Day By Day

Monday, October 11, 2010

The Social Network

We saw "The Social Network" this weekend. It is extremely well made. The acting is uneven, but overall not bad. There are strong performances by Rooney Mara (in a minor role), Andrew Garfield, and (surprisingly) Justin Timberlake. Jesse Eisenberg in the lead does his standard passive-aggressive routine, this time to good effect. The film's strong point is the screenplay by Aaron Sorkin based on a book by Ben Mezrich. It's filled with sharp dialogue and in the hands of director David Fincher accomplishes the amazing feat of making thoroughly obnoxious nerds sort of interesting and boring activities like pounding a keyboard or sitting in a deposition room involving. To this extent it is a technical triumph. In terms of the narrative the obvious references are to "Citizen Kane" and "Faust" and the arc is the story of a young man who gains the world, but loses those things [friendship and love] that are most important. It's a classic tale and that is part of the problem. It's something we've all seen done better before. But most disturbing is the fact that this movie is profoundly bigoted. It abounds with negative ethnic stereotypes -- violent and stupid WASP aristocrats who look down on smart Jewish nerds; hot Asian chicks who make themselves sexually available to smart Jewish nerds; Latin American elites who want to hang out with smart Jewish nerds; fast talking hustlers who seduce smart Jewish nerds; Asian guys who do the grunt work for smart Jewish nerds -- you get the idea. This is a triumphalist screed produced by smart Jewish nerds to celebrate themselves and their accomplishments while denigrating nearly everyone else. I wonder how much of themselves Sorkin, Fincher and Mezrich see in the central character of the film -- Mark Zuckerberg played with neurasthenic nastiness by Jesse Eisenberg.

There is a vigorous debate as to whether the central characters were portrayed fairly. That's not important. Like all movies this is a work of fiction that lies for dramatic effect. What is, at least to me, significant is that this is a thoroughly nasty and vicious production pervaded with bigotry to which the critical establishment seems completely insensitive [except for the film's rampant sexism -- which has drawn some comment]. There is a deep sickness at the core of the American film industry and nowhere is it more on display than in this profoundly offensive, but celebrated film.

No comments: