Let me begin by saying that this has been one of the strongest years for movies in recent memory. Despite the Academy moving to a watered-down ten Best Picture nominations, most of the movies nominated deserve recognition (I'm still disappointed that Fair Game was overlooked). Having said that, I must say I'm surprised by the accolades bestowed on The Social Network prior to its premiere and more recently in the run-up to award season. Don't get me wrong. It was a very well made movie with a fascinating storyline. I remember eagerly anticipating opening night in Chicago after seeing the brilliant trailer months before. Watching the story of Facebook come to life was like re-experiencing an important part of my life but with a dramatically different lens. While The Social Network was certainly an entertaining movie, there was something missing. It just didn't measure up to the caliber of movie that should win this year's Best Picture. Was I overlooking something that the critics all seemed to praise? I reread the reviews and chalked it up to the fact that these critics were probably middle-aged men who had never experienced Facebook firsthand and found the story even more intriguing and novel.
So when I watched the movie again over the weekend, I took a more critical eye. Was this indeed the best movie of the year? What had been missing during my first viewing? It dawned on me half-way through the movie during a pivotal scene where Sean Parker (played brilliantly by Justin Timberlake) brings Eduardo Saverin up-to-speed on their progress in San Francisco while two nondescript, "wasted" girls wrap themselves around one another and take hits from an eight-foot bong. My eyes rolled at the need to portray women as nothing more than a distraction while the men discussed meaningful business. It almost seemed reminiscent of a Revenge of the Nerds movie rather than a Best Picture nominee. This scene had come on the heels of a previous scene in a club where Parker tells Zuckerberg a great story about the founder of Victoria's Secret while his two female companions can only add "we need shots!" That got me thinking about the role of women throughout the movie. Maybe I'm thinking too much from the perspective of a father with a three-year old daughter, or maybe women didn't factor prominently in the creation of Facebook, but it seemed that the majority of the female characters in this movie served as dim-witted, sexual playthings for the male leads. Two female Facebook groupies have sex in the bathroom with Zuckerberg and Saverin. A woman offers her body for Sean Parker to do a line of cocaine. The camera focuses on a woman's rear (does Stanford really make collegiate panties?) after she has just spent the night with Parker. Saverin's crazed girlfriend tries to light his apartment on fire. The list goes on. By the end of the movie, I couldn't help but feel ashamed. What is this movie saying to all the young women out there with entrepreneurial ambitions or dreams of working in the hi-tech industry? Despite the fifty years since the era of Mad Men, is it still a man's world out there?
Let me be clear. Despite my misgivings, I really enjoyed The Social Network as a great entertainment piece. As a movie buff, however, when I think about Best Picture of the year, I feel the bar has to be raised. Maybe Ben Mezrich's (author of The Accidental Billionaires, upon which this movie is based) penchant for glamorizing the playboy aspect of every storyline had too great of an influence in the filmmaking. Maybe I'm being too critical. And to be fair, my vote for Best Picture, The King's Speech, also seemed flawed in that it created a lot of suspense around a speech which could have easily been delivered by having the king listen to loud music over headphones. Or maybe I missed something there too?