Every scene of David Fincher’s The Social Network is memorable for its own specific reasons. The Larry Summers sequence, for example, contains what I consider to be the best four consecutive minutes of writing that Aaron Sorkin has ever done. It also features Armie Hammer’s best acting in the film, and a delicious cameo from veteran hardass Douglas Urbanski. I’ve commonly regarded that scene as my favorite in the film, but after watching the entire movie last night, I realized that while that sequence contains great writing and strong acting, the Facemash scene is pure fucking cinema at its finest.
After being dumped for being a douche to his girlfriend, Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) goes back to his dorm, opens up his LiveJournal blog, grabs a Brand X beer from the fridge, and gets to work. (Side note: It always baffles me when a studio as large as Columbia, and a director as revered as David Fincher, resorts to using nameless product brands in films. The way this beer is “used” in The Social Network is perfectly legal. What would the brand’s lawsuit stipulate, anyway? That their brand was defamed because the film showed that underage college kids drink their beer?).
Mark’s roommate, Billy, comes home and gives Mark the idea of putting pictures of their dormmates next to farm animals, and have people vote on who’s hotter. Notice the ingenious sound design of his brief exchange. A weaker director would have Billy’s voice take over the soundtrack so that he could clearly describe his idea. Instead, we stay in Mark’s head, with Billy audibly drowned out by Mark’s own thought process (via Eisenberg’s narration).
Then... yeah, it’s on. The movie cuts to my favorite cue from Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross’ Oscar-winning score, bumping the opening bars of “In Motion” while panning down the aisle of a bus. A bus filled with girls drunk and stoned, made-up and eager. What follows is one of the best, most exciting montages I’ve ever seen.
Now, perhaps the most obvious pleasure of this sequence is how Fincher, Sorkin, Eisenberg and editors Kirk Baxter and Angus Wall (who also won Oscars for their work here) are able to make a hacking session so goddamn entertaining. I don’t have the slightest clue what Mark is talking about during this sequence, but I always watch in transfixed amazement. Again, this is pure cinema.
The sequence goes on for minutes, eventually changing tracks and introducing a new key player, Eduardo Saverin (Andrew Garfield), who gives Mark the algorithm that allows Facemash to function properly. The montage kicks back in: cutting between the sloppy party, to Harvard students using Facemash, to Mark and Co. watching the Facemash traffic in real time.
|By far my favorite shot from this sequence - the lighting, the way the girl timidly covers herself. It’s perfect.|
Me? Hell, I don’t have an answer, and I’m not sure Fincher does either. He just has a lens. Which is entirely the point.