In the weeks before it premiered Social Network was being touted as the biggest film in ages. Rolling Stone called it the film of the decade and most of the other critics couldn't get out of each others way in the way that they were falling all over themselves to heap praise on the film. At the New York Film Festival where the film was to premiere as the opening night film, the demand to see the film was such that they had a spill over screening to accommodate everyone who wanted to see it.on
I didn’t see it in the frenzy surrounding the film festival, instead I saw it at Loews 34th Street 14 the morning after it general release.
Sitting in a theater that was about one quarter full I waited to be dazzled. I waited to be enlightened. I waited to be simply engaged. Instead I just sort of sat there watching events unfold wondering what in the hell the critics who were so rapturous were praising so highly.
In the months since the film premiered I’ve pondered it and read the screenplay which was posted on line and I have yet to find even a shred of the wonder that the first reviews found in the film.
Someone please tell me what is so great about Social Network.
Full disclosure, it’s not a bad film. It is in all seriousness a good solid film about a geeky guy becoming a master of the world, but there is no depth, there is no revelation. There is nothing that screams to me that this is a great film.
Worse, I don't know what the point of the film. Whats the point? Why did director David Fincher choose to tell this story? I don’t know
Looking back over the reviews many people have pointed out how the film is a is a reflection of how geeks are taking over the world and that this film reflects it. Anyone with a cursory knowledge of current events already knows that. Look at Bill Gates, look at Steve Jobs, its been that way for several decades now. Haven't these people been paying attention? I think not.
The film as a battle for people to belong in a community isn’t all that amazing or revelatory since if you look at humanity you see the drive to connect. We want to connect even as the computers move us farther and farther apart. Around 1980 Quentin Crisp said that with the invention of the Walkman that people could now drown out the world and disappear into their own little worlds simply by putting on headphones and sunglasses. With technology we've pushed the distance between us and the people sitting right next to us so far that with the Internet we are now trying to find some connection with the world that we’ve shut out with our Ipods and sunglasses. The trouble is that the film never really shows us that. The closest thing we see is the final image of Zuckerberg waiting to be friended, but by that time it’s too little too late.
Part of the problem is the Zuckerberg character. Jesse Eisenberg nails the sort of techno-geek who is so inside himself that he has trouble dealing with the world (trust me I grew up with similar people). The problem is that the Zuckerberg of the film is an asshole. Arrogant and self contained, he is way too distant to connect fully with the audience just as he is unable to connect with anyone in the film (Though it should be pointed out that the real Zuckerberg did have a girlfriend during much of the time covered in the film). If you can connect with him I’m guessing you’ll like the film more but for me I felt pity not sympathy. Worse I had no other feeling towards him and felt he wasn't really worth my time, even if he was making billions.
As for anyone else in the film, most of them are as arrogant as Zuckerberg, if only a bit more socially capable. They are not really likable, certainly none of the major characters are, with the possible exception of Eduardo who was Zuckerbergs best friend and bank. The rest of them are shallow and greedy and not the sort of people you really want to hang out with. (This movie begs the question why do I want to watch a bunch of people I wouldn't want to hang out with them). Granted they probably have other sides but none that we see in the film. This is all creation, greed and arrogance. Frankly I didn’t like anyone other than some of the minor characters.
I suspect that the people who love this film are the same one's who love gossip and entertainment news over the real news. I think on some level its the people who love to watch the rich and famous from the side lines and who think money makes a person good and that the status it gives is more important than good deeds and kindness.
Of course I could be wrong, but at the same time this film feels like an empty masterpiece for empty minds.
And I do need to remind you that this isn't a bad movie, it's a good one and not a great one.
Currently on the short list for the Oscars this will be coming soon to a TV screen near you soon.