Saturday, February 26, 2011
Debris Slide Covers the Oscars
Of all this year's nominees for Best Picture that I've seen, the best is clearly The Social Network. It's also the only one I've seen, but that's neither here nor there. Aaron Sorkin is supposedly the odds-on favorite for Best Adapted Screenplay, but I gotta say, the script wasn't all that great, and Aaron Sorkin is the most overrated screenwriter on the planet.
He's very witty and entertaining; his lines can snap with authority and humor. He's obviously a very bright guy. The problem is that he makes every person talk in exactly the same style, using the same sort of pronunciamentos. He cannot modulate his word choices to reflect the way that different people speak; he cannot use language to denote character. And because he's trying to write the snappiest banter he can think of, it comes out sounding like no human being has ever sounded. The typical Aaron Sorkin scene goes like this:
CHARACTER: Witty declarative statement.
OTHER CHARACTER: Unconnected witty declarative statement.
CHARACTER: Question prompted by nothing in particular?
OTHER CHARACTER: Very witty declarative statement.
It's no coincidence that his projects, like this one set at Harvard or "The West Wing," invariably take place among the best and the brightest. It's impossible to imagine Aaron Sorkin writing for a character who isn't as smart as Aaron Sorkin.
Am I complaining too much? The dialogue is crisp and often laugh-out-loud funny and, thankfully, a lot of it is taken directly from the depositions that occupy much of the film's running time; in those scenes, you can hear people actually communicating with one another. Plus, Jesse Eisenberg deserves some sort of statuette for wrestling a real, well-defined character out of this screenplay. In fact, Sorkin's brilliant but isolated language seems a good fit for the Asperger's-ish Mark Zuckerberg.
One other note: I assumed that Sean Parker, the character played by Justin Timberlake, had to have his name changed for some sort of legal reason, since everybody knows the founder of Napster was really named Shawn Fanning. It turns out that there is a Sean Parker who was involved in Napster and later Facebook; it's a different guy. But in the scene where Parker is introduced, he mentioned that he founded Napster, and the Stanford-panty-wearing girl he's with immediately recognizes him as Sean Parker. Nobody would do that. She would have thought he was Shawn Fanning. I wonder if Aaron Sorkin knows who Shawn Fanning is.