Discourse: The Social Network

Introducing Bill O’Byrne — With All the Stuff That You Don’t Get in the Movie

Great scene, great dialogue and 99 separate takes -- nothing in it ever actually happened

The Social Network may not be a great film, but it is a compelling one. And it’s got as much cleverness packed into it to make most clever things look very dull indeed.

It mainly tells the story of the founding of Facebook by Mark Zuckerberg via flashbacks arising from deposition hearings as the marvellous moneyed Winklevoss twins try to lawyer out more money from Zuckerberg based on their claim they came up with the idea, and from hearings into a lawsuit by Zuckerberg’s former friend, and Facebook’s first financial officer, Eduardo Saverin.

Saverin was the main source of inside information for the book The Accidental Billionaires on which The Social Network was based, so it may be no surprise he is one of the few sympathetic characters but he does seem more sinned against.

Zuckerberg comes across as an immature genius, possibly with a touch of Aspergers, and pretty much everybody else is a very solid shade of greedy douche. But hey, when chasing billions of dollars, sticks-and-stones is probably a good motto.

It has firecracker scripting by Alan Sorkin and great pacing from director David Fincher and the artistry brought to making the movie is evident all through the special features on the Blu-ray.

The film comes with two commentaries: Fincher on one, and Sorkin and the cast on the other.

Reinforcing the smarts are the bits on the seocnd disc, which has a 90-minute making-of doco and smaller pieces focusing on the visuals, the soundtrack, the development of a scene and my favourite, post production.

Post shows just what goes into modern digital editing and sound design, and is an insight as to how much extra dicking around can be generated when a director such as Fincher has his finger in every part of a film.

Editors Angus Wall and Kirk Baxter talk about how they got the 268 hours of digital footage down to about two hours, going through the many, many, many takes Fincher habitually does in every scene, to get just the nuance he wanted.

Fincher uses multi camera set-ups, such as the opening sequence in the bar when Zuckerberg, who is brilliantly played by Jesse Eisenberg, is allegedly dumped by his girlfriend played by Rooney Mara. (Interesting sports fan fact: Mara is the great-granddaughter of Pittsburgh Steelers founder Art Rooney, Sr and New York Giants founder Tim Mara.)

The making-of doco is as good as any behind-the-scenes thing I’ve seen.

Actors will enjoy the process it shows of going through the script, often with Sorkin and Fincher at the table culling lines and changing tone while anyone should be impressed by the attention to detail.

Sometimes it’s nuts, but there you go.

For instance, both the Winklevoss twins were played by Armie Hammer. Well, Fincher took his face off him when he played Tyler Winklevoss, and overlayed it on the face of Josh Pence who played Cameron Winklevoss. Or vice versa. They’re identical twins, who can tell. The important thing is it is so damn seamless.

And if I didn’t tell you, you’d be none the wiser. And it wouldn’t have matter except to David Fincher, probably.

Problem: A niggling thing. About a movie which is a biography of a contemporary person and doesn’t give much of a crap about truth. Sorkin doesn’t, he’s happy to admit it. He likes a good drama and is not one to let facts get in the way of a good story, as the saying goes.

Remember, he is the guy who came up The West Wing, the liberal wet dream that kept Democrats believing they were really in charge, at least in tellyworldland where their honesty and morals showed forth as if a glowing stream of bat’s piss. Or something.

So the opening brilliant scene of the break-up where Zuckerberg is so pissed off he slags his ex- on his blog, and creates Facemash in an outburst of vindictive male-evolency. Never happened. Zuckerberg’s had the same girlfriend since 2003.

So if that’s crap, and much of the plot is predicated on this, what else is less than real?

Watching the behind-the-scenes discussions with Sorkin and Fincher, there’s the stated theme that the story is about a guy with no friends and a chip on his shoulder about being on the outer at Harvard, who ironically creates this thing which is all about linking people up. (Well, technically Facebook’s purpose first and foremost is to help people get laid, but that’s by the by.)

But, that’s crap, too. Zuckerberg was captain of his fencing team and belonged to a fraternity.

And that is why this is a clever movie, but not a great one. They’ve shoehorned the tale of a clever, very lucky sonofabitch into a morality tale about wealth and power and the power of wealth to douchify everyone. Well, maybe.

But at least this bunch of moving picture people take their work very seriously and that shows in the extras in this package.

I’ll give it a like. Screw it, I’ll give it three likes for artistry.


Why You Should Google Bill O’Byrne

Bill O’Byrne is a Wellington journalist — and a big, fat geek whose specialty is watching every extra on a release so he can pontificate loudly about all aspects of production. Remarkably, he is often found alone at parties. While he enjoys an inordinate amount of crappy movies from most genres, he scares easily so is unlikely to review anything with “Chainsaw”, “Slasher” or “Scrotum-Biting Zombies” in the title. (And, yes, he’s on Facebook.)

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5 Responses to “Discourse: The Social Network”

  1. Warning: preg_replace(): Unknown modifier '/' in /home/customer/www/screenscribe.net/public_html/wp-content/themes/headlines/includes/theme-comments.php on line 66
    March 31, 2011 at 6:03 pm

    Awesome Bill. Right wing raging encapsulated in a goergeous coating of irreverent, analytical, ranting fun. Three likes, high praise indeed.

  2. Gorgeous – I mean … Not you … You awesome, Captain.

  3. More overrated twaddle from the great Hollywood hype machine. One of the worst films I’ve seen this year.

  4. A bit harsh. It is an artful flick. Just not an accurate biopic. Why so worsting?

    (And it wouldn’t be THX from Massey 1984, pray tell?)

  5. That’s a slick answer to a challenging question.

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