william steig drawing

October 1, 2010
Kartina Richardson

The Social Network

You cannot see Mark Zuckerberg’s eyes. They are black and beady and surrounded by shadow.

This is what I focused on for the better part of two hours.

If David Fincher cast Jesse Eisenberg specifically for his brow bones, it would have been a genius move. His brows are always together. His lips are always pursed… or rather the bottom one is pursed and the top one pouts. This inbetweeness (an indecision of lips) is appropriate as Zuckerberg is always somewhere half way between emotions. He never fully displays any one. Showing emotion means showing your hand. Showing your hand makes you vulnerable, and Mark Zuckerberg hates vulnerability most of all. He is like a combination of Vito Corleone and J.J. Hunsecker. Powerful, dangerous, brilliant and lonely. Throw in a dash of icy Howard Roark arrogance and you’ve got yourself a movie.

The Social Network is the story of how that site you use every single day was conceived by a kid so young, you feel like a failure no matter what age you are. Yes. Mark Zuckerberg was most likely an asshole with an emasculated programmer’s deep hostility* towards women and Zach Morris look alikes, but, he understood the power of one of our most primal needs. The desire to connect and belongand then he made a billion dollars off of it.

The film is extremely well made. Because extremely well made new movies renew my faith in film, adrenaline is leaking out of my ears.

Nothing about the film was superfluous. There was no extra air.

The editing is tight as hell, and the photography by DP Jeff Cronenweth (who also worked with Fincher on Fight Club) is great. Not spectacular or fancy, but noticeably thoughtful. Most of the conversation shots of the characters have a very shallow depth of field: perhaps another little way of communicating their isolation from the rest of the world.  Additionally, I am personally pleased that most of the shots are truly static. No gently hovering camera here (a style that’s become way overused in the past ten years or so).

There are also a few unusual sequences which are unexpected in an otherwise straight forward narrative. I particularly enjoyed one that played with sound. In the scene Zuckerberg and Napster founder Sean Parker (Justin Timberlake) excitedly discuss their ideas for the future of Facebook. The conversation takes place at a huge Palo Alto nightclub over extremely loud drum & bass. The music is much louder than in a usual club scene, but you don’t realize that until the end. You strain to hear the conversation just as you would in a real club. This increases your attention and you only realize when it cuts to the next scene, that you’re leaning forward in your seat.

But all this would be diddly squat without Jesse Eisenberg. The man with the brows who knocked it out of the park. Eisenberg does an excellent job in communicating Zuckerberg’s sad, isolated existence. He is a lonely man, always on the defense. He brings to mind a weary soldier in the midst of a years long battle. A person whose body has adapted to a perpetual expectation of attack: The moody protuberance of his eyebrow ridge and taught facial expressions, his terse and rapid speech, the rigidity with which he holds his body (in particular his shoulders), and his robotic movements. He is ready to fire at a moment’s notice. You won’t see it coming though. He’ll use a silencer.

*Computer nerds have been wrongly portrayed in films as gentle underdogs. Popular kids must have made all these movies, since anyone else can tell you programming nerds can be some of the meanest sons of bitches this side of the lunch room.

*Edit: I did think of one thing that’s superfluous. Go see the movie and tell me if you know what it is.

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  1. Is superfluous scene the one with Eduardo’s crazy girlfriend freaking out on him? It isn’t really offensive in and of itself but in the context of a movie that is already uncomfortably sexist the scene amplifies that flaw.

    • Kartina Richardson

      Bingo bango.

      It’s really the only purely cheap move on the movie’s part. Here’s the erratic hyper sexed Asian woman totally obsessed with her Harvard man. And they shoot her close up with a wide lens to make her look even more ridiculous.

      I guess you could reach and say she was needed in order to make us feel extra sorry for Eduardo the puppy. But it’s really stooping.

      • That scene was just a crap ploy to put in a squabble about ‘relationship status’.
        When Christy and her friend sit in Mark’s dorm room and ask if they can do anything to help and get met with a flippant ‘no’, I couldn’t help but think, “Well that seals it. Ladies, you’re just in this film for background noise and eye candy. Woo.”

      • I have to disagree with you on that part. Although the scene didn’t add anything plotwise to the film, it was nessesary on a thematc level.

        One essencial point in the film is, that after Mark enters facebook-land, he’s cut off from any women, who are interested in him beyond his money and fame. Sure he’s able to get plenty of girls: Stoned ones, golddigging ones ect ect. But he isn’t able to get a WOMAN. One that is independent, mature and can look beyond his “I’m the CEO b**ch!” card.
        It is no coincidense, that the film starts with a break up (Erica) and ends with a rejection (The Junior Lawer).

        Same goes for Eduardo: Even though the break up scene with Christy Lee may seem unnessecary, it was needed. The story wouldn’t be the same, if he had left facebook-land with a healthy romantic relationship 🙂

  2. What is the name of the song/music playing in the club scene? It was really good. I just watched the movie tonight, it was great. And good job on the review!

  3. Parker`s obsession towards under-aged girls was also unwanted. I felt that they tried to inject this into the audience`s subconscious mind, a negative perverted attribute to his character. We could have done without that.

    Great job in detecting those eyes. I personally felt overwhelmed by the fast pace/witty dialogs and script, and to have someone follow the story and also have enough time to study the actors facial expression is amazing!

  4. Kartina Richardson

    Thanks Anna! Not sure what the name of the song was. Maybe “theme to Parker & Zucky’s clubbing”

    @Hasnain I was a little confused by that. Does the real Parker have an infamous taste for pre-teens?
    The pace was definitely lightning speed! But it kept it from getting boring and fact listing-y (like a lot of bio pics can tend to be at times).

  5. I think Eisenberg’s performance is so brilliant that people may not properly appreciate it for years to come. Like how everyone went ballistic about Dustin Hoffman in Rain Man when in reality, it was Tom Cruise’s non-Oscar nominated performance that held the film together.

    Good job in pointing out the music volume in the club scene. And I was very pleased, also, with the static shots. When I try to do them, people look at me like I’m crazy. It’s little stuff like that as to why Fincher is better than everyone else. And if you, Kartina, make films like you write, well, the future of cinema (that we all worry about) will be just fine.

    Nothing to say about Andrew Garfield?

    • Kartina Richardson

      Mmmmm I don’t know about that. I think everyone will be on Eisenberg’s dick immediately.

      I hope my movies will live up to your expectations Jason, Now I am terrified to let anyone see them. Ever.

      Hmmm I guess I don’t have anything to say about Garfield, which is neither good nor bad. He had a haircut. I remember that.

      What do you have to say about him?

  6. I was really moved by Garfield’s performance. Expressing betrayal without coming off like a wuss is a tough cookie, especially in a movie where the other main characters are less driven by personal emotions. He’s the one who keeps reminding the audience that this was a friendship before it was a partnership, which, I think, adds to the tension.

    All the reviews I’ve read about Eisenberg’s performance have been glowing, I hope people continue to feel that way. I am skeptical for some reason.

    Yeah, the crazy Asian chick stuff did kind of come out of nowhere. 🙁

  7. @Katrina “Did Parker have a taste for pre-teens?” I honestly have no idea. But this is what I found


    For me, even if something like that did happen it has nothing to do with the film. I somehow felt that that scene was intentionally placed on the movie only to make him look cheap and adds nothing substantial to the plot. Whereas Saverin’s chicken story (which is equally embarrassing for the character) had a reason, it makes us understand the characters and the trust/relationship they once had.

    One of the most beautiful aspect of this in this movie, to me, is the writer’s ability to keep all the characters (except Parker) neutral. To achieve this balance, In a movie that is all about trust and betrayal, is extraordinary.

    “But it kept it from getting boring and fact listing-y (like a lot of bio pics can tend to be at times)”. Totally! I am not sure if you would agree but I found Gus Van Sant’s MILK to be a lot like that.

    • Kartina Richardson

      KARtina, not KATrina

      but I forgive you

      And funny that you mention Milk. That’s actually the movie that was in my mind as I was writing that!

  8. The name of the track in the club scene was Sound of Violence by Dennis De Laat

  9. Hi Kartina!

    Nice to e-meet you. Just recently started reading Mirror.

    I think the other superfluous scene was the boat race with the Winklevii. I understand the tilt-shift, and understood the ‘look! ants!’ point, and appreciated the Clockwork Orange-esque grotesque 70fps used, but it felt wrong to me. I think that scene could’ve been 75% shorter and not so overtly bent.

    But, yes: the Eduardo scene was easy. And that club scene was the smartest scene in the movie, I think, off that cool implied trick alone. Most physiologically smart, at least.

    I like Jesse’s performances a lot, but this didn’t impress me as much as his go in The Squid & The Whale. Here: all tense, all fast, all hurt and curt. Even with Fincher’s direction within his admitted fondness of static personality: I found it a bit opaque. I think Andrew created something very moving and brave.

    Overall: a solid film. Sorkinese is fun to hear & see.

    • Kartina Richardson

      What? You didn’t like the tilt- shift scene! I didn’t think it was amazing, but it was unexpected. I liked that it broke up the narrative a little.

      I don’t remember Eisenberg’s performance in The Squid & the Whale, but I do remember not liking the movie. That was a while ago though. Should I reevaluate??

  10. Your review is solid as far as my experience with the movie. I felt that each scene tended
    to push the film’s characters off of the complacent ledge where they found themselves at
    the moment, even the ‘superfluous’ ones. The irony of a proverbial social misfit ushering
    the global community to a new age of interpersonal connection was not lost on me, either.
    Leaves you to wonder if this new medium he created was just to help others understand him
    better, but the journey to get there doesn’t paint him in a good light, at least, not on film. 😀

    As Ahnold says, “I’ll be back”…to your site.

  11. I thought Eisenberg’s performances in both Squid/Whale and The Social Network outstanding: variations on a theme — the getting of character.

    The Social Network might have been the easier role in a way because even if he was being obnoxious he could still strut his cleverness. In Squid he didn’t have that protection. He had to play unsympathetic AND not very bright, concealing his lovability almost to the end. A brave performance, I thought, around which the movie turns. (I’ve liked it better each time I’ve seen it.)

    Love this site by the way. My first time here. You’ve been bookmarked.


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