THE SOCIAL NETWORK (David Fincher; USA; 2010)
(Yes, I know the pic is not from the Fincher film. This is not some discarded out-take where Eisenberg and Garfield test a prototype of a mobile Facebook robot. Although, that does sound kind of cool....)
I've left this film to brew for a bit, let it percolate a little in the brain, because my response to it has left me perplexed. I wasn't going to write anything at all on this – my feeling was “its been discussed to death, just leave it be.” But here I am, adding my ten cents. Dum de dum.
Immediately after first viewing, it ticked “yes, its great” boxes. Loved the whip-crack delivery of dialogue, not quite Altmanesque-overlaps, but tumbling, cascading, speeding forth, a tumult of words akin to Web 2.0 info-barrage. Loved recognising the familiar Fincher hues, a dulled world of greys and browns. Enjoyed performances that exceeded expectations (Jesse Eisenberg's faux haughtiness, Andrew Garfield's incrementally wounded soul, Justin Timberlake's hyper-mouthed bullshit artist).
But, I'm in agreement with a recent post on Zach Campbell's blog – the film could be about so many different things, so what is it saying?
Essentially, it has the framework of a nerd-revenge film. Boy gets dumped, boy gets rejected by peers, boy wreaks revenge through the power of computing. In 1984, Revenge of the Nerds set a bench-mark, of sorts, for the nerd-revenge film. A couple of nerds get rejected by their peers at university, they band together with other rejects, form their own social network of misfits, get revenge on jocks and jockettes (??) through liniment-on-jockstrap hilarity and panty-raids, and finally beat the jocks at the campus talent show by being a pseudo-Devo party band. The film ends by suggesting we're all nerds, cos we've all experienced being picked on at some stage in our life. The film is cheesier than the biggest wheel of Camembert, but it's hard to hate a film that starts with two lonely nerds who then end up finding camaraderie within a much larger social network.
In Fincher's film we have a sole neo-nerd, who also dabbles in computer wizardry, but never finds his nerd-fraternity. We never see a social network grow, we never see any real sense of true camaraderie. He gets his revenge, but it's a pyrrhic victory. The title is ironic (nooo, really?) – there is no social network in the film, just fragmented relationships, fake friendships, isolated islands (in the lawyer-meeting scenes, Eisenberg and Garfield are most often depicted alone in the frame). So, we're being told that modern social networks for the Web 2.0 generation promote loneliness, falsity, and a lack of depth, of true connection. Hmm.
Revenge of the Nerds, in it's 1984 format, could simply never exist in 2010. Mostly because people wouldn't get the Devo reference.