First Review Of The Social Network
The first review of The Social Network has arrived online, analyzed by Scott Foundas, probably courtesy of his ties with the New York Film Festival. And while you can argue the wisdom of a film festival using its position to scoop the world to a review of one of the year’s most anticipated films, there’s no denying that Foundas has crafted a brilliant review. It’s a perfect piece of film opinion, equal parts movie analysis and social commentary. It seeks to find The Social Network’s place in this world, while at the same time making it clear that it may be the very best movie released this year. There will be other opinions, and other voices, but this first voice states his case so eloquently that The Social Network is sure to rocket up to the top of your must see list.
In particular Foundas’ review, which you can read in its entirety at FilmLinc makes a case for The Social Network’s social relevance. Appropriate for a movie about social networking. He says:
But just as All the President’s Men—a seminal film for Fincher and a huge influence on his Zodiac—was less interested by the Watergate case than by its zeitgeist-altering ripples, so too is The Social Network devoted to larger patterns of meaning. It is a movie that sees how any social microcosm, if viewed from the proper angle, is no different from another—thus the seemingly hermetic codes of Harvard University become the foundation for a global online community that is itself but a reflection of the all-encompassing high-school cafeteria from which we can never escape. And it owes something to The Great Gatsby, too, in its portrait of a self-made outsider marking his territory in the WASP jungle.
He details the movie’s opening, which sounds epic, but otherwise avoids any big spoilers. Here’s the film’s first scene, which he predicts will be a classic moment:
Consider the movie’s opening—a soon-to-be-classic breakup scene in which soon-to-be Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) verbally machine-guns his soon-to-be ex-girlfriend Erica (Rooney Mara) with a rant about the difficulty of distinguishing oneself “in a crowd of people who all got 1600 on their SATs.” From there it’s on to his conflicted feelings about that peculiar Harvard institution known as “final clubs,” elite secret societies that, sops to diversity notwithstanding, remain decidedly inhospitable to monomaniacal, borderline Asperger’s cases like Zuckerberg. As he holds forth, his face contorted into a tightly focused stare, looking through Erica rather than at her, she tries to keep up. “Dating you is like dating a Stairmaster,” she laments before delivering the delicious coup de grace: “Listen. You’re going to be successful and rich, but you’re going to go through life thinking that girls don’t like you because you’re a geek. And I want you to know, from the bottom of my heart, that that won’t be true. It’ll be because you’re an asshole.”
The really exciting thing about his review of the film is the moral complexity he insists the film contains. All too rare in Hollywood films. Says Foundas:
It would be easy enough, of course, to vilify Zuckerberg as a greedy twerp who betrayed his friends (what few he had) and partners on his way to the top—we are, after all, talking about a 24-year-old billionaire who once carried business cards reading “I’m CEO . . . bitch.” It would be even easier, perhaps, to exalt him as a nonconformist deity, a Holden Caulfield of the information superhighway. But to the sure nervousness of the studio, and the potential discomfort of some viewers, Fincher and Sorkin chart a more treacherous course straight down the middle of Zuckerberg’s many contradictions, one in which there are no obvious winners or losers, good guys or bad—only a series of highly pressurized social (and genetic) forces.
I wonder, could this possibly be Fincer’s best ever film? Better than Fight Club? Foundas never comes out and says so, but it seems like a strong possibility. Here’s where he really lavishes on the praise:
Lest I seem to suggest otherwise, I hasten to add that The Social Network is splendid entertainment from a master storyteller, packed with energetic incident and surprising performances (not least from Justin Timberlake as Napster founder Sean Parker, who’s like Zuckerberg’s flamboyant, West Coast id). It is a movie of people typing in front of computer screens and talking in rooms that is as suspenseful as any more obvious thriller. But this is also social commentary so perceptive that it may be regarded by future generations the way we now look to Gatsby for its acute distillation of Jazz Age decadence. There is, in all of Fincher’s work, an outsider’s restlessness that chafes at the intractable rules of “polite” society and naturally aligns itself with characters like the journalist refusing to abandon the case in Zodiac and Edward Norton’s modern-day Dr. Jekyll in Fight Club. (It is also, I would argue, what makes the undying-love mawkishness of The Curious Case of Benjamin Button seem particularly insincere.) So The Social Network offers a despairing snapshot of society at the dawn of the 21st century, so advanced, so “connected,” yet so closed and constrained by all the centuries-old prejudices and preconceptions about how our heroes and villains are supposed to look, sound, and act. For Mark Zuckerberg has arrived, and yet still seems unsettled and out of place (as anyone who witnessed his painfully awkward 60 Minutes interview two years back can attest). And now here is a movie made to remind us that nothing in this life can turn a Zuckerberg into a Winklevoss.
If that doesn’t have you excited, the full review will. Click over to FilmLinc and give Scott Foundas a read.
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