The Social Network—A Made-up Story reviewed by Orion
There has been much huballoo about the factual accuracy of this particular film. Being a movie reviewer, I’ve decided to avoid this controversy (sorry internet) by assuming the movie is 100% made-up. This is, of course, a gross oversimplification. It is far more likely that this movie is a distortion of events that have actual basis in history. Luckily for me, it makes no difference for my review.
This film’s greatest strength is the way it manages to capture the raw intelligence and creativity of its characters. The top notch cast (Jesse Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield, Justin Timberlake, most notably) interact in a way that feels wholly unscripted. Every scene is emotionally believable, and the writing is such that every blisteringly sarcastic conversation from Eisenberg stings even the audience watching it. Garfield plays his character perfectly, the charm and insecurity of his character shining through.
You’ll notice, however, that I mention only actors in the paragraph above. Why is this? Is it because none of the actresses in “The Social Network” were able to act? Not at all. On the contrary, like all the characters the actresses did their jobs remarkable well. The problem was the way those roles were written. There have been several criticisms leveled at this film because of its supposed misogynist tilt, and I can see where they come from. David Fincher, the director, has responded to critics by noting that the institutions that his film explores (including the famed final clubs of Harvard) are notoriously misogynist institutions, and that looking at these institutions from a particular viewpoint naturally push his film into certain territories. I’m not sure I buy such an argument, for several reasons too long to explore in detail here, but it is certainly true that Fincher provides no positive roles for actresses in this film besides a lone role for a female associate in a major law firm.
Acting aside, however, the movie benefits from excellent technical details. Fincher directs with flair, setting the story up in such a way that plays with the audience’s expectations. Before, I said that whether the story is true or not has no relevance to my review. Well that wasn’t true. In fact, the director cleverly causes the audience to constantly question their assumptions about the story. The film takes place during a deposition, with each character’s testimony or testimonies filling in the blanks of a story we know very little about. We are forced to rely on the testimony of people who despise, dislike, and betray each other. This is a genius move, because it sidesteps the issues of what is true and what is false, relying on conveying the turbulent emotions and necessities of the case instead of deciding what is true.
The great flaw of this movie is that despite the polished and well-told story, the characters themselves are incredibly simplified. I say well-acted, yes, but despite capturing the intelligence and creativity of such giants as Sean Parker and Mark Zuckerberg, it fails to capture any actual character. What person is only intelligence? What person is only charm and brilliance? Moreover, this simplicity of character undermines the overall believability of the film. Are we to believe that the founder of Facebook, a man who gives speeches on a regular or semi-regular basis, has so little charm or warmth that he only has one friend?
This is a very good film, a very clever film, but ultimately, a very flawed film. Factual accuracy is not a requirement for art. But truth, resonance and emotional believability, is.
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