There are two overriding passions in my life: music and movies. Of late, the former has taken precedent over the latter. I’m not even entirely sure this review will come to anything; the thought has been less than motivating of late. Still, the thing that often drives me is the conflict surrounding a film. Not controversy necessarily, as it tends to relate more to how a conflict exists in film interpretation or reflection. Here, that comes in with the idea of a biopic so convoluted in its aim. It’s not a movie about an enormous figure that we all see regularly who speaks to us via interviews on talkshows and performance in movies or recorded music or in government. Sure, Mark Zuckerberg is in the periphery for most or many in that Facebook is and his name is closely tied to it. But it’s not a face and personality and idea that we identify so clearly. There are other instances of this, but let’s lay the basic groundwork here first.
Opening to find future Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) speaking to a girl, Erica Albright (Rooney Mara), and going down in flames. Going home angry, the idea of degrading women in general passes between Mark and a roommate, and he manages to destroy Harvard’s network with a brand new website. This snowballs into the interest of the Winklevoss twins, Cameron and Tyler (Armie Hammer for both), who have been working with Divya Narendra (Max Minghella) to create the Harvard Connection, another iteration of internet socialization that gains primarily from its exclusivity. Mark takes the idea and brings it back to his friend Eduardo Saverin (Andrew Garfield) and they run with it. They quickly bring up The Facebook, and begin to take the world by storm, eventually flashing forward to Zuckerberg being sued by both Saverin and the Winklevoss twins as the story of the website unfolds, in its effects on these people, and the people who wander in from outside–like Sean Parker (Justin Timberlake), alleged co-founder of Napster, who brings flash and world-changing, big picture ideas to the whole thing.
There are, of course, people who circled the film, sniffed it and turned their nose up as they walked away because the film does not represent the real Mark Zuckerberg, Saverin or Parker. Zuckerberg in particular is naturally singled out as the lead character in the film and the most public of all of these figures. Hell, I heard Sean Parker and thought, “Huh? I thought it was Sean something else…”¹ So, with even some more familiar public figures attesting to Mark’s personality and the positive qualities thereof, it becomes relevant to some that the film is not particularly flattering to Mark. Well, this isn’t strictly true. Allegedly² it mis-characterizes his motivations, and changes all kinds of things, but this comes to the heart of all of it. Ask screenwriter Aaron Sorkin, or director David Fincher, even Eisenberg who plays him–that’s not the point. The beginning of behind-the-scenes documentary How Did They Make a Movie of Facebook? is composed of cast and crew noting that it’s not “about Facebook.” Hammer refers to it as “#5 or #6” on the list of points or ideas the movie is about. And it isn’t. This is Aaron Sorkin, he of Sports Night and The West Wing, Fincher of Se7en and Fight Club. Both of them, as pedantic, specific and perfectionist as they can be, are about their art. There is basically no chance they will sacrifice story or art for ‘truth’ or ‘accuracy.’ It’s not the object for them, and it’s not really the object for viewers–unless we’re looking at a documentary.³
As entertainment the film is unsurprisingly brilliant. Of course it’s not really about the invention of Facebook as a website, it’s about the people around it and the ideas of it, and the contrast in the nature of socialization in the world before it and after it, the way it affected the world, the rules, values and injustices of exclusive social circles and systems. It’s about isolation, oddly, in particular for Zuckerberg. It’s about never learning the social mores, about not understanding the rights and the wrongs of most interactions until seen in hindsight, or misappropriating values from one circle to another, which never works. And Sorkin and Fincher put together a script and film that does all of these things successfully. This isn’t a shock from either of them, and Fincher has clearly not lost his most notorious tendencies toward perfectionism: everyone refers to the number of takes for given scenes–often in the high double and near-triple digits. The final effect is fantastic, as he always comes out with movies that feel finely crafted but natural. There is no moment of stilted construction, nor of loose and sloppy film-making. The number of takes manages to bring a familiarity to the actors and an insane level of refinement that simultaneously perfects it.
As one of the formative musical artists of my life, nevermind my aforementioned love of music, it must be noted that Trent Reznor and his frequent collaborator/producer Atticus Ross (who also produced the last album Coheed and Cambria released, which I have to note as they can readily be referred to as my favourite band) produced an Academy Award-winning score for the film. It fits in with Reznor’s work for the last two decades, and even easier with the work the two of them have done in the past one. It’s a brilliant stroke, which is unsurprising in a Fincher movie, as he almost seemed to single-handedly inform half the public of the existence of the Pixies by either choosing “Where Is My Mind?” as the closer for Fight Club, or at least bringing in the people who chose it. Reznor and Atticus’ work has been deeply cynical, dystopian and subtly menacing, and that is exactly what the movie demands. Not because it’s humourless, or truly dark and nihilistic, but because of the sense of isolation, the ideas of crumbling relationships and intruding collapse of integrity as Parker brings in the ideas of money and fame and standing over others–“anarchy” in the words of Fincher himself–being the ones behind revolution. Innocence removed, lost or forgotten, trampled in the desire for money and credit and ego. It’s carried out but the music makes it clearer, gives us that anticipation and dread the dialogue should not in this context. It’s brilliant, and deserving of its award.
The film overall deserves it’s accolades, there is no doubt about this. I realize I’m one of the last to see it, but there it is. See it if you would be even more last than me. Make it someone else–and make them get someone else behind them.
¹Shawn Fanning, publicly the equivalent of Mark Zuckerberg if we speak of Napster. To my understanding, anyway.
²I don’t know, do I? So, rather than claim that I can either confirm or deny the movie, I leave all of it as alleged for me.
³Debatably, of course. The question rages as to whether the object of documentaries is to be objective or to convey a point of view. Still, people look to those more for the actuality. One hopes more are looking there, at least.