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Katharine, Jesse and Screwball Comedy in THE SOCIAL NETWORK

I have a friend and colleague here at Ohio University who stopped me in the hall last week: “THE SOCIAL NETWORK…?” — I had just seen it — “a Screwball Comedy without the comedy.” That makes it just screwball, right? I’d agree. I cannot wrap my mind around what the freaking bubble-dy blitz is all about. According to my colleague, Professor Louis-Georges Schwartz, Film Studies, Jesse Eisenberg stands in nicely for Katherine Hepburn, who is typically read as male in classic Screwball construction, only to be rightly feminized by such a film’s conclusion. Jesse as Katharine? Feminized from the start, Justin Timberlake’s bitch by the middle, his own version of the lonely and heart broken pimp by the end (read business card, “I’m CEO … bitch!”), Jessie certainly has the same Hepburn-esque wise-cracking snaps firing from his mouth, rat-tat-tat-tat-tat.

Is Sorkin trying to channel Hawks or Capra? If he is, it’s failing. Sorkin did his best work for the screen in SPORTS NIGHT, the amazing half hour sports news show comedy starring Felicity Huffman, Josh Charles and Peter Krauss. That show’s meaningful wit – meaning, one often found oneself in tears – resonated with character, the political context of sports, and the theatre of the workplace. Here, Sorkin blows dialogue into the air and bats it around like a juggler on speed … and that’s what it feels like, because the words don’t have impact. They simply ping around (ping me!) aimlessly, and as another friend pointed out, the effect is well, it’s boring. Katharine never was.

View the trailers – SOCIAL NETWORK & ADAM’S RIB & BRINGING UP BABY for good measure.

–AH