“You’re not an asshole, Mark. You’re just trying so hard to be one.” This statement, uttered by a lawyer, played by Rashida Jones, describes David Fincher’s The Social Network quite well. It is not a great film, but it is trying very hard to be one. That being said, it is certainly a good one. When it was announced, people reacted to the idea of a film about Facebook similarly to a Transformers film being made. For the most part , all the write-ups about the film were filled with cynicism and negativity. To people’s surprise Aaron Sorkin would write and David Fincher would direct. Following its premiere, mountains of praise were heaped on the film, which for the most part was deserved.
To me, this film is hard to review. On the surface, there is much to praise. Fantastic performances, great cinematography and direction, with some great writing, yet, I come out of feeling nothing. There was an emotional disconnect between the film and me – something was lacking. The film is exceptionally well made, it has great style, and Fincher deserves a lot of credit for what he has done. However, the problem I had was I didn’t care about the characters. Mark Zuckerberg, played by Jesse Eisenberg, is not meant to be a hero, in fact he is portrayed as a prick. Someone constantly condescending due to his insecurity and superior intellect. We are not given any characters that we can attach ourselves to, which isn’t always a problem but the story was told in such a way that it didn’t suck me in either.
The performances are great across the board, and most surprisingly, the stand out for me is Justin Timberlake, who disappears into his role. He plays Napster creator Sean Parker as a slightly delusional, paranoid entrepreneur.
Aaron Sorkin, like David Mamet or Quentin Tarantino, has a very stylized way of writing dialogue. It either works for you, or doesn’t. Fortunately, it did work and some very enjoyable exchanges are present in this film. The problem isn’t with the dialogue, but with the way the story is told, constantly cutting forward in time to his meetings with his lawyers and the people suing him. This gives the film an almost procedural feel, and leaves me cold.
Fincher has made some very good films, but never has he made a truly great one. They never emotionally connect, and I blame this on his style. The film is beautifully shot, but it is the way it is shot that I had the most problem with. It is too clean, too composed. It is style versus emotion, and style wins out. It is quite obvious he started his career as a commercial and music video director in this film. This is certainly not always a bad thing, but on this film, which needs us to connect with at least one of the characters, the lack of emotion keeps me from really loving this film.
I will say that the final scene almost made up for it, it is humorous yet strangely disturbing. Unfortunately, the ending came out of nowhere. There was no build up, it appears as if several scenes were cut leading up to the ending. It, instead, uses text during the final shot to clear up all of the loose ends, which there are many. The film doesn’t care about its characters, and this proves it.
It may come off strange that I will still recommend the film, but I do. It is very good, and interesting. Certainly better than most of the films released in the last couple of months. That being said, it has flaws, significant ones, and for that it fails as a great film, but succeeds as a good one.