Saturday, October 2, 2010

The Social Network and the Olympics

Just got home from a matinee screening of "The Social Network" at Midtown Art Cinema.

"The Social Network" is about the best film I've seen in months, including a thoughtful, compelling and dry humor-packed script, an outstanding soundtrack (thrilled to see Trent Reznor in the opening credits), excellent acting, interesting photography (would love to know how they filmed the rowing competition to make it look like a miniature landscape), a bit of recent history and, of course, an Olympic connection.

Actually, two Olympic connections (or three, if you count each involved Olympian twin once).

Before getting to these five-ringed ties, a bit about the "The Social Network" overall:

I've only been in Boston twice, and on the Harvard campus once, during October in 2003, when and where this film opens. Through some of the opening sequences of Mark Zuckerberg trekking to his dorm after a breakup, the filmmakers really nailed it capturing the Harvard experience of an autumn evening. There's a curious energy -- perhaps from the convergence of intellectuals, money, society, history and creativity -- on the campus and somehow they caught it. Brilliant!

Mark Zuckerberg is portrayed by "Zombieland" and "Adventureland" co-star Jesse Eisenberg, and this role is likely going to go Oscar (I predict a nomination at least). He does a fine job delivering Zuckerberg douche bag one-liners as cool as George Carlin and his matter-of-fact style and timing.

I highly recommend seeing this film.

Much has been made in press and reviews for "The Social Network" regarding the film's dramedy versus factual portrayal of Facebook's early days. In my book, mincing the facts for the sake of a more entertaining story is OK in the movies (provided the mincing is acknowledged). But I did take issue with one of the mini-fictions portrayed in "The Social Network," and this is where the Olympic connections come into the picture.

Two of the main characters in both the true, and faux-non-fiction, stories of Facebook are the twin Olympic rowers for Team USA: Tyler Winklevoss and Cameron Winklevoss.

I must admit, unfortunately, in spite of Olympic writing and travels, today was the first time either of their names came into my world. Apparently they both competed in rowing at the Beijing Olympics (and I even went to the rowing venue in 2008!). One must take for granted that the filmmakers for"The Social Network" took liberties with their portrayal of with Winklevoss twins.

But where the filmmakers crossed the line, or brought even more fiction into the mix, is during a scene of "The Social Network" where the Winklevi (a clever nickname from Zuckerberg) allegedly met Prince Albert of Monaco at a British rowing event.

They got this scene downright wrong on three details (here comes the Nick-nitpicking).

First off, Prince Albert of Monaco does not have a British accent (duh!).

Next, Prince Albert, though articulate, thoughtful and genuine in conversations and public events, could not have stated the script as shown in the film, for Mr. Grimaldi has a very slight stutter (10/3: correction speech impediment*), which is apparent in an interview with the Monégasque IOC member for this blog (here's a link to that interview filmed in Vancouver earlier this year).

Third, I doubt that such an introduction of the Winklevoss brothers would have taken place without some Olympic discussion during the conversation, seeing as the Winklevoss Twins aspired to compete in Beijing and Prince Albert is a five time Olympian.

Did the screenwriters or the actor portraying Prince Albert, James Shanklin, do ANY research of Prince Albert (other than his haircut and suits ... oh, wait, the makeup and costume crews did that research)? It came as no surprise to discover that Shanklin's background includes acting in soap operas and the occasional TV episode. Bravo!

OK, that's all the nitpicking for this post.

Like I wrote, "The Social Network" is excellent and worth the time and ticket price -- and (bonus!) not a single car chase, firearm or 34B breast on screen (though Zuckerberg does reference at least one of these three topics in one of his blog posts at the opening of the film.

Enjoy!
*10/3: Upon reflection since original post, determined he does not really have a stutter, but rather a regular pause during speech.

5 comments:

Rachel said...

I just saw Social Network (twice actually) and Prince Albert doesn't have a British Accent in the movie.

Maybe they read your blog and corrected it? :)

Nicholas Wolaver said...

Thanks, Rachel. I stand corrected. Good catch -- during that one screening, clearly I heard it wrong. Appreciate the comment!

Nicholas Wolaver said...

On Oct. 31, I screened the Prince Albert scene again and my original note in the post is incorrect. The actor did not portray Mr. Grimaldi with a British accent. But about that pause ...

James said...

Thank you Rachel for correcting Mr. Wolaver. My name is James Shanklin and I portrayed Prince Albert in The Social Network. I was online looking at reviews of our film and I stumbled upon Mr. Wolaver's blog/review. I have to say, was quite surprised to read Mr. Wolaver's comments on my performance and my body of work throughout my career to date.
Mr. Wolaver points out his three "details" where we got it "downright wrong".
The first, the non existent "British accent".
The second, Prince Albert's "slight stutter". I did a lot of research on Prince Albert, watching every interview I could find and when I spoke to the director David Fincher and screenwriter Aaron Sorkin about portraying the Prince they did not want any speech impediment because I was not doing an impression of Prince Albert, rather I was playing him as a character in a movie.
The third, the "introduction" or scene with the Winklevoss twins did not include a conversation about the olympics, I would imagine because that was not what the event was about. What was talked about was the Prince's connection to the regatta, which is named after him and his grandfather's connection. I would suggest to Mr. Wolaver that a discussion or even mention of the olympics would be quite out of place.
That only leaves Mr. Wolavers disparaging remarks about my credits. What can I say other than, I suppose a masters degree from the Yale School of Drama, nearly 30 guest star and recurring roles in network television shows and 10 film credits including movies that were #1 in the country does not impress Mr. Wolaver. But that was never my intention. I am simply doing my best to give audiences an honest, thoughtful and hopefully entertaining character in the stories they choose to watch. At the end of the day, I at least know I did my best in an attempt to achieve that.

Nicholas Wolaver said...

James, thank you for your note and the additional detail. With The Social Network finally out on DVD, tonight I was able to view the scenes again and reflect on your comments. Stay tuned for a follow-up post coming soon.

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