The Social Network — Classic Style Over Substance

So I finally got around to watching The Social Network and I find myself scratching my head at the level of acclaim and attention that it has received. It's not that it's a bad movie, it has many admirable qualities, but at it's heart it is so deeply flawed that I have to view it as a failure.

On the positive side the quality of the acting is generally very high and Jesse Eisenberg, Justin Timberlake and Andrew Garfield perform excellently in their roles. The dialogue plays to writer Aaron Sorkin's strengths and is certainly memorable. Similarly David Fincher does a remarkable job of making such a static subject seem very dynamic.

So The Social Network looks good and it sounds good. But once you start digging into it, things fall apart. The movie was marketed as being about the creation of Facebook and a biopic of sorts of Mark Zuckerberg. But it isn't either of those things. It's not factually accurate enough to be a biopic and it lacks sufficient details to really show how Facebook was created.

Instead what we are presented with is clearly intended to be a exploration of the "Web 2.0 entrepreneur" as represented by someone with the name and some of the characteristics of Mark Zuckerberg. I suspect the only reason that Facebook was used is that it made it much easier to promote what would otherwise be a movie of limited interest to the masses.

Reportedly a lot of effort was put into ensure that the visuals were accurate. The computer screens were real, the beer was the right brand, the clothes were all correct. But the same effort wasn't put into the other facts.

Sorkin betrays his lack of interest with a complete failure to flesh out any of the characters. Even the trio at the core of the movie come out as little more than cyphers with no effort made to explain their behavior. The Winklevoss twins, who generate a significant amount of the movie's conflict are lazily depicted as  "Harvard Elite" caricatures. The secondary cast is so irrelevent that they barely even got names, never mind an actual character. This is shallowness taken to an extreme level. While the production values are big budget Hollywood, the script reeks of a tv movie.

The mystery for me is why this has been getting so many awards and nominations. For the acting and directing I think it can be justified. But the writing undercuts the movie as a whole and when you look beyond the quicks and the clever camera work, there's nothing. No information, no insight. You don't come away from this with a better understanding of Facebook or it's creators. You haven't learned anything about Harvard or geek culture. You don't even come away with questions. It's style over substance in the purest sense.

About Eoghann Irving

Overly opinionated owner and author of eoghann.com. You can get updated on his posts directly on the blog here or through the usual social networking suspects. What? You expected me to say something interesting here? That's what the blog posts are for. Eoghann has often wondered if people read these little bio things we have to fill out everywhere on the internet and, assuming they do, why?

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