Sunday, January 30, 2011

Movies: The Social Network

Not being particularly interested in Facebook (though I have a profile on it), or any form of living life online (despite the blogging—really, I see no discrepancy there), I had no drive to see The Social Network, but I found myself watching it on an airplane nevertheless. For an airplane movie, it was brilliant; completely absorbing, with a requisite cast of teenage antics (for some reason, I prefer to watch young people in my airplane movies; you will not catch me watching any of those stuffy English period dramas, like The King’s Speech, on an airplane).

The film is structured with flashback, and might be the very first film I’ve seen structured that way that did not completely gall me. How is it that Fincher does this more successfully than, say, Van Sant in Milk or Boyle in Slumdog Millionaire? Perhaps it’s that the flashing back is only to a year or two prior. Perhaps it’s that the flashback sequences are of substantial enough length and content to avoid that awful sense of watching a series of Gap commercials rather than a coherent film. Perhaps it’s just a story worth telling, with a finely-structured screenplay. In any case, this is a very serviceable film. Artistically groundbreaking? No. Emotionally intense? Not really. But quite direct, competent, and appreciably limpid in a moment when other films are either filled with explosions or violence or fantasy or period costumes or mysterious malevolent forces or all of the above. I appreciate clean storytelling at a time like this. It’s surprisingly brave.

A point to be made that has only tangentially to do with the film: Facebook was the creation of shallow teenagers with poor social skills, by shallow teenagers with poor social skills, for shallow teenagers with poor social skills. As we use it more and more to "live" our lives, we become more and more shallow, and our social skills become poorer and poorer. Online living is unhealthy and I am vehemently opposed to it.

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