THE SOCIAL NETWORK :: Oscar Ritual 2011
Upon seeing the first trailers for The Social Network, I had pretty much the same reaction as most people: “A movie about Facebook? Really?” And then the reviews began proclaiming the movie “year’s best” and friends and colleagues agreed with that assessment. Honestly, I didn’t get it. But I reserved all opinion until I had a chance to see for myself. When the film won the Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture (Drama) on Sunday, I found myself more intrigued than ever and took the first opportunity to watch the DVD. I get it now. I see why so many people are praising the film, and I understand why one blogger remarked, “You just need to see the film to understand its brilliance.” She’s right. It’s not something you can explain to people, and it’s not something you can nail down in a few words. The Social Network just works its way to greatness over the course of two hours and could end up surprising even the most skeptical viewer.
The critics are correct; the genius of the film lies in its credentials. Aaron Sorkin’s screenplay and characteristic rat-a-tat dialogue. David Fincher’s truly magical style. Jeff Cronenweth’s exquisite cinematography. And the troupe of players anchored by Jesse Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield, Justin Timberlake, and Armie Hammer (who will fully convince you that the Winklevoss twins are being played by two actors and not just himself). Each of the actors propels the film further and further into excellence as the story progresses, and when the credits roll you will be left with specific standout moments from each of them. You may also, like me, see the merit in Mark Zuckerberg’s claim that the movie portrayed him in a negative light. In a great many ways this is true. By the end of the film I had two foremost thoughts: Zuckerberg became a multi-bilionaire but never achieved the one thing that could fill the void in his life, and Napster co-founder Sean Parker (played beautifully by Timberlake) was ultimately just a pathetic little geek playing dress-up. That a “movie about Facebook” can achieve so many layers and tell such an engaging and fascinating story is remarkable in itself but is also to be expected when you look at the artists involved. The one thing I would tell people when they ask about the movie is, “It’s not about Facebook. It’s so not about Facebook.”
Is The Social Network the “best picture of 2010”? I think it might be. While I’m partial to Inception, I can see how that movie might be ranked a lesser film. Inception is visually astounding and stunning in its artistry, but The Social Network has storytelling superiority. And, as my friend Mere pointed out, The Social Network is more accessible to the masses. Not everyone embraced Inception because it was so mind-boggling. Personally, I find that to be genius in itself, but not everyone does. And I have a feeling the members of the Academy will vote for story and accessibility over visual prowess. They did it last year, naming The Hurt Locker over Avatar. I agreed with their assessment then and I’m inclined to agree with it again. Story really does trump spectacle. And above all, The Social Network is an exemplary story.
image from Rotten Tomatoes, linked to source