I recently had an opportunity to see the final cut of David Fincher's new film, "The Social Network," and although a full-scale review is still embargoed, I've been given the go-ahead to at least share a few initial thoughts with you today.
"The Social Network" represents the very best of both Aaron Sorkin and David Fincher, a combination I never would have expected to see. Sorkin has always been such a humanist, and Fincher has always seemed to me to be (in the best possible way) an emotional terrorist. Together, what they've crafted is emotionally intense, surprisingly funny, and genuinely significant. This is an astounding film about one of the most important seismic shifts in communication in the modern age, and the way innovation and ethics are not often related.
It's also a simple story about the artistic process, and the way it almost always returns to the same root: the drive for validation. That last image of Zuckerberg in the film... it's haunting. It almost redeems him.
I'll be honest... I wasn't expecting to be hit emotionally the way I was. I was part of a company that I believed I had a stake in, and something happened where several of the partners played a restructuring game with the stock. I did my best to move on without becoming bitter or litigious, and I thought I'd set all of that behind me. The moment where Eduardo realizes what's happened to him, though, pretty much punched a fresh hole in me, and I spent a few days after seeing the movie struggling to deal with a profound fresh anger over the entire situation. The movie perfectly nails the dynamic in these situations, and I can see why Sony has fallen in love with Andrew Garfield.
I've been a fan of Jesse Eisenberg since "Roger Dodger," but I've never seen this performance out of him. He manages to capture both the arrogance and the insecurity of Zuckerberg, and more than that, he plays brilliant and makes it feel real. Watching him work at a computer, listening to him talk, just observing his social difficulty in almost every moment... I believe him. I know that guy. I've met that guy. And faking it is impossible. He's not "playing" smart... he IS smart, and we live in a world where being brilliant is almost like a party trick. It's suspect. Little wonder he's socially anxious. Being that much smarter than the people around you almost always makes you an outsider, and there's a reason so many of these guys, bright as they are, seem unable to manage basic human interaction.
The surprise of the film, though? Justin Timberlake. Good god. Do I have to hate this kid 24 hours a day? He's already a pop superstar, and to see that he is genuinely impressive as Sean Parker is just depressing. He never overplays it, and Parker would be an easy role to turn into a cartoon.
David Fincher has long been one of the most technically adept directors of his generation, but in this film, he's working on a whole different level. His use of digital photography is impressive, and he manages to make even the simplest moments in the film visually arresting. That tilt-shift rowing crew race is stunning, and the film almost feels hyper-real at times. Even so, it all feels like it's in service of the story and the characters. It's never just showing off for the sake of it. There's one thing he does... something I've promised not to discuss in detail until after the film's release... that flabbergasted me. I am not someone who is often tricked by an effect, but Fincher does something in this film, practically rubs your nose in it, and I never once questioned what I was looking at. Seamless. Amazing.
The score by Trent Reznor is spare and effective, and really builds a mood over the course of the film. Every one of Fincher's collaborators seems to have been working at the top of their game, and the result is entertaining from start to finish.
I can't wait to start the conversation with the readership, and with other film fans. It's going to be amazing. In the meantime, though, Toronto beckons, and I'll have a piece up later today about what you can expect from Toronto here at Motion/Captured, and I'm sure we'll have lots more coverage of "The Social Network" in the weeks ahead.
"The Social Network" opens in theaters everywhere October 1st.
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