Wednesday, September 10, 2014

David Fincher Retrospective: The Social Network (2010)

The Social Network
Director:  David Fincher
Writer:  Aaron Sorkin
Starring:  Jesse Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield, Justine Timberlake, Brenda Song, Armie Hammer, Rooney Mara, Max Minghella
Rated:  PG-13

You know, you really don't need a forensics team to get to the bottom of this.  If you guys were the inventors of Facebook, you'd have invented Facebook.
                           ~Mark Zuckerberg

My reaction to the announcement that they were setting in motion to make a Facebook movie was the same of that when someone talks about making a Monopoly movie.  It sounded pretty stupid to me and had me just wondering what the hell kind of good movie could come of it.  Then it was announced that Fincher would be directing and it made me wonder how much money they were throwing at him to do this sort of cash grab movie.  And then I found out it was a biopic on Mark Zuckerberg and the creation of Facebook.  Okay, that made a little more sense to me as to how a Facebook movie could actually work.  But, still, David Fincher directing it...seemed like something like this was below him or was going to be a "well, let's get this out of the way and see what he does next". 
However, I was completely wrong regarding Fincher.  When I first saw The Social Network, I was floored at how every aspect of this movie was a David Fincher film through and through.  In all honesty, it looks and feels more like a David Fincher film than it does a biopic.  From the shots, to the filters, the score, everything about this movie says David Fincher directed it.  And in that regard, it may be one of Fincher's bigger statements as a filmmaker that he could take a biopic, which more often than not plays as standard fair no matter who is directing, and totally own it making it HIS rather than the subject of the film's piece.  I still am impressed with what he's done here.
Fincher continues to push his own exploration in digital filmmaking and digital effects that further conquered in The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button with The Social Network.  Armie Hammer is pretty great in this movie, playing a dual role  If you weren't familiar with Mr. Hammer, you may have thought they hired on twins to play Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss.  But no, its just Armie Hammer.  Fincher chose to have one person play both as he wanted to challenge himself to make the presence of twins with one actor as real as possible.  And he pulled it off.  Fincher used different techniques.  Sometimes he used a more modern split screen aspect and at other times there was a body double that later had Hammer's face digitally replacing the stand in.  What is fantastic, is that try as you might, you cannot find one major glitch.  Although, I did find one shot where one of them has their head to the back of the camera and if you look closely you can see that the face is not Armie Hammer, but you gotta really really look and wait for it to turn just right.  It's outstanding effects work and David Fincher is using digital effects in the correct way that goes so unnoticeable it'll blow your mind when you find out and see how its done.
Staying on the Winklevoss twins for one more second, I have to talk about the rowing scenes.  They don't show up but a few times in the film, but the couple times there is some major rowing competitions going on in the film are absolutely gorgeous.  There's great photography in framing them, perfect camera movement and editing.  Top that off with the perfectly complimentary score and you have a masterful couple sequences.  This definitely is David Fincher's music video background sort of maturing in the way he influences those sort of stylings into his films.  There are many other well designed and shot moments in the film, but these rowing sequences are an absolutely highlight and hold your attention no matter if you're watching it as a part of the film or out of context on their own.
Nine Inch Nails overlord, and Academy Award winner because of this movie, Trent Reznor was brought on to do the score.  It almost feels like the opening credits to Seven are now a foreshadowing element to this collaboration.  What really further makes this film unique is Reznor's score.  The soundscape and very digital sounding keys are very supportive to what the film is all about.  But, its also a very haunting and creepy score.  It brings a sense of unease, of tensions mounting or darkness looming.  Early scenes with Mark Zuckerberg roaming through the Harvard campus at night almost feel as if you're watching a slasher film where he may be getting killed or on his way to doing some killing.  Its such an off choice, but it really works.  This is a story that takes place in a more recent generation and while some of the biggest success in history happens in this movie, it wasn't without its drama and tragedy.  Reznor has perfectly captured that mood and some of the coldness that comes with brutal exchanges as friendships become severed.
When the movie was released there was all this hub bub about how the film portrayed Mark Zuckerberg in such a negative light.  And I don't think they could have been further off about that.  Yes, he's kinda cold, but the film displays him as someone who is believing in his project, working his ass off and fulfilling his dream.   His personality is one of a very logic based and overly smart individual, but if you're someone who's been accustomed to geek culture, you've met and known these people and have likely been friends with quite a few over time.  Its sort of a living version of a comment board on articles.  Someone who's just firm and strong with their knowledge and statements.  If anything, Eduardo is the one who likely is treated in the negative light.  While he does finance Zuckerberg early on, the film depicts him as just hanging around, wanting to make a cheap buck and obsessively wanting to fit in and have an elite social life.  Also, the Winklevoss twins and their friend are played sort of as meat-head morons for laughs.    The only thing I find insulting toward Zuckerberg, and the only part of this movie I incredibly despise is the ending with him Facebooking his ex and hitting refresh constantly.  In a way, it kneecaps a lot of what this movie and Zuckerberg was about and relegates it to some stupid contrived "it was all about a girl" bullshit.  And its slightly moronic.
The Zuckerberg role was like the perfect role for Jesse Eisenberg.  I've long been a fan of Eisenberg, and he nailed this role but I expected him to.  A lot of people who apparently had never seen him before were floored by him, though.  I do think he was deserving of his Oscar nomination though.  Andrew Garfield was just fine in the movie, and The Social Network served as our first grand stage look at the new Spider-man.  Impressive was Justin Timberlake who was in movies but "eh" in a lot or severely miscast (Black Snake Moan).  Here, under Fincher, Timberlake feels like a solid character actor and is really quite good as Sean Parker.  I need to take back my initial thoughts on the film about Rooney Mara.  I still may have been angry with her about A Nightmare On Elm Street that came earlier that year (Which we'll be getting to soon).  In such a small role she's actually quite good and feels very natural.  When I saw this movie, coupled with Nightmare, it did make me wonder how she was gonna do in this retrospective's next film as I didn't think these two roles gave me much to go off of.  
The Social Network always seems to fall into favor with me of that of many biopics not called Ed Wood, where if I'm sitting around thinking of something to watch I don't ever really think "oooh lets watch a biopic I've already seen".  But once you start Social Network, you can't stop.  It's better than that thought train.  The film is great and really is its own thing aside from being the biopic.  Facebook seemed like a film gimmick, but its on a slight detail or MacGuffin for the story this film is really trying to tell.  Its wonderfully performed, tremendously written and expertly directed.  While things make have been altered or changed a bit here and there to make it appeal to a more cinematic level, as a film it really works at being both educational, inspiring and entertaining.  I enjoyed this movie a lot back in 2010 and then sort of never felt the need to watch it again, but I really should have.  Seeing it again for this retrospective really had me appreciating what a remarkable achievement Fincher has for himself here and what an entertaining film it truly is.

NEXT TIME:  The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo - Too Lazy To Read Subtitles Edition.

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