It’s probably not fair to compare the two, but as historical dramas go, David Fincher’s The Social Network (2010) is the spiritual and political antithesis of Made In Dagenham. One follows a group of downtrodden, taken-for-granted female workers as they campaign against institutional inequality to secure a decent wage for their sisters all across the country… while the other follows a handful of privileged young men getting mind-bogglingly rich off a shiny new website called “The Facebook”. Obviously I don’t begrudge the real-life “Accidental Billionaires” their riches – oh, okay, maybe I do a little bit – but my point is that it’s a lot harder to care about their elite legal disputes, than it was to rally behind the Dagenham picketers. It’s also a lot harder to understand those disputes, considering the breakneck speed of the dialogue, and the zig-zaggy way in which the story is told. I won’t deny that it makes for a dazzling movie… but it’s a cinematic achievement that’s easier to admire, than it is to love.
I guess the same could be said of “The Mark Zuckerberg Character” (TMZC), as Fincher carefully describes him in the commentary… I think Jesse Eisenberg is fantastic in the role, but I can’t help wondering how I’d feel about someone taking some of the stupid/dickish things I said and did in my student days and dramatizing them for a big-budget motion picture, without my consent. I wouldn’t say it’s “immoral”, as such… but it does seem rather unseemly. On the other hand, Zuckerberg is a billionaire now, so I’m sure he could afford to finance his own feature-length rebuttal if he wanted to… or even do a tit-for-tat hatchet job on Fincher and screenwriter Aaron Sorkin, since neither one of them are saints, with skeleton-free closets, right? As a firm believer in Affirmative Action, I also have an issue with the decision to cast Max Minghella, a non-Desi actor, in the role of prominent Indian fella, Divya Narendra. On the commentary track, Fincher claims that he couldn’t find an Indian actor who exuded the “smooth” charisma of the real-life Narendra… but since the character spends most of his time testily complaining, I’m not really sure why that was considered more important than racial representation. And as for the gender politics… oy! Since the major players in this tale of boardroom/back-room manoeuvring were in fact male, there isn’t a lot for the overly-qualified female cast members to do but play peripheral (often perfunctory and demeaning) supporting roles.
First up was Rooney Mara as ‘Erica Albright’, the put-upon girlfriend of TMZC, who dumps his condescending ass in the opening scene, inadvertently setting him on a path to fame and fortune. Next up is Rashida Jones as ‘Marylin Delpy’, a junior lawyer on TMZC’s defence team, who lends him a sympathetic ear. Then there’s Malese Jow as ‘Alice Cantwel’, and Brenda Song as ‘Christy Ling’, two flirty Asian students who have the hots for TMZC and his friend The Eduardo Saverin Character (Andrew Garfield). Then there’s Dakota Johnson as ‘Amelia Ritter’, a random Stanford student who beds The Sean Parker Character (Justin Timberlake), without ever asking his name, apparently.* And finally there’s Shelby Young as ‘K.C.’, the girl with the laptop who first informs The Divya Narendra Character that TMZC has launched his contentious site! To Fincher’s credit, he does call his actresses out for individual praise, and is especially complimentary of Song, who bowled him over with the intensity of her performance and her commitment.
* The first (and only) season of Johnson’s sitcom, Ben & Kate, just finished airing over here in the UK, and I meant to write about it but couldn’t think of anything to say… it definitely had some amusing moments, and a top-notch cast, but overall the comedy was a bit too soft and squishy for me. And somehow I totally failed to recognise Johnson here, with slightly darker hair and no fringe. Tch!