social network

 

One thing that’s great about being retrospective, is that it allows us a chance to let the dust settle. In the moment, a film can feel really edgy…really “cool”… in tune with the moment in a way that few other films are. But that’s the thing about a moment – it’s momentary. When we move from one moment to the next, what seemed to have its finger on the pulse soon finds itself missing a beat.

Time allows us to differentiate, and when it comes to THE SOCIAL NETWORK, time has only pushed this film further and further ahead of its contemporaries.

For starters, it comes with a great deal of immediacy, which is tremendously uncommon in film. Projects take years to get greenlit, and at least another eighteen months to complete. So for a core idea to remain relevant that long is almost impossible. However, when THE SOCIAL NETWORK arrived in 2010, the product our characters were trying to build had already changed the way we live. And yet, the film wasn’t actually “about” that.

The thing is that what has made THE SOCIAL NETWORK such an important film so far this decade isn’t even what it’s about as how it is about it. This film with a very long script is, for the most part, people sitting around in rooms and talking. It could have been the basis of any micro-budget mumblecore film and been delivered with all of the rustic appeal of a film like PRIMER. However, not only does the film put on an absolute clinic in writing, photography, sound, editing, acting, and direction…but it does so damned much of it without ever trying to be showy.

The film’s most elaborate sequence – The Henley Royal Regatta – could easily have been excised if push came to shove. As wonderful a visual metaphor it is for finishing second by “that much”, it’s not necessary in the grand scheme of things.

Just to prove the flashy moments unimportance? It’s not the part of this film that continues to be emulated. How THE SOCIAL NETWORK remains influential is in its pace, its griminess, and its overall tone of antiheroism. However, while these elements would be swirled into THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO, MONEYBALL, and AMERICAN HUSTLE, Hollywood never could quite get lightning to strike twice.

THE SOCIAL NETWORK was edgy…was “cool”…and was of-the-moment. In many ways it feels as though we’re still living in that moment and that this film is emblematic of what our lives continue to be about. But the truth is, the moment is over – and trying to recapture it is probably what has stopped every film since this one from being as razor-sharp as the original.

 

Click below for my original review of THE SOCIAL NETWORK, and feel free to leave comments with your thoughts on this film and its place in the decade so far.

 

TSN copy