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This Week On DVD: 'The Social Network' Both Likes And Pokes Itself

The Social Network arrives on DVD this week. i i
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
The Social Network arrives on DVD this week.
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

The Social Network, rapidly piling up awards and headed for Oscar season, is out on DVD and Blu-ray this week. As you would expect, it's positively packed with extras. As a matter of fact, it has what you might consider the ultimate extra: a feature-length documentary about its own making.

There's something particularly audacious, or perhaps cocky, or perhaps irritating, or perhaps generous, about offering people who enjoyed a movie the opportunity to watch a feature-length documentary about it. In the case of The Social Network, there are certainly parts of the documentary, called How Did They Ever Make A Movie Of Facebook?, that are worthy of your time.

In particular, the examination of exactly how digital face replacement tore away the face of actor Josh Pence and replaced it with the face of Armie Hammer so that Hammer seemed to be playing both of the Winklevoss twins makes for a very good story, not just about filmmaking, but about people. Pence was there for all the scenes with Hammer when the twins were together; it's his body, it's his body language, and it's absolutely his performance in part. The actors clearly collaborated on the creation of both characters and the relationship between them — and then everything that identified Pence was eliminated. Pence's explanation of how he felt about deciding to take on this bizarre great opportunity/utter nightmare scenario is fascinating, as is a strange little interview soundbite from star Jesse Eisenberg, who seems to be exactly 50 percent serious when he shrugs that he doesn't feel bad for Pence, who's so good looking that he doesn't deserve sympathy over being cut from the movie.

It's also fun to see screenwriter Aaron Sorkin calmly acknowledge that he is good with dialogue and terrible with plot. A welcome moment of humility, that.

Other parts, though, lag. Wardrobe tests shot like a music video without discussion or context? Not needed. Footage of rehearsals where the acoustics in the room are so echoing and awful that you often can't make out what's being said in what are presented as deep discussions about characters? Not needed. (Or needed, but with better sound.) (Although the rehearsal footage does present another opportunity to see Justin Timberlake in his NPR shirt.) This release probably would have worked perfectly fine accompanied by a series of featurettes, like the ones with which most other films get by, rather than biting off the idea of a 90-minute documentary.

There are other extras, too — on the visuals, on the editing, on the score, and on that scene at the club with Eisenberg and Timberlake. You'll learn in that last one how they went about intentionally creating a sound mix so bad that when I saw the film with a friend who works on the radio side of NPR, she was so horrified by it that it distracted her from, I think, the whole movie.

Overall, a very solid release, and absolute candy for anyone who's interested in David Fincher and his process (which here includes a gazillion takes of everything, facilitated by shooting on digital). It's quite reasonably priced — you can find it online on sale for under $15 on DVD and under $20 on Blu-ray at the moment. You may get a little more behind-the-scenes than you need, but you certainly won't get less than you expect.

Other releases this week include (but are not limited to):

  • Piranha (known in theaters as Piranha 3D), which delighted a surprising number of people I know;
  • Raging Bull: The 30th Anniversary Edition, a Blu-ray release;
  • Louis C.K.: Hilarious, a performance by the star of one of the best-regarded new TV shows of 2010; and
  • The first season of Hot In Cleveland, which is a must-have for Betty White completists, I suppose.

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