First in a series of occasional contrarian rants against prevailing critical tides.
The Social Network
The new movie sensation about the barely post-pubescent billionaire founder of Facebook is a solid-gold hit.
Frankly, I think it Zucks.
This is a movie about the need for linking up, keeping in touch with your past. A movie about how this vital need generates billions of dollars in an eyeblink. And yet the main character has no past. This Lost Boy is without origin. He comes from nowhere.
Harvard is famous as a place that knows its bloodlines. What are Zuck's bloodlines? Has he even got a circulatory system?
When we learn that Harvard is going on break, where does Mark go? Does he go home? What home? Where? Remind us.
When Zuck is given six months academic probation, there's no reaction from his parents. And no anxiety from Mark. No, "Oh, Jeez, what are my mom and pop gonna say?" None of his roommates speculate: "Your parents must be totally freaked out!"
When Zuck is being sued for millions? Still no parental reaction.
No parental reaction ever. Surely the whole Zuckerberg family, Mark's siblings will show up for the Million Member Bash. Siblings? Nope.
The one truly engaging question in the movie: Who has programmed Mark Zuckerberg? Alas, we never find out.
Who's Zuckerberg's daddy? Aaron Sorkin is his daddy. Or, rather, wishes to God he was.
Sure, the reason there are no Mr. and Mrs. Zucker is that the real ones are not public figures (at least not yet) and therefore the film company's legal department banned portraying them. Okay. But, you know, if you didn't manage to get permission to shoot the sky over Harvard Yard would you just leave a blank where the sky was supposed to be?
A capable screenwriter takes the logistical restraints inherent in the source material and finds a way to build them into a strong, cohesive narrative. ZUCK might have deliberately written his parents and his childhood out of his personal history. He may have compelling cause. That would tell us something important about him. But no. Zuck's history starts with the opening credit roll.
So the legal department says no sibs, no parents, and Aaron whines back, so what do I put in the film to create tension? And the department's lead lawyer jumps up and yells, "I know! Arbitration courtroom scenes!"
If the Zucker's story were told linearly, we'd all be stupefied by a concatenation of banalities.
The arbitration scenes are dramatic lifesavers tossed into the churning ocean of Prosaica to periodically give us something to grab onto. They're not story, they're artificial boredom blockers.
After each of these courtroom interludes we think, Yeah, so? Reprise follows reprise. But in a courtroom! Ooooh, we're in a courtroom so now it must all matter. To someone. It's called goosing up interest beyond the substance of the narrative.
The arbitration scenes are pretty much interchangeable. Not only in this movie, interchangeable with any arbitration scene in any movie. It's an arbitration scene. They used to involve stiff CEOs facing down scruffy blue collar union leaders. Here the arbitration scene is an endless quibble among the rich. Ten, twelve scenes in an arbitration room? Chewing up a fifth of the narrative? It's almost enough to make one nostalgic for the dorm room scenes.
The Hottie Twins
Speaking of screen-time gobblers, what about the Hottie Twins? You know, Laurel and Hardy Go to Harvard. "Damn it, he's done it again, Winkie!" How many scenes are there with the twits, er twins? Six, seven? How much of the film? Another fifteen, twenty percent of the flick down the gullet. They're like a sequel within a movie. They are so achingly predictable, we could easily see half of them.
Best thing about the twins, their name. The Winklevoss Twins. The old saw is right. You cannot make this stuff up. Or, at least, Aaron Sorkin can't make this stuff up.
Remind us, why are we in Henley again? Is this My Fair Lady?
Oh, right, to meet the twits' father. Right, there is a father in this movie. Problem is he's the wrong father. We already know the feckless twits are carbon copies of Pop Winklevoss. Who is himself a twit off the old block. Maybe they're really triplets? Or clones from Harvard's Stem Cell Research Lab?
But say, the cinematographer did a swell job in Henley. Beautifully shot, sir.
Zuckerberg's Blindspot -- Sean Parker
Mark Zuckerberg is creepily omniscient, sees through everyone, around every logistical mountain but he has a blindspot the size of his ego -- to wit, Mr. Sean Parker.
Mr. Parker manages to con the unconnable kid. The Zucker doesn't think it's odd that Napster Man's girlfriend lives just across the street from Facebook's new digs in Palo Alto. Doesn't think it peculiar that a man who routinely picks up G-note checks at every club is homeless. Doesn't flinch at the notion that this homeless dude nonetheless has every venture capitalist in Silicon Valley on his speed dial. Doesn't think it just a little strange that this wunderkind trades in a girlfriend per week.
Every two-bit fortune teller is smart enough to suss out what his Mark is really after. That's the whole basis of the con.
The Zucker's real amigo, good old college chum, Eduardo unwittingly sets up the con when he innocently asks Napster Man: "Mark doesn't want to advertise and I do, what do you think?" Now with whom is Parker gonna agree? Will he agree with the seventy percent owner founder of the company whom he's come to bedazzle? Or will he side with Eduardo Sancho Panza?
Sean takes over the Zucker the same way Nigerians take over your laptop from some seedy internet cafe in downtown Lagos. Now if Zucker, the most super circumspect fellow in the movie, resisted the Napster's takeover even a tiny weensy bit, there might be a tiny candle watt of dramatic energy generated. But is there any resistance? Of course not!
Erika & Rosebud
In Citizen Kane, Rosebud contains a reservoir of true sentiment. It represents all the innocence that's been forsaken.
But the Zucker never had anything to lose. His longing for Erika may have some basis, but what would that be? If he yearned for fidelity, hasn't he had his chance to demonstrate fidelity to his pal, Eduardo? Isn't Eduardo a perfectly good example of the wholesomeness, the dogged integrity the Zucker wants to find in Erika? And what does he do with his chance at real friendship? He crumples it up like a used hot dog wrapper.
Face it, Bookies, the Zucker's obsession with Erika is a morbid fascination with what he can't have. And whose overarching character trait does this remind us of? Yup the Winkel Bosses--the boys, Zucker can't stand.
From the Zuck's point of view, Eduardo has never been a friend. Succubus maybe. Mark zucks the founding algorithm out of Eduardo, he zucks the founding cash, he zucks the founding rolodex for Facebook out of Eduardo. Eduoardo is Zucker's friend in the sense that a vampire finds friends at midnight.
"You are not an Asshole"
This immortal line had to be plugged into the screenplay when the filmmakers realized their protagonist was an unredeemable asshole.
It is spoken by a young female junior associate on Zuck's legal team. She tells us she's the new jury analyst for the firm. But don't let her fool you. She's the jury analyst for the film's producers. Who's the jury in a multizillion dollar Hollywood feature? The audience!
Nobody in the film, not one character in the film would dispute that the Zucker is a first-class cow patty, so what can they do?
If anyone in history can afford a simpatico claque, this guy is it! Like the hooker who tells you your wife must be a bitch because you're such a swell guy.
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