It’s one conversation in The Social Network before you grasp everything you need to know about this film portrayal of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg). One. It happens before the opening credits roll as he sits in a bar with his soon-to-be ex girlfriend Erica (Rooney Mara), his mannerisms, awkwardness, and general nerdiness all in play. It’s five minutes of screen time.
What else could you ask from a film? Social Network is deep, involving, and brilliantly structured. You see Zuckerberg’s lack of attentiveness as he sits in a room dealing with legal teams, paying more attention to the rain outside the window than a man who could cost him millions. He lacks the social skills necessary to make a name for himself in college, the irony of starting the largest social network on the planet not lost on this latest David Fincher masterpiece.
This is the type of movie that you feel in your gut, knowing that you’re viewing something special. It has little to do with Facebook, your own thoughts on the whole concept, or preconceived notions of Zuckerberg. This is a story, a deeply involving one, that just pulls you into its web of parties, business deals, broken friendships, and lawyers.
More importantly, it doesn’t choose to portray Zuckerberg as anything specific. Is he manipulative? A backstabber? Somewhat lost as to what he’s accomplished? Maybe he knew what he was doing the whole time? Social Network provides the information, doled out by lawyers, defendants, and flawlessly paced exchanges. This is a movie about a website, something as boring as the back-end of what you’re reading now, and it is of the most intense, engrossing, and fascinating stories of this generation.
Facebook, regardless of where you stand on personal privacy and everything the site spawned, changed how we live day-to-day. It wasn’t the result of some multi-national corporations marketing team, but a college sophomore, a brilliant one at that. Social Network is an everyman story, but of an everyman who is unique in his brilliance, and maybe even smarter than he leads on. Those aspects are what Fincher’s film tells, a seemingly ordinary person under the weight of extraordinary circumstances. The end result is a classic for this generation.
Fincher again shoots digitally, as he did with Curious Case of Benjamin Button, and the films are not unlike each other visually. Both are generally dimly lighted, Social Network set within barely lit bars, a dorm with few lighting sources beyond the windows, or a house that equals the dorm in lack of light. It’s ugly, outstandingly ugly in spots, digital the last thing that should be used under these conditions considering how poorly the chosen camera handles low light.
Not surprisingly, the Red One fails to reproduce an adequate level of black, the opening bar so dim and layered in browns that’s the hue the image takes. Other scenes love, even adore oranges, again taking the blacks with them. The blacks don’t have a rich depth or intensity, but a bit of a gloss. Despite a lack of kick from those areas of the screen, they don’t reveal any faults. There is no video noise, compression, or other anomalies to take note of. Credit is in hand to Sony’s AVC encode, holding the necessary bitrate to alleviate any imperfections… almost.
There is a bout of banding to deal with, the first behind the opening credits as Zuckerberg runs around campus, the night sky between buildings harshly resolved. Strong lighting sources elsewhere that spread out in circular patterns leads to many of the same problems, although to a lesser extent and generally in areas of the image that are outside of the focal point. There is also a single instance of a halo creeping into the frame at 19:46 around a lawyer, a fluke more than anything of the digital process.
With such dull lighting, detail is at a premium. At certain points, especially the initial dinner with Sean Parker (Justin Timberlake), black crush dominates. Sean’s suit is completely swallowed by blackness, more of a blob than overcoat. Facial detail, what little of it there is, is routinely unimpressive. Scenes inside the various deliberation rooms as lawyers fight it out are generally smooth and unnatural. The source material lacks definitive texture, so it’s hardly the fault of this encode, just a disappointment.
Those minor, brief scenes where vibrant color is allowed to shine, a rowing competition being one of those exclusive moments, are nicely handled. Primaries dominate naturally, and flesh tones look, well, like flesh tones. The rest of the film they have to hold with the lighting, making that brief moment where they can breathe a bit of a refreshing change of pace.
Regardless of the look of this movie, which is designed specifically to be drab, Sony’s AVC encode is what matters in terms of this disc. It’s fine with the exception of that banding, but it’s such a shame this spectacular movie will forever be locked with a lack of visual superiority. It seems so shortsighted.
There is a club scene at 1:20:30 in The Social Network. It’s worth mentioning because if even for a second you doubted the power of Hollywood’s audio engineers, you lost at this moment. Not only is the echo within the hall utterly convincing, the bass… wow, the bass. It’s much like the movie itself in that it envelopes you and doesn’t let go. An entire conversation is dominated by an assault of some of the cleanest, purest low-end work around produced by the music in the background. Staggering as it may be, not a word is lost through the entire, critical conversation that takes place here.
The rest of the run time follows the same pattern, whereas parties are mixed wonderfully to fill the room and those rear channels of this DTS-HD affair. Even the opening bar scene generates audible atmosphere, spread around generously while a tight, clear center delivers the needed dialogue. It’s a mix that is almost subtle (with that one exception) but is so important to the film, not unlike Fincher’s Seven.
This one is split across two discs, the first housing two commentaries (and BD-Live). The first lets David Fincher go solo, while writer Aaron Sorkin carries the main cast on the second.
Disc 2 is where things become truly awesome, with the 90-minute documentary How Did they Ever Make a Movie About Facebook?. The usual round of behind-the-scenes footage and cast interviews are superb, but so are those little anecdotes about Fincher’s style. An eight minute look on the visual prowess starts off a round of additional featurettes, diving into the digital shoot and the lighting. Post production has its own piece at almost 18-minute long, while the score gets 19-minutes of attention.
In the Hall of the Mountain King lets viewers compare an early version of the score to the completed edition. Swarmatron has Trent Reznor detailing a rather odd instrument used in creating the soundtrack. Ruby Skye VIP Room is a multi-view sequence, looking at the rehearsal up to the finished product either individually or all at once via a split screen.
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