What are friends for?

I really, really liked THE SOCIAL NETWORK, but I don’t know how much I have to say about it. Well, here goes.

First thing to strike is the rapid pace of dialogue, which is refreshing — I’ve been wallowing in pre-codes so it was nice to not feel I was being spoken to like a three-year-old. Also, the digital photography of Jeff Cronenweth is really beautiful, and particularly when doing what digital does best — showing night scenes without enhanced lighting.

(Is this going to be a checklist?)

Yay, John Getz! Stathis Borans himself (centre frame). In a cast as predominantly youthful as this, it’s good to have at least one face that isn’t inhumanly smooth, and craggy old Borans is a welcome sight. I don’t know why this guy didn’t make it bigger, he was good in THE FLY and BLOOD SIMPLE and then in THE FLY II, of all things, he was outstanding. And then he dropped off my radar completely. Here he’s that rarity, a sympathetic lawyer.

Whatever anybody says, I liked all the characters — there was something appealing about everybody, maybe because they were all so flawed and didn’t know it. Like Clouzot, I tend to find monstrously flawed characters more appealing than plain nice ones. And there aren’t many filmmakers around today who do nice well. Anyway, ZOMBIELAND’s Jesse Eisenberg and DR PARNASSUS’s Andrew Garfield are great, as is the satanic Justin Timberlake, the nastiest character, but one I still liked because he’s fun.

My viewing chums, Fiona and Marvelous Mary did regret the somewhat marginal roles played by the film’s female characters, but admitted that in a story of killer nerds, this was perhaps inevitable. Rooney Mara is very good in her pivotal role as the muse of Facebook, and I expect to see more of her, but it is a shamelessly boysie yarn.

Armie Hammer, a name which amuses me, plays twins, and Fiona immediately sussed that Fincher was more the kind of guy to use fancy digital footwork to achieve the effect than to indulge in a nationwide talent search for identical twins who can act and row boats. It turns out the technique used was precisely that which Olivia DeHavilland incorrectly believed was used to twin her in THE DARK MIRROR: Hammer played the scene with another, similarly-built actor Josh Spence, and then his head, sporting a different hairstyle, was filmed and inserted atop Spence’s body. At last, the technology exists to make DeHavilland’s mad dream a reality — somebody please call her up and tell her!

Fincher’s style is mostly crisp, fast-cut but with occasional longer and more fluid shots to break the pace — and then there’s a wildly indulgent trip to the Henley Regatta, where he breaks out a whole bunch of preposterous high-tech tricks. And the scene comes at the perfect point to offer relief from the rapidfire patter and jargon of the surrounding action.

I’m coining, and copyrighting, a neologism for filmmakers who want to be the new Kubrick — “kubris”. Fincher is definitely kubristic, with a mania for detail which advertises itself in every frame, but taken on his own merits he’s still an impressive package, with the special effects wizardry, loving detail-work, and enthusiasm for performance. Also, I think I’ve figured out that I’m going to instinctively know which Fincher films to go see — I had bad feelings about ALIEN 3, PANIC ROOM and BENJAMIN BORING BASTARD, and I was right, at least as far as whether I would enjoy them or not. Although it’s really only the last one that I regret shelling out shekels on.

For some reason, knowing screenwriter Aaron Sorkin largely by reputation (The West Wing etc), I hadn’t expected to be impressed by his work, but this witty take on “What shall it profit a man…” is superbly constructed and disposes of the acreage of exposition lightly and clearly. And I’m very curious how they cleared it with the legal department: a scurrilous tale from very recent history, dealing with a bunch of millionaires and billionaires who have already proved themselves litigious…

In spite of the technological subject and execution, I’d sell this film as a tragedy told in a very funny style, a pleasing combo with the added advantage of being really, really ridiculously good-looking. Dave Kehr finds the ending devastating, which just shows that one man’s devastating is another’s cute & well-rounded. But whatever your reaction, I think you’ll probably be glad you saw this one.

20 Responses to “What are friends for?”

  1. As someone who is mystified by the whole concept of Facebook, I’m dying to see a film that puts it into a meaningful context.

    To me, Facebook means people I didn’t like at school (and haven’t seen for 20-odd years) sending me emails out of the blue and asking me to be their ‘friend’. It’s the stuff that horror movies are made of…but how would you put it on film?!

  2. Imagine my horror when I discovered that emails received from at least two people I’ve known but no longer communicate with made Facebook overtures to “friend” me, only to discover that they didn’t make the overtures at all, Facebook did. One of the overtures I accepted, but that person still has yet to communicate with me (I once called him “big-headed”, something he didn’t appreciate of course). The other person was my best friend in college, who since that time has chosen to “diss” me. I emailed the latter telling him that I was ambivalent about “friending” him for that reason. But then realized that it had happened again, that he hadn’t sent the overture after all. I joined Facebook with trepidation, only because so many friends and family members had inundated me with overtures that I finally caved. Facebook is an undeniable phenomenon, but one that still has me apprehensive. Just my nature I guess.

  3. I missed the All-Media so I’m going to have to cach up with it on DVD. Fincher is a sometimes interesting stylist, but most glib, IMO. Jesse Eisenberg is the other Michael Cera.

    Saw Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives last night. Masterpiece doesn’t begin to descibe it. Joe’s mixture of folk tale, neo-realist drama, and I Walked With a Zombie — climaxed by a scene of his boyfriend talking a shower (a David Hockney hommage I suspect), coupled with the most tsartling spacio-temporal interplays EVAH, makes David Lynch look like Norman Taurog.

  4. With The Social Network a hit can Gawker: The Movie be far behind?.

    Vincent Kartheiser would be a perfect Nick Denton, with Taye Diggs as the boyfriend who dumps him when he just can’t stand it anymore.

    Gus, needless to say, should direct.

  5. I wonder how many people are in my position – I’m on Facebook only because someone invited me and now I’m stuck. I find it awful that it’s sometimes the only reasonable means to contact someone. I don’t think watching a film about its genesis is going to ameliorate how I feel about it.

  6. Never understood the appeal of Faecesbook (or Twshitter) at all. And don’t find stuff by kubrists like Fincher (or Nolan) all that appetising either. They’re obviously good filmmakers but it’s puzzling that people get so worked up about them. OTOH rewatched the awesome THE MAN IN THE WHITE SUIT last night – now THAT totally blew me away. Oh well…

  7. oy you are all missing the point the film is about nerdy people making BILLIONS and falling out about it. Its about hubris and failure amongst ‘success’.

    About the actual product Facebook there is plenty to kevetch about it dosn’t boody work propery for a start. I much prefer twitter but I to am now wedded to it as otherwise i’d not be in touch with people.

  8. Mary’s right, but one wouldn’t know it without seeing the movie. The fact that it’s about a medium for keeping in touch with friends is just a big irony, because the story is all about characters who grasp success by being smart and then alienate each other by being emotionally dense. It’s universal stuff filtered through a very specific phenomenon. Maybe Fincher’s best. He’s not perfect but he doesn’t have the glaring inadequacies that keep tripping up Nolan.

    Agree re the Mackendrick, of course, which works on so many levels it’s dizzying. But Guinness’s Sidney Stratton is cousin in autism to Jesse Eisenberg’s Mark Zuckerberg.

    Very interested in the Apeechatpong.

  9. Indeed. At the start of the film we see a water bufflo ambling through a forest glade at night. Can’t quite put it into words but from the way Joe shoots him it’s clear we’re to regard the animal as a character in his own right. Bresson did this to a large degree in Au Hasard Balthazar, but in Uncle Boonmee Joe takes this to a whole new level.

  10. Wow. Bresson kind of bases his whole narrative on that idea, so it’s pretty inescapable. Am very interested to see how yr man pulls it off in a single sequence.

    I do get the impression there’s something of the visionary about him.

  11. Oh definitely. Joe’s also a sharp dresser. That white suit he wore to Canne was absolutely stunning.

    Did I mention that he also does art installation pieces using multiple image projections?

  12. Alsp re animals one of the character is Uncle Boonmee’s dead son who has returned as a half-man/half-ape with gleaming red eyes. His dead daughter also aunts him. She says ghosts hang around people rather than places. What about Heaven? “Heaven is overrated. There’s nothing going on there.”

  13. one nerdy peson to uber nerd Zukerberg ‘oh my god we’ve got groupies!’ was probably worth the film in itself that and the jaw dropping opening sexual / class politics discussion

  14. Thanks for pointing out John Getz! I likely wouldn’t have made the connection due to the lack of the beard!

    And I agree on The Fly II. If we are being uncharitable perhaps Getz shines in that film because the rest of the cast aren’t really anything special (though I remember Daphne Zuniga seemed to be the female love interest in everything in that late 80s period – I particularly liked her tragi-comic/ironic role with Tom Berenger in Last Rites!), but Getz does really lift the film up in that one scene in which he appears, doing more to meaningfully connect the sequel to the Cronenberg film than the other, incredibly clunky moments of a Geena Davis standing giving birth to the hero or Stoltz watching the videotapes of Brundle did.

    A great example of one scene almost single handedly justifying the existence of a entire film (though I must admit that I love that they didn’t stint on the gore in the final section of the film, and that the villain gets a particularly nasty Freaks-style comeuppance).

  15. I just happened to spot Getz’s name in the credits otherwise I’d never have known. Having seen his name, I was watching out for him, thinking “I wonder what he looks like now?” Took me half the film to be sure.

    You’re right that he almost single-handedly redeems The Fly II, even though Stoltz and Zuniga is fine. The gleefully nasty comeuppance is OK, but I seem to recall the heroes get a happy ending, which I’m less sure about.

    A comparison of The Social Network with Weird Science might produce interesting results (including a strategy for improving Weird Science, which would be useful as I’m sure they’ll remake it any day now).

  16. How could they ever replace Kelly LeBrock? (And don’t say Angelina Jolie!)

  17. I definitely highly recommend Last Rites – that’s the film where Zuniga is carrying on an affair with an Italian mobster when his mob boss wife bursts into their hotel room and shoots him while Daphne is in the bathroom.

    Then we get introduced to the dead man’s two brothers, one a cop and the other Tom Berenger, the local priest (very Angels With Dirty Faces in the way that the three brother’s personalities are all defined by their work!)

    Zuniga goes into hiding (surrounded by her own stereotypical Latino family members), but unfortunately is a Catholic and feels the need to confess, unfortunately doing so to Berenger when he is substituting for a drunken priest one afternoon! (Zuniga’s confession also comes at the end of a run of comic relief gags about naughty children, prim matrons and their various bizarre and petty confessions)

    So then Berenger is torn between loyalty to family, to his oath as a priest, or to the girl that he, shockingly, has started to fall for himself!

    And the film wonderfully ends (Spoiler!) with a horrific betrayal that somehow seems quite apt when dealing with the Catholic Church!

    This film is fresh in my mind because while on holidays from work during the time that the Nazi Pope was toddling around the UK, and despite not being Catholic myself, I decided to have a Catholic film festival! Last Rites joined The Magdalene Sisters, The Bloodstained Shadow, Raining Stones and Alice, Sweet Alice in my little impious celebration!

  18. I thought about watching Angels and Demons, but I had to draw the sacreligiousness line somewhere!

  19. No Bunuel? I’m shocked! Is nothing sacred?

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