Fern on Film – The Social Network

Thesocialnetwork is a film predicated on very, very fast talking. You know those bits on, says 24 or CSI where jargon is shouted across hi-tech rooms while people run to answer incessant phones? That’s how all the exposition is taken care of in Thesocialnetwork. I seriously doubt that Aaron Sorkin’s script had any spaces in it.

Of course a better TV show to compare it to would be Thewestwing, which Sorkin also created. It was the programme that brought walking briskly down corridors to the masses, which made me squirm because I was always expecting the cameraman to bump into something and fall down. But for the less neurotic, it worked, and Thewestwing has a legacy of adoring fans. Basically, Aaron Sorkin is really, really good at writing that urgent-talking thing, and luckily the director of Thesocialnetwork was David Fincher.

Lucky because he knows how to direct the urgent-talking, and lucky because the script also relies on some disorienting timeline changes, jumping between two separate court cases about Facebook as well as, mainly, the time when it was created.

Much like The King’s Speech, Thesocialnetwork’s goal is to make a lot of people talking exciting. The King’s Speech films some of its scenes like action scenes to accomplish this, while this film turns most of its scenes into tennis matches. Between robots. On fast-forward. I spent the first scene bolt upright, terrified I might miss something important. But everyone working on this film knew what they were doing, and the plot is easier to follow than some of the cuts in the first half hour suggest.

Those cuts do make it interesting though, and as it turns out the structure is as much a game to keep the film dynamic as it is an attempt to fit all the major points of the book into two hours. I can give you the closest thing to a guarantee that this film will win best adapted screenplay.

Of course it’s favourite for Best Picture too, but I’m not giving out any guarantees on that. I already said a few days ago that The King’s Speech had the perfect formula for the Academy, and it won at the Golden Globes, so it will be a close run thing. In a lot of ways they are evenly matched. Alongside their success at making dialogue-heavy films exciting, they are acted almost equally well. I’m giving that round to The King’s Speech just on Colin Firth alone, but that takes nothing away from Jesse Eisenberg, who is playing his perfect role here, and more importantly the supporting roles are more fleshed out than in The King’s Speech. Andrew Garfield is the Next Big Thing (I can’t think of the movie without hearing him shouting “MAAAAAAAAAAAARK”), and Justin Timberlake is a wonderfully refreshing different angle when he turns up as the hard-partying, tricksy founder of Napster.

The movie is an incredibly well done biopic, and it captures and critiques the mood of the moment and makes some wider points about Facebook through this view of its founder. But whether it’s more than that, whether it is worth the Oscar for best picture, only time will tell. Whether it wins or not. But at least when Aaron Sorkin wins the award for his script, theacceptancespeechwon’toverrun.
You can follow Michael Fern on Twitter @popmikey

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