Near the beginning of the third act of The Social Network, there is a scene with rowboats. Two boats race on the River Thames, powered by sixteen rowers working in furious physical harmony and one-mindedness. Not a word is uttered, and the faster and stronger teams wins. Set against a stygian, DOSy reworking of “In The Hall of the Mountain King,” the sequence is an anomaly in the film. It’s the equivalent of a hurricane’s eye, a pause before the established, spastic surreality returns. On a utilitarian level, the scene presents the audience with a reprieve, a momentary escape from the onslaught of existential tech-mire, from a world where discord marks every interaction, and words are wielded like battering rams, and a close-the-beach-undertow of subtext yanks the characters this way and that and back again. With a movie so concerned with competition and one-upmanship, this is the singular instance of a definitive winner being crowned. Above all, the scene is very clean. Everything else is a brilliant fucking mess.
In the current filmic atmosphere of CG superficiality and audience pandering (Avatard and the dementedly pedantic first nine hours of Inception come to mind), The Social Network is a paradoxical consolation. Admittedly, the film is on adderall; conversations are highfalutin and digressional and play out at a constant 160 BPM. The narrative structure pole-vaults blindly across chronology. There is a fifteen-minute section of Jesse Eisenberg blogging. Thankfully, the movie never apologizes for any of this. It doesn’t oversimplify. It gives its audience credit. It pluralizes Winklevoss and doesn’t have Rashida Jones explain how adding an i to some words make them word mean more than one of them word. Interestingly, the computers that play such a pivotal role in the movie find almost no implementation in the film’s production. Sans any set pieces or overt action or RPGs, the movie manages to captivate, to provide relief through complexity, verbosity, the refusal to slow down.
Few reviewers have commented on the role of women in the film, which is strange as it figures heavily into the film’s circularity. The opening conversation between Mark and Erica ends with the assailed girl’s denunciation of Mark’s assholery. Meaning, she states that Mark is an asshole. The audience understands, sympathizes with her. Erica is humanized and complicated in her trying. From here on though, discounting Stanford Bootyshorts and Erica’s reappearance later in the movie, women are depicted as dimwits. They are objectified at the Final Club party, on Facemash. Eduardo’s girlfriend is introduced as a fellating sycophant who devolves into a compulsive texter with a taste for silk scarf auto-de-fes. Women do little but get drunk and high and follow JT around to-presumably-dry hump him. This is fitting for a movie that confronts objectification and misogyny and the 2Ding of women head-on, but this is all at the service of the film entire (Reminder: all of the aforementioned is backdropped against an overabundance of male jealousy, chauvinism, vice, avarice, and all-around douchery). In the final scene, Rashida Jones comforts Mark, demonstrates her wherewithal and intelligence. She is humanized and complicated in her trying. Then, definitively, she states that Mark is not an asshole, and full circle everything does come.
Like all things redoubtable, the movie isn’t perfect. Eduardo is essentially a type of oil-futures angel. Following the boat race, there is a cringeably artificial insertion of the character Duke Ex Machina from England, who over jackhammers the motivation of the Winklevi into the unsuspecting concrete of the audience. The song at the end is ill-advised. But these faults are confoundingly negligible. Fincher directs at a preposterous level (see the scene after Duke Ex Machina where the Winklegrouch and Devendra Banhart nerdishly celebrate the decision to sue Zuckerberg, or the table’s reactions to the It’s Raining Outside monologue, or 15-minute blog sequence again). Aaron Sorkin will have to dodge the awards flung at his twitchy, coked-out skull. The Trent Reznor score is drone-perfect.
The Social Network is a testament to how true talent and intelligence can craft even the most banal and esoteric subject matters into a true entertainment. Many scoffed at the idea of The Facebook Movie. Few should be left scoffing. Through all the words and analysis and intricacies, one plain, simple truth emerges: The winner is you (the viewer)! Fuck Shakespeare In Love.
Strawberry Verdict: 4.75 Strawberries out of 5