The Social Network ★★★★★

The tension here not only between Fincher's direction and Sorkin's script but Sorkin's own internal war between his worship of institutions and Great Men and his disdain for everything Zuckerberg represents produces a film that reckons with technocracy as the new empire. For something that came out well before the truly dire potential of Facebook manifested itself, The Social Network is surprisingly far-seeing, extrapolating a horror show from a site founded by an unfeeling, envious nerd with a superiority complex, tacitly identifying in Zuckerberg's willingness to cheat and steal from rivals and friends alike the seeds for an entire outlook that would see Facebook eventually steal everyone's ad revenue and sell metadata, not to mention the capacity of social networking to scramble everyone's relationship to the world and remake socializing in the image of an antisocial sociopath. Fincher's gliding shots over Harvard's campus take on a Visconti vibe as he surveys one of the old markers of power and status as it is rendered irrelevant by sharks like Zuck and Sean Parker, who recognize they can ascend the ladder not by kowtowing to society's betters but completely reorienting society itself.

It is hard to ignore how, in classic Sorkin fashion, the film can open with a woman righteously shutting down Mark for being exactly the megalomaniacal misogynist that he is only for every subsequent female character to be some combination of starstruck groupie, total klutz or clingy psycho, but for once this is at least somewhat balanced by Sorkin's jaundiced view of the new masters of society who are all emotionally stunted, greedy monsters. Even Eduardo doesn't get out of this clean, coming across as naive and so interested in his own bottom line that he doesn't realize he's been cheated until it's too late. Fincher's love of shadows and sickly color grading are oddly perfect for the seemingly low stakes of the film, capturing the shut-in, wired-in focus of these programmers and pushing stereotypes of basement dwelling nerds into unsettling visual language. The final scene, of Mark dead-eyed refreshing his feed to see if Erica will accept his friend request on the world-changing site he developed in part out of resentment for her criticism of him is so much more unnerving in 2020 than it was in 2010, not a cry for help but a harbinger of a completely broken relationship to other people that has become the norm.

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