24 October 2010

Still not on Facebook but...

Due to the exhausting responsibilities of starting a WTT Twitter and other real job things I haven't yet weighed in on The Social Network, the biggest film of the year, if we pretend Inception never happened (which is my plan). I went into Fincher's new movie in full no-way-it-can-be-as-good-as-people say mode and it surprised me with its brilliance.

There are so many intriguing facets to the film (the realistic darkness of dorm life, the twitchy dialogue "like a Stairmaster," the cream-trimmed Harvard blazers of the Winklevi) but I'm focused mainly on Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg, en fuego). The most insightful line I read in any of the fawning reviews of The Social Network was by David Denby, who said there will be as many interpretations of Zuckerberg as there are people who see the film. Which is quite a trick to pull off, and a credit to Aaron Sorkin's script and Eisenberg's immersion in character.

I fall more in the "his assholishness is appropriate for a man in his position" camp, whereas other people I've talked to have, reasonably, completely discounted him as a thief and a jerkoff. I guess what I found appealing about Zuckerberg's character is his unflagging willingness to not play ball. He calls out lawyers when it would be better to be meek: "have I adequately answered your condescending question?" He might be a latter-day, somewhat autistic Gordon Gekko, but that's still more Gekko than Michael Douglas is for 90% of Wall Street 2.

Zuckerberg also speaks a crucial line for our times in the Winklevi deposition, which you know from the trailer: "If you guys were the inventors of Facebook, you'd have invented Facebook." There's the crux of The Social Network. On one hand, he's just being a prick--he kind of took their idea and sandbagged them during the 40 days he needed to start a 75 billion dollar website. On the other, he's telling the damn truth: your ideas are only worth what you make of them. If I were the writer of a great American novel, I'd have a great American novel, not piles of notes. It's execution, execution, execution or you're another schmo watching invention patenting infomercials on cable.

I also have to briefly address the ludicrous allegations of the film's misogyny. What am I missing? There are two principal female characters in The Social Network: Erica Albright (Rooney Mara) and Marilyn Delpy (Rashida Jones). They are intelligent, successful women presented in total contrast to the gross immaturity of the men who dominate the film with their childishness. We're really getting so shrill over the presentation of other women (who are essentially extras) as drunken/stoned objects of male desire? I'm not sure what Fincher could have done differently to decrease the supposed misogyny, short of turning the only other sympathetic character, Eduardo Saverin, into a woman. Surely we're at the point where we can separate the misogyny of characters from the misogyny of works of art, right?

For instance, I watched Vera Cruz yesterday and I suppose I could dismiss the film because the women are beautiful but rather shiftless and scheming. But instead of ejecting the DVD I continued watching for a classic Gary Cooper strong-silent performance, the incredible physicality of Burt Lancaster and Robert Aldrich's fabulous long tracking and panning shots. At some point you have to find something better to bitch about.

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