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Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Feature: Nick Adams on: The Social Network

"THE SOCIAL NETWORK": Sorkin takes One Giant Step Sideways
By Nick Adams

In 1941, the film “Citizen Kane” was a critical success, earning several Oscar nominations—including Best Picture. The dramatic film was particularly praised for its script, cinematography, music and non-chronological narrative structure. The film itself followed characters trying to label the ‘eccentric’ (read: “crazy but rich”) billionaire of an organization that proved as popular as it was controversial—much like the protagonist himself. The protagonist was a loner and, to a scene, the smartest guy in the room. This overt, and only arguably deserved, self-assuredness was met with scorn and ridicule from friends and family, eventually leaving the protagonist isolated in his fortress of material success.

‘Copy and paste’ for “The Social Network.”

Beyond the screen, “Citizen Kane” was met with vehement protest by William Randolph Hearst—the real life wealthy entrepreneur/emperor of nearly 30 newspapers, magazines and other gossip-filled periodicals. Hearst was adamant that Orson Welles’ film was slanderous (and, to a lesser extent, vulgar). Welles, to his credit, claimed the title character was actually based on himself. In this retort from 70 years ago, Welles proves himself at least one step smarter than Aaron Sorkin, the writer of “The Social Network.”

“The Social Network” is unequivocally billed as the true story behind Facebook. That the movie has inaccuracies with factual history is not the problem; it’s that the film’s entire thesis behind Facebook is wrong. In “Citizen Kane,” Kane spends his life trying in vain to reclaim his lost “Rosebud”—a childhood sled. Fortunately, the movie wasn’t about the mogul Hearst and so made no assertion that Hearst spent his life seeking a childhood relic. In “The Social Network”—at a near one-to-one comparison—“Rosebud” is the affections of a lost love. Unfortunately, Sorkin doesn’t have a Welles-esque clarity for theatrics and thus left the window wide open to criticism. Hell, it isn’t even a window; it’s like an entire wall was missing from the set. Mark Zuckerberg, in real life, is not chasing a lost love; the girlfriend he had before Facebook took off is the same girlfriend he has now.

Sorkin feels no shame in completely missing the point of cultural history, though. He admittedly wrote the first draft of the script before even reading the biography of Zuckerberg, “The Accidental Billionaries”, which the marketing team pointed to as the literary origin for the story. It doesn’t seem to have even occurred to Sorkin that perhaps Zuckerberg is not a desperate loner, but rather just one more person, like Sorkin himself, who wants to create something. Facebook is perpetually updating and retooling itself—something Sorkin’s script notes but doesn’t analyze. Facebook is not complete. If anything, Charlie Kaufman’s artistically horrifying “Synecdoche, New York,” more than "The Social Network,"actually taps into the unrelenting ambition of pure creators needing no finished product--be it play, movie or website.

Most damning to me is that Sorkin was so close to reaching Welles’ level of self-reflection. Zuckerberg, in the film, repeatedly talks circles around his friends, enemies and lawyers. Zuckerberg talks like Sam Seabourne in “The West Wing.” White House staffers don’t speak with such speed and determination in real life any more than Zuckerberg, a computer programmer ever does. Ever seen an interview with the real Zuckerberg? He talks likes a rambling, didactically unsure computer programmer. In the film, the character could have spoken in haikus with as much realism. As is, the fictional Zuckerberg speaks how Sorkin (though not Sorkin alone) views himself: impossibly articulate and proudly not popular. Boastfully, even. Being popular means being one of the masses, being ignorant and forgotten. Sorkin, though, fails to consider any true meaning beyond Facebook’s unparalleled popularity nor any self-examination—which could lead to more earnest, emotional territory.

Moreover, had the script been the fictional story of a website founder/billionaire, then Sorkin could have expanded the timeline and scope. He could have hypothesized the political ambitions of “Zark Muckerberg.” He could have done any number of things that would have meant more than the half dozen scenes that ultimately did nothing new for the story or characters.
Pictured above: symbolism? Definitely not real people.

Admittedly, the film is wonderfully directed and acted and even entertaining more times than not. But I sigh more than a little bit when I think about the movie that could have been and how close/far “The Social Network” ended up. Sorkin may very well write a masterpiece screenplay, and I know director David Fincher can turn any film into the best eye candy, but right now “The Social Network” is too close of an instant-meal, cash-grab on brand recognition to best the classics--or even deserve much more than a passing comparison.


umijin said...

You are stealing my friend's work and bandwidth without credit via your first pic. Please correct this.

Anonymous said...

Common Dude...sort your site out. Stop pillaging the work of others....

Anonymous said...

Not his work- a screenshot he took of a movie, which is clearly someone else's work. They really ought to spam the original site and tell him to stop stealing unlicensed images.

Anonymous said...

Yeah I agree that its not his work. If he wants to claim it as his work, he'd better paint it or draw it or something. Its a screen cap, not a personal photo.

Anonymous said...

Yeh. Ur a cock you guys its just a pictur

Jason said...

What this website was stealing of mine was bandwidth by hotlinking to a photo on my site. This is a bush league practice and something that ended years ago with the advent of link tracking. It seems this site cannot be bothered to put photos on their own server, which they only did just now.

The photo I used is a stock image from the movie that many other movie reviewers use. It is a standard image released by the studio for the purpose of reviewers to use. I am a professional photographer. I never steal images.

Also, anything "Anonymous" says has no meaning. At least have the nerve to post with an ID, like my friend umijin did. As I mentioned above, it is a stock image that movie reviewers are allowed to use, so get some facts.

And lastly, it is not about the photo, it is about using bandwidth I am paying for.

If Nick Adams had any class he would have apologized and corrected the mistake. Apparently, he does not nor does this site.

Ezra Edmond said...

If this was a matter of class, it would have been handled via email on our contact page.

You obviously have noticed that we've fixed the post. It was a mistake that was corrected as soon as we got word of it.

Problem solved. Happy?

PS. Anon's, stop flame-war-ing.

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