such a fan of Fincher and feel that he’s been overshadowed in this film by a taut script and a story that he can’t deviate from. He was the wrong director for the job. Or maybe I’m not that interested in how Facebook was created. After all, I like cars, but I don’t want to hear about the history of Ford…

Average. Vanilla. Standard.

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