Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Reviewing the FarmVille movie

I got to read Aaron Sorkin's script for The Social Network a few months back after it was on the Black List, and I found it to be pretty boring.  But then it's a story about nerds chattering at each other at depositions mostly, so no wonder it came across as so flat on the page.  Nonetheless, I was looking forward to seeing director David Fincher's take on the biggest cultural juggernaut of my generation.

When I started as a college freshman in Fall of 2004, I had never heard of Facebook.  It wasn't until a couple of months later that it opened up to the consortium of 5 undergraduate and 2 graduate schools where I was a student, and I'd say that within two days, nearly everyone I knew had a profile.  Those who didn't were being rebellious.  Facebook was still, at that time, an exclusive online network where I was linked to students at my school, and only people in other schools if I knew them from high school.

By the time I graduated in 2008, it was a completely different beast.  I remember being dismayed when Facebook opened to high school students, and then to the general public.  Then apps happened.  Facebook is now a frustrating assault of privacy invasion, and I can't help but check it multiple times a day.  I hate when my friends are lazy in uploading photos.  I have debates about the etiquette of unfriending and detagging.  These words are being highlighted as misspellings as I type, but they are standard in the lexicon of my peers.

The Social Network tells the story of Facebook in the days when it was still cool, new, and exciting.  Mark Zuckerberg is seen sitting in dual deposition rooms, being challenged by former best friend and business partner Eduardo Saverin in one lawsuit, and in another by Divya Narendra and the Winklevoss twins who feel that Zuckerberg stole their idea for a school-exclusive networking site.  In flashbacks we see how "The Facebook" came into existence, and how Saverin, Narendra, and "the Winklevi" came to be collateral damage.

I remember Jesse Eisenberg as being more of a likable, bumbling fool in the other roles I've seen him in, but his portrayal of noted douche Mark Zuckerberg is so uncomfortably cold and detached that I think I have to chalk it up to Eisenberg researching every jerk he knows and doing an awesome job of capturing that dearth of empathy.  Andrew Garfleld stood out, doing a great job as the film's most relatable character, and it seems like he will be a great fit as the new Spiderman.  Armie Hammer and Max Minghella were very funny in their scenes together (and kudos to the filmmakers - I had no idea the twins were being played by one actor), and the Gossip Girl fan in me giggled at how silly the world of Harvard final clubs seems to my West Coast party school sensibilities.  Justin Timberlake seems very happy wearing his acting hat these days, and it suits him fine.  Though the character of Sean Parker is so self-important that it was sometimes hard to tell if JT was letting himself shine through too much, or if he was doing a great job at embodying the guy who invented Napster.  I'd also like to note that cast member Joseph Mazzello, recently of HBO's The Pacific, is Timmy from Jurassic Park.

Without a doubt, my favorite thing about the movie was the amazing score, by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross.  It worked so perfectly with Fincher's storytelling style, and drew out the darkness of the growing tensions between Mark and every one of his friends, and had a sound quality that matched the computer-centric MacGuffin at the story's core.  There is an arrestingly beautiful scene of a crew race shot with tilt-shift (my absolute favorite photography technique; it never gets old for me), to the tune of "In the Hall of the Mountain King" with a demented twist.  I was stunned by how cool this little interlude was.

It's difficult to comment on the actual proceedings the movie is based on.  The court settlements are real and Zuckerberg really is the world's youngest billionaire, thanks to a product that most of us use like addicts.  It's easy to feel indignant on Saverin's behalf, while the question of just how much Zuckerberg stole his idea from Winklevoss, Winklevoss, and Narendra, is a little less clear.  It's definitely disappointing how there is not a single female character with any substance in the movie, and while perhaps the main players of the actual events were all men, I would think that there would be a few interesting women at Harvard, or working in the tech world.  Yes, Sorkin, I know that Rashida Jones has a few lines.  Doesn't really count.

So, see The Social Network.  Because you don't want to be like the only person not on Facebook.

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