March 24, 2011

Justify My Netflix: The Social Network

(Like many Netflix customers, I too can get quite lax with the timely watching and returning of my movies, which of course defeats the entire purpose of having a flat-rate rental plan in the first place. To combat that, I am now writing standardized mini-reviews of each and every movie I end up watching through Netflix, both instantly and on DVD. Don't forget, all previous 'Justify My Netflix' reviews can be found on CCLaP's main movie page.)

The Social Network

Today's movie: The Social Network, 2010 (Amazon | IMDB | Netflix | Wikipedia)

Why I added it to my queue: Because this is the latest by David Fincher, who I will forever be a slavish fan of just for Fight Club alone, an ultra-timely biopic about Mark Zuckerberg and the founding of Facebook featuring a moody soundtrack by Trent Reznor that was the darling of this year's awards circuit.

The reality: So why exactly did I find myself turning off The Social Network in anger and disgust a mere twenty minutes after it started, despite all the things going for it that I just described? Well, that boils down to two things, really, the first and most damning being the much ballyhooed script by Aaron Sorkin; because much like M. Night Shyamalan, the idiosyncratic details of Sorkin's writing style (the preciousness, the overly fast pace, the monotone delivery, the way it deliberately calls attention to itself) were things I found fascinating when first coming across them (like in early hits A Few Good Men and Sports Night), then started wearing on me the more often he deployed them (see The West Wing, Studio 60, ad nauseum), but by now fill me with contempt, not necessarily from either Sorkin or Shyamalan getting worser at what they do but merely because of there being a necessary shelf life to what exactly that is, in Sorkin's case a kind of twee, gimmick-filled artistic style that I find I can barely stand anymore. (Plus, I have to confess, Sorkin's attempt to simultaneously talk down to the audience and "sex up" Harvard, by starting the film with a Skull & Crossbones party full of shirtless, lesbian-kissing, supermodel-looking sorority girls, just really rubbed me the wrong way, which certainly didn't hurt my decision to eject the DVD again twenty minutes later.)

And then speaking of unlikeable details, that's the second major problem with this movie: that although Mark Zuckerberg The Real Person might very well be a nice enough guy, Mark Zuckerberg The Aaron Sorkin Character is perhaps one of the most unpleasant douchebags to ever have an entire movie based around them, and I quickly found myself so repulsed by him that I could barely work up any sympathy or interest in his fate at all, especially knowing beforehand that he will eventually end the story rich, famous and envied by all. And this of course is one of the biggest problems of trying to adapt a true story into a traditional three-act fictional narrative, is that real life often doesn't fall into the clean little slots that such a storytelling structure demands; so in this case, what we're basically looking at (or at least the way that Sorkin tells it) is the story of a vicious assh-le who stumbled ass-backwards into fame and fortune, then is promptly attacked by hundreds of other assh-les even more vicious than him, which I've now discovered the hard way is absolutely not a subject I want to spend two hours of my life examining. It's a real shame, because the film looks as gorgeous as everything else Fincher has done; what a tragedy that this is the one he will primarily be remembered for, when he has so many other, better projects under his belt now. It unfortunately does not come recommended today.

Strangest piece of trivia: Natalie Portman, who attended Harvard the same years this movie takes place, threw a dinner party for Sorkin while he was writing this script, where she and her old college buddies got drunk and told him insider stories about what life there is really like. (Oh, and a bonus piece of trivia today as well -- turns out that Harvard has banned filming on their campus ever since 1970, when the production of Love Story caused significant physical damage to several structures.)

Worth your time? No

Filed by Jason Pettus at 3:49 PM, March 24, 2011. Filed under: Movies | Reviews |