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Social Network, The (Blu-ray Review)

7 Jan, 2011 By: John Latchem

Street 1/11/11
Sony Pictures
Box Office $93.2 million
$28.96 two-DVD set, $34.95 two-disc Blu-ray
Rated ‘PG-13’ for sexual content, drug and alcohol use and language.
Stars Jesse Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield, Justin Timberlake, Armie Hammer, Brenda Song, Rashida Jones.

Between its expanding popularity and founder Mark Zuckerberg’s ascension to Time Magazine’s Person of the Year, it’s hard to deny 2010 was the year of Facebook. So why shouldn’t it have its own movie?

The Social Network combines the talents of two auteurs, though director David Fincher toned down his usual visual flair to accentuate the strengths of the script by Aaron Sorkin, who is likely to take home the best adapted screenplay Oscar.

Sorkin’s writing maintains a brisk pace thanks to an ingenious structure that contrasts a fictionalized Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) creating and growing Facebook.com at Harvard with the depositions for the lawsuits filed years later by a few of the people he may have stepped on along the way in becoming the world’s youngest billionaire.

But The Social Network isn’t really a story about Facebook. This is the tale of one man’s quest to find acceptance in a world that seemingly wants nothing to do with him.

With its character motivations and nonlinear narrative, it would be easy to label The Social Network a Citizen Kane for the digital age. Now, the filmmaking is nowhere near as ground-breaking as what Orson Welles presented 70 years ago, and Kane seems more epic in its details, but both films deal with men who lose something early in the story and spend the rest of the film attempting to change the world to regain it.

And it’s hard to argue Facebook hasn’t changed the world. To put its influence into perspective, one of the crucial scenes of the film concerns a party to celebrate Facebook growing to 1 million users near the end of 2004. Just this past summer, the site passed 500 million.

The story continues to grow beyond the movie. The Winklevoss twins, who claim Zuckerberg stole their idea for a social website, negotiated a $65 million payout but reopened the lawsuit in 2010 claiming Facebook was undervalued at the time of the settlement.

The timing of this home video during the heart of awards season cannot be overlooked, with The Social Network among the frontrunners for the Academy Award for Best Picture.

The DVD and Blu-ray versions consist of two discs, with the film and a pair of insightful commentary tracks on the first disc. Fincher goes solo in one commentary, while Sorkin splits time with the cast on the second. Nobody ever identifies themselves in this one, so you just kind of have to figure out who is speaking based on context (if you don’t recognize their voices).

The second disc contains the various making-of featurettes, headlined by the feature-length documentary How Did They Ever Make a Movie of Facebook? Other featurettes deal with the snappy editing and the distinctive music. There are also some multiscene breakdowns to tutor audiences how a scene is constructed from script to screen.

Judging by the behind-the-scenes material the set was a place of high-energy and creative enlightenment. We learn that Fincher called for 99 takes of the opening scene, and the actors were begging for more. Eisenberg calls making the movie the greatest experience of his professional life. Time will tell if that superlative holds out, but the final product is an undeniable work of art.

Perhaps the best aspect of the Blu-ray is that there are no ads on it. It just loads to the main menu and lets you jump into the film. As Zuckerberg would say, that makes it cool.

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