The Social Network | Drama | rated PG-13 (A,L) | starring Jesse Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield, Justin Timberlake, Rooney Mara | written by Aaron Sorkin | directed by David Fincher | 2:00 hrs
Having just been dumped by his girlfriend, genius, but robotically cold college sophomore Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) sits down and writes a program that crashes the Harvard servers at 4 in the morning. Now with the attention of a fraternity, he is asked to set up a Harvard exclusive dating site, which gives him the idea of a social networking site for all students. “The Facebook” soon becomes a huge hit on campus prompting charges from the fraternity’s Winklevoss twins that he stole the idea from them, the interest of Napster creator Sean Parker (Justin Timberlake) and a falling out between Zuckerberg and his only investor Edwardo Saverin (Andrew Garfield).
When David Fincher makes a movie it’s always cause for a cinemaphile celebration. After the misstep of the Oscar-bait The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Fincher returns to his trademark dark, brash, Trent Reznor (who returns to score) form with The Social Network. If you were afraid “the Facebook movie” would be as lame as – or a promotion of – the website itself, let me quell your fears. No pokes, Likes or Farmville here. Taken from the book “The Accidental Billionaires” Fincher and pro writer Aaron Sorkin craft this tale as a slash-and-burn character study of jealousy, backstabbing, social retardation and greed without any regard for making Zuckerberg a “hero” and set it against the white and blue backdrop of Facebook as the next big thing on the horizon of this still-relatively-new world of internet commerce where nobody quite knows what will happen next, followers are gained by the second and your creation can take on a life of it’s own.
Social Network is a fascinating story, expertly told and intelligently written. Not only is Sorkin’s dialog is as whip smart as ever but he manages to tap into the psychology behind online socializing – starting from the point that Facebook was Zuckerberg’s attempt to put the college experience online. The movie takes a piece of very recent history (2006, 4 years ago!) and, instead of opportunism, uses it as a parable for the internet generation. With Sorkin and Fincher at the helm, Social is the exact opposite of every Hollywood based-on-a-true story movie where a guy has an idea and gets cheated out of it and must fight Big, Evil Corporation X for it. For example, see Flash of Genius where Greg Kinnear’s battle with GE over the patent of the intermittent windshield wiper is ridiculously pitched as a triumphant David and Goliath story. Social is a quintessentially internet story and a sign of the times. In it, it’s the creative guy who takes off and becomes a success while the business guy gets left behind. Something unheard of in the past amid the usual tales of creative guy getting squeezed out as business guy takes over, distorts idea and screws him over. It’s a testament to the wild west frontier of the internet where imagination rises to the top.
Fincher continues to live up to his stated mantra of making movies that will be around in 10 years, with Social capturing this period in a bottle for the future. As with Zodiac and Seven, Fincher excels at making the procedural elements compelling. Montages or little things that add texture to the movie’s universe, things that another movie would just cut out entirely, are turned into visual works of art. Fincher makes watching Zuckerberg feverishly write code or the Winklevoss’ in a rowing race arresting.
All of the performances are top of the line, but Jesse Eisenberg (Zombieland, Adventureland) was born to play this role. He swills Sorkin’s trademark dialog around in his mouth and spits it out with the machine gun intensity it was intended for. His portrayal is of a man who is a genius and knows it. He has no patience for those beneath him (and everyone is), no compassion, it’s either get on the Mark Zuckerberg train or get left behind. But it isn’t that he’s bad. He comes off as just so socially awkward that when it comes around to choosing between good and bad it’s just too personally exhausting and not very rewarding to choose the good. Eisenberg plays it all unspoken, the script cleverly planted with lies characters tell each other and themselves.
Sorkin populates the story with a fully rounded cast of characters (down to Edwardo’s girlfriend) that gets the blood pumping through it’s veins. Then he has them bounce off of each other. You feel for Zuckerberg’s righteous indignation at being sued, but you also feel for Saverin who may have been cheated out of his investment. Every angle is fully developed. The Social Network is an invigorating adaptation of a fascinating real life story that throws off the conventions of the “Based on a True Story” movie. Nobody is a hero in it. It’s bigger than Facebook. It’s about all of us and it’s brimming with ideas.
No. One of the best movies of the year.