In an interview with Premiere Magazine, Quentin Tarantino revealed that David Fincher’s film The Social Network is the best film of the decade. His explanation? Tarantino said: “It is Number 1 because it’s the best, that’s all! It crushes all the competition.” Tarantino also added that Aaron Sorkin, who wrote the screenplay, is one of the greatest writers working today, as further justification for his claim.
Upon reading this piece of news, I turned to my husband, and asked him if he thought The Social Network was the best film of the 2010s. “The one about Facebook? I saw it in the cinema.” He shrugs, “It’s a good film, but even in 2010 itself there were movies that I liked better. Like The Hurt Locker, The Town -” “Ben Affleck directed The Town.” I interject. He looks impressed. “Did he really? But yeah, back to the Facebook film. It was good, but not outstanding you know? But hey, I’m no Tarantino, so what do I know?”
He brings up a good point. Tarantino is both a filmmaker and a cinephile, which gives him an added layer of expertise. He would be able to better appreciate the technical prowess from Fincher, the seamless flow from one scene to the next, telling a linear narrative yet jumping to scenes of future depositions without losing a beat. The audience is engaged at every point in the film, all the actors were strongly utilised and compelling to watch (Fincher knowing that Justin Timberlake would be the right choice for the role of Sean Parker is a fantastic casting decision), the way Fincher captured the mood and setting of the period all speaks to Tarantino being right on the money.
The strength of the screenplay is already acutely acknowledged from the first scene alone, where Eisenberg’s Mark Zuckerberg goes head to head with Rooney Mara’s Erica Albright. The dialogue is fast and razor-sharp, where wit and eloquence are weapons used in battle. It isn’t realistic of course, since people don’t speak like that all the time, but it makes for an engaging scene.
The sound design is effective as well, since characters frequently have conversations in crowded spaces, like bars and restaurants, and it sounds exactly like how it would sound if you were speaking in a crowded space, which speaks to how much Fincher understands every aspect of setting up a space in a film. The score by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross is brilliant stuff. After the breakup scene between Mark and Erica, Mark jogs back to his dorm, and the camera follows him as he makes his way back, the music tingling with poignancy before taking a darker turn – we can still hear his steps, by the way, as the music doesn’t drown that out, which is such a nice touch.
This back and forth switch in the tone of the music makes sense later when we see Mark blogging about Erica, calling her a bitch and commenting on how she lies about her bra size. This nasty behaviour is a result of his hurt feelings, and when he meets Erica later on, she mentions that things on the internet are written in ink – what is said about a person online doesn’t have to verified before it is passed on, and after a while, that unverified information becomes a fact about you, with no qualms given if it is true or not.
The Social Network is a reflection of what our lives would become as we start to become more consumed with social media. Like Timberlake says at one point, we are now living on the internet. If I go to a party, it needs to be documented, when I meet a new person I look at their social media to get a sense of who they are. Fincher paints the irony of it all, for the man who builds the social network is constantly outside of the social picture, desperate to belong.
At the end of the film, he is alone in the office looking at a picture of Erica Albright on Facebook, refreshing the page to see if his friend request goes through, with The Beatles’ “Baby You’re A Rich Man” in the background. He has all the money and power, but there still isn’t any sense of belonging, which is all he really wanted from the very start. It speaks to why we lurk on social media so much; we just want to be a part of things.
Great films must offer some commentary on society and real life, which Fincher’s film does to perfection, giving us a nuanced look at technology’s influence on our lives and relationships. It is competent on every level, but can we really say it is the best? The Social Network lost to Tom Hooper’s The King Speech at the Oscars that year (oh how Hooper has fallen from grace), which took home four Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Director. I am not saying that The King’s Speech was necessarily the better film or that the Oscars are an accurate gauge of filmmaking excellence, but maybe I am saying that The Social Network may be competent but it isn’t exactly memorable.
We all know The Social Network as the Facebook movie, and Fincher is so restrained in his filmmaking in this one that nothing leaps out. The only scene that comes to mind is the confrontation involving Garfield’s Eduardo Saverin towards the conclusion of the movie. It’s a great scene, so much tension evoked because Saverin’s deposition scene tells us that he is going to be screwed over (handed a death sentence, if we want to be more precise), and it hits hard when we realise his shares in the company have been diluted to almost nothing.
However, does the viewer really care about this loss of friendship, or feel outrage on Saverin’s behalf? Not really. While Garfield does make Saverin likeable, the character didn’t really showcase any strong business decisions, and besides the capital he put up at the start, didn’t do much else to help Facebook grow. Eisenberg’s Mark was never likeable from the start, and are we supposed to feel sorry for him when he’s one of the youngest billionaires in the world? Oh boo hoo, Erica Albright doesn’t like you – grow up.
The King’s Speech has a wonderful leading performance from Firth, it is inspirational and shows us what we are capable of should we put our minds to it. While writing this article, I started watching the scene from the film involving tongue twisters and language exercises, and my husband started giggling beside me, watching the scene unfold, his game forgotten, while he allowed me to rewatch The Social Network without interruption. So I find myself unable to agree with Tarantino on The Social Network being the best film of the decade, because it doesn’t really inspire any strong feelings in the viewer.
A film’s impact lies in its ability to worm its way into our minds and stay there for decades: a montage that finds itself on a never-ending loop, a scene you keep rewatching because you want to relive a glimpse of what you felt when you watched it for the first time. It lies in the chase scenes in Mad Max: Fury Road, the moments on the beach in Dunkirk, that epilogue in La La Land — the list goes on. I think the biggest issue with this claim is that The Social Network wouldn’t even be my choice for the best Fincher film, not when there are films like Fight Club, Zodiac, Se7en and Gone Girl to choose from.
But hey, I’m no Tarantino, so what do I know.
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