There There

There is much to like in The Social Network. David Fincher’s movies aren’t just beautiful, they’re stunning. When it comes to understanding and harnessing the power and drama of light, he’s a master. The script does a good job of turning a non-fiction geek chronicle into compelling, non-biopic cinema. Fincher has a knack for casting, and he gets solid performances out of his actors, and always with a couple of standouts, in this case the excellent Jesse Eisenberg and the new, to me at least, Andrew Garfield. There are some sparkly moments, and the 2 hours passes quickly.

So I can’t quite figure out why the movie left me cold, as did Benjamin Button 2 years ago. I love Fight Club. Se7en is a terrific penny dreadful writ large, and I may be one of the only people willing to admit a fondness for Alien 3, his first feature; there’s an underlying elegance and sorrow to that movie, once you can get past the fact that the sole alien looks like it got picked up at James Cameron’s garage sale.

Maybe it’s disappointing to see a genre master like Fincher go for the big glory dramas that get nominated for Oscars (I’m going to guess SN has an excellent shot at this year’s title). This one doesn’t have anything overtly obnoxious like that ridiculous Hurricane Katrina overlay in BB. It’s just ankle deep, when you want to dive in. There’s some nice American class system commentary; the extremely rich really have no choice but to get richer and richer and, through excellent breeding, better and better looking. But it’s not really going out on a limb to say that guys who aren’t good-looking and generally act like jerks are not going to have any friends. The ending shots feel like a moral to the story; yes, he’s a billionaire, but no, he can’t get the girl he loves to friend him. Like, duh.

When Fincher was deep in his early show-stopping Grand Guignol phase, it didn’t matter that he stated the obvious; in fact, I enjoyed it. Now that his tricks are so much more subtle – and the twinning effect here is pretty astonishing, as is a Kubrick-homage crew race sequence – he’s still underlining where he doesn’t need to. He’s a superb talent, and the movie’s well worth a look. I just hope the guy will win the damn Oscar already so that he can dig into a script as brilliant as his filmmaking.

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