Monday, January 17, 2011

The Social Network: How It Matches Up

The Social Network (Two-Disc Collector's Edition)The backstory: The Social Network has been picking up awards all over the place, including Best Picture at both the Critics Choice Awards and the Golden Globes.

The basics: Based on the book The Accidental Billionaires, the film tells the story of Facebook and its creation.

My thoughts: It can be difficult to tell a story when everyone knows the ending. The Social Network only partially succeeds in its attempt. The film opens with a fantastic, quick-paced banter between Jesse Eisenberg and Rooney Mara that is quintessential Aaron Sorkin. It's smart, funny and, unfortunately, the best scene in the entire film. From there, the film is good, but it never captured my attention the way a great film does. I enjoyed the first parts of the film most because it's absolutely fascinating to see how something so big (and integral to my life) began. I haven't read The Accidental Billionaires, but I loosely followed the lawsuits in the news. The movie is told in partial flashbacks (or flash-forwards, depending on one's perspective). The narrative shifts back and forth between the timeline of Facebook's creation and Jesse Eisenberg's legal troubles.

The acting was good. Jesse Eisenberg was endearing and unlikable, both of which are appropriate. Rooney Mara shined in the few scenes she was in (this film does not feature much for women to do). The one downfall for me was Justin Timberlake. Perhaps he played Sean Parker well; I can believe he is completely unlikable. Still, it was over-the-top and unrelatable. When Parker entered the story, the film reached the point of no return for me.

Although uneven for me, there is a lot of good in this movie, and it is a fascinating journey. As I pondered why I loved The Fighter and The King's Speech so much more than The Social Network, I realized all are based on true stories, and The Social Network is the one I was most familiar. Sure, one can reason the fighter in The Fighter will win the big fight because his life story is being made into a movie, but I didn't know the details. I was woefully ignorant about King George VI. Three films, all based on true stories, and I don't think it's a coincidence I liked the story I knew the best the least. Great cinema, for me, contains joy, suspense and narrative arc. The Social Network is right in so many ways, but it doesn't measure up for me. It's not the film's fault, but it's a reminder how much our prior knowledge can affect one's appreciation of a film.

The verdict: I knew how the story would end, and although the beginning was fascinating, there wasn't enough intrigue to sustain its momentum. 

Rating: 4 stars (out of 5)
Length: 120 minutes
Release date: It's on dvd and in theaters now
Source: I paid to see it at the Spectrum Theatres

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  1. I haven't seen this movie yet, but of the people I know that have seen it, most of what they have to say is what you stated. An "ok" movie, but not that great. So it's funny how they won so many awards!! I guess it's something I'll have to check out on my own!

  2. Tried to rent this one yesterday, and the Redbox was all out! I'm off to add it to my Netflix queue now. You've evened out my expectations, though. :)

  3. I have seen so many glowing reviews of this one, and yours is the first that I feel might actually tell it like it is. I really appreciate your thoughts on this movie. I still might want to see it, but your reactions to it kind of help me cut through all the hype. Thanks!

  4. I saw it as well and I agree with you. It's good and I knew the whole story, not from reading the book but from knowing about facebook and living near Silicon Valley but the commercials. My god they make me roll my eyes! This movie tells the story of our generation! Give me a break. It's just a movie about facebook and I really hope our generation can achieve more.


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