I wasn’t all that interested to see the film to tell the truth. I couldn’t care less about the premise. But it beat out Inception (2010) for several awards and I was mildly upset by this and had to know in what way it was superior. Of course, winning doesn’t equate to superior, but you know what I mean. The only other reason to view The Social Network, and one that is a hold over from before the award winning, is that David Fincher directed. We love David Fincher at our house.**
David Fincher (l) is the reason to watch The Social Network. The color wash was absent, but all the other marks of Fincher were all over the film. His use of space, the actors in that space, contrast/complement of color (costume and set). His depth and alignment of focus.
(relying on a one-viewing memory) There is rarely a High or Low shot. Most are along a horizontal line middle to shoulder height standing. Close-ups are sparing, purposeful and lacking overuse. Distant and objective; the observer. The subjects and the subject of the film are not unfamiliar to most audiences. One might be prone to think they know what the hell is going on and opine liberally and connect indiscreetly. The film’s distancing the audience, making them audience, reflects intent. We really don’t know what the hell was going on. For instance, the cool and calculating nature we would attribute to corporate and wealth and privilege has something much more identifiably universal beneath it. Another, the book-ending questions/accusations of whether Mark is an asshole signifies. What seems apparent at the beginning is not excused by film end, but conflicted; right where Fincher would have it. His films are pristine, even when gritty, but never easily digestible with regards to story.
Keeps one character in focus while maintaining the other in the shot somehow, a shoulder, a blurred face during an exchange. Despite their distance he maintains an intimacy/connection. Contexts are held in the moment despite the necessity for flashbacks. Fincher holds things in rooms or scenes. Each interaction reveals a character’s motivation that effects the way the story is told and why that particular memory is shared.
And still, there is Fincher’s seeming fondness for crosscutting, a device to complicate and further explicate the cinematic venue of Story. And, similarly, the fondness for stories that employ mirroring/doubling. The Social Network sometimes works in threes. Fincher holds moments, but they are not without the lovely implications of paralleling sequences, or paralleling/diverging character developments. The way Fincher employs story-telling technique is stylized and a lesser director might make the attempt, but would fail. Much has to do with his collaborators (noted below), true, but the overall flavor (the greater vision) is distinctly Fincher.
Not to forget, nor forgo: Fincher’s “abnormal” shots. Not a panning or quick take, but the camera rests, a scene opens and lingers. There is a beautiful framing of the Winklevoss brothers entering the Harvard Head’s office and then exiting, the two sequences capturing headless figures, only torsos. The under the table meditation. Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) flanked by suits protecting their assets; Zuckerberg relaxed, and belligerent. We look for these signatures—not to be mistaken as gimmick. While pleasurably present, they are still beautifully relevant.
A secondary reason: the film doesn’t even try for non-fictional historical accuracy. It is more concerned with story. Enjoy the fiction based on real and otherwise uninspiring events. Okay, perhaps “uninspiring” is harsh. Arguments involving Intellectual Property are ever fascinating. It is the Litigation Drama that has me snorting over potential entertainment value. But in Fincher’s hands, it was entertaining.
The cinematography is gorgeous. Remember Jeff Cronenweth, director of photography from Fight Club (1999). The eye of his father Jordan Cronenweth (cinematographer of Blade Runner (1982)? Jeff is nominated for an Academy Award for Best Cinematography this year, well deserved. The lighting… the deep, crisp focal capture. The images needn’t be that pretty do they? and yet I was so very happy they are. Beneath the glossy layer of privileged children and their temper tantrums, something more human surfaces; Cronenweth captures the complexity. I particularly loved the dragon breath—silly maybe. But I couldn’t help but note how the camera techniques in filming came across as capturing events/sequences as more real than a documentary’s technique could relay. The dragon breath attracted my attention to this.
The Editing. Kirk Baxter and Angus Wall has worked with Fincher before; that little film, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008). Wall has the longer history with Fincher. I like seeing successful collaborations continue over time. The way The Social Network moves forward and backward in time and Fincher’s love of crosscutting give the Editors a lovely challenge to prove clarity and the optimum delivery of this cinematic story. The transitions are marvelously handled.
The Casting. Casting Music Performer Justin Timberlake as Napster creator Sean Parker was amusing. He also did a good job in the role. Really, all the acting was good. Jesse Eisenberg was a nice choice for Mark Zuckerberg and not just for a close physical match. For the role in the film, he plays coolly arrogant, unaffected, and yet vulnerable. He is not endearingly nerdy, and his emotional quotient isn’t candy. He seethes anger and ambition–and longing; Eisenberg is fantastic here.
The soundtrack. Music by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross. Nice work, very nice work here. And of note: a college, post-college film chock full of young people and not a Zach Graff-worthy playlist in the film. No lyrics but for ambient play in a few scenes. Loveliness. The subtly in the sound is the atmospheric and energetic companion to the film.
I am still conflicted on the awards issue (good timing on release dates?), but my reluctance to watch the film, my skepticism over the brouhaha, was declared irrational and moronic. I was completely won over. Enough to supplant Christopher Nolan (whom we also adore) and Inception? While many may find connection (of the everyday, often hourly) and greater relevance with The Social Network, Inception is no less a relevant and correlative for me.
Directed by David Fincher
Produced by David Fincher, Scott Rudin, Dana Brunetti, Michael De Luca, Ceán Chaffin, Kevin Spacey
Screenplay by Aaron Sorkin
Based on The Accidental Billionaires by Ben Mezrich
Music by Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
Cinematography Jeff Cronenweth
Editing by Kirk Baxter & Angus Wall
Studio: Relativity Media, Trigger Street Productions
Distributed by Columbia Pictures
A fascinating interview with David Fincher by Stephen Galloway of The Hollywood Reporter
*I’m serious, I could never remember the name, Sean had to remind me every time.
**There is absolutely zero motivation to watch the Hollywood version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo but for Fincher’s involvement; seriously, why would they mess with such a well-done foreign film? and now I’ve discovered Rooney Mara was cast as Lisbeth, not sure that it is Fincher can overcome that choice. Mara isn’t the only carry-over into this next project: Reznor/Ross are on Music, Cronenweth is behind the camera, and Baxter/Wall will be editing. While I can get excited about them…Mara, really? And no offense to Daniel Craig fans, but I loved Mikael Nyqvist as Mikael Blomkvist, too.