Saturday, February 5, 2011

Social Network - best picture?

Is this the epically encompassing, painfully defining portrait of a still, yet, oh-so-ill-defined generation?

A generation given to apathy (or at least masking it with the air of being too busy and bustled), whose neuroses (and potentially various other biological functions) have been forever and incorrigibly altered (and assimilated) by the alluring sway of the computer - a tool, a digital god, that gives you a voice (however palpably effective or meagerly lost in the white noise); that connects you, instantly, to the warmth of people and to the retail sites offering more mail-order distraction of junky gizmos with twenty-dollar-rebates and no shipping-and-handling; who wouldn't "like" all this?

I'm already off on a tangent and most of you have probably stopped reading.

The Social Network, as a film, is a curious creature. How do you portray the genesis of such an amazing, confounding, and, yes, revolutionary force as Facebook - and give it a a.) coherent voice with a b.) protagonist we can empathize with...

When you consider the supremely blurring deluge of voices that have spilled out and continue to surge upon a million different walls - equally sanctified by the connections its made across continents and oceans as it has been sullied by screen-protected bullies and libelous ballyhoos - a place to help spread the word for a noble cause - or a cause of countless cases of time-killing for cubicle-slung data-monkeys at work.

And you consider the legal travails, disputed authenticity and questionable ethics of its founder, Marc Zuckerberg. Not to mention that many of us are (perhaps justifiably) paranoid that we have unknowingly signed ourselves up to be lab rats for shadowed marketing companies by displaying our habits and personal preferences.

Perhaps putting this film into the hands of writer/producer Aaron Sorkin and director David Fincher was key to this film's successful translation and integral in buoying it over to the Oscar docks. Sorkin, with The West Wing, Charlie Wilson's War and other projects, has shown a knack for making blunt, or eccentric, or insensitive or unscrupulous characters seem captivating, ...if not, somehow, slightly relatable.

And Fincher, with his masterwork Fight Club's -has proven an adept storyteller for subjects who are combative, but also agitated, and potentially naive to the consequences of their actions...

In Zuckerberg's case, thanks to media portrayal and the, ironically, game-of-telephone that's so inherent to the the monster he created (facebook), making him likable (for instance, did he a.) steal the idea that b.) made him a billionaire?) and relatable (a technological whiz, who went to Yale) is an uphill battle.

But Sorkin handles this by taking the Citizen Kane route. He gives Zuckerberg, the veritable Charles Foster Kane (a character who was actually, also, based on a real person), a similar "Rosebud" - that being his ex-girlfriend (who dumps him inside the first five minutes during a particularly distinctively Sorkin-feeling dialogue ricochet of motormouthed articulation).

We mirror that to the film's ending... where we are, in a disconcertingly cold sense, yet somehow in this generation's madness--poignant sense, made to feel pathos for Zuckerberg, as he mopes at his computer, having lost all his friends (but gained millions of digital "friends" and billions of bucks), clicking the re-fresh button - waiting for his long lost love to "respond" to his friend-request.

Zuckerberg is human too! Look! He sends friend requests, too!

(..."did you just quote 'Goonies'?"... spectacular!!)

My snark aside... I enjoyed this film. I thought it was very well done; the screenplay is cleverly structured, delicately balancing austere depositions set at glossy tables with ice water pitchers that flashback to measured segments that chronologically lay out the rocky start and alarmingly swift expansion of the web site. The script's most winning feature, I felt, was using the depositions as a means of allowing everyone-but-Zuckerberg tell the story. Plus, we have Fincher's ability for stirring up alarm in his actors for when a plot device (if it's project mayhem in Fight Club, or, the power/reach/influence of the web site in Social Network) is starting to get severely, or at least overwhelmingly, out of hand,...or incomprehensible.

It's so fitting that this film should come out now - when it feels that, (given the only recent announcement of Facebook's rise to the worth of $50 billion), the story is so far from over. (Then again, how much longer does Facebook have before it become obsolete?)

Still, that this film should come out when a new person, your mother, your reclusive uncle, your numerous old high school friends, are only just now...this instant signing up for Facebook - and for a generation who feel that they have a stake in this story... with a different "person" "somewhere" in this world starting up their own facebook-experience anew, each day... feels appropriate.

We are topical at break-neck speeds, in this internet era. And Facebook deserves a film that ably proves how it helped shape that topicality, for good and for bad.

It also deserves a film that portrays the considerable shadiness of how it came to be... Whether it's romantic or grandiose or stretching to give us a Zuckerberg who became an overnight innovator... a sort of Revenge of the Nerd -tinged air wafts briefly when we see this outcast suddenly rise to the role of manipulating master for an intangible, indisputably predominant realm, or "network" that is embraced by those who had (supposedly) cast him out- is up for scrutiny... but still, this isn't a redemption story and it's not even a ha-ha-I-proved-it-and-showed-you-all! type of story.

It's more of a Citizen Kane type of story... in that, we have this (fairly) enigmatic personality that rose to a seat of influence (and yes, power) - who was he? How did he get there? Who were the people he potentially stepped on to climb up to here...?

And when the movie we think twice when we turn the DVD player off and switch on our laptops... just to check that one last time, if we got any notifications on our Facebook page?

Did Zuckerberg really have a "Rosebud?" Did he really do it out of spurned love, out of regret, or out of an insecure and obsessive drive to join the elite?
Who cares -if so or if not - it makes for a great movie.

The reach -into homes and onto iPhones everywhere combined with the influence (do you plan your weekends, your evenings, your daily net surfing, ...based on what you see posted on this ubiquitous site?) ...seem unfathomable now... and maybe that helps in the way we regard the film. Isn't your Facebook profile just a self-altered/ideal reflection of yourself? Does this movie just reflect (or refract) our own perceptions of what this site means? Is it thought provoking simply because we are so-easily-provoked into thinking about Facebook (and potentially, by extention, ourselves?)

Is this film definitive... -defining... for this generation. Or just for this moment? I'm not sure. But, all said, it provoked a lot of thoughts, however convoluted or useful..., from me, after viewing it.

1 comment:

jayelaudio said...

Great post. I was biased going into this film knowing David Fincher (one of my favorite directors) was at the helm, but thoroughly enjoyed it. I wasn't sure how the Facebook story would translate to a movie, but it was very intriguing and left lots questions for the audience to wonder afterwards.