A networking ‘phenom’ – A good friend of mine when discussing this film asked me, “What would we do without computers? And furthermore, had Bill Gates not formed Microsoft way back in 1975, would we even be talking about this film based on another young entrepreneur, in Mark Zuckerberg?” Tough questions to answer, which is why I deferred; but considering how and where you are reading this review, it makes for some good food for thought. Reality is, both Gates and Zuckerman each took a concept, made it better and as a result, created products that virtually no one can live without which is why a story about either one of them makes for some quality entertainment on the big screen.
What’s it about? Adapted from Ben Mezrich’s nonfiction book The Accidental Billionaires, this story all centers on Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg), a young Harvard student who after a unlikely breakup with his girlfriend and one too many beers, decides to create a program that will rate female Harvard undergrad’s. At the time, Harvard had yet to inhabit a central database with student pictures and names, so Mark naturally hacked into ‘other” databases to pull in this crucial information for his site, dubbed ‘Face Mash.’ Shortly after completion, the site was live and within a few hours was crashing the Harvard web servers, indirectly creating some viable “cred” for Mark and his co-conspirators. Next thing he knew, he was being recruited by the well-connected Winklevoss brothers (Armie Hammer) to help them create a site dubbed ‘ConnectU.’
It was then, ideas started to float freely for Mark, who approached his best friend Eduardo (Andrew Garfield) with his idea known as “The Facebook,” an exclusive networking database for Harvard students. After a shot start-up fee of $1,000, which Eduardo provided, the two launched the site and the rest, they say, is history. Or at least they thought it was, until allegations from the Winklevoss brother’s accusing Mark of stealing their idea surfaced creating a world of trouble for everyone involved. But, as we later find out, that was just the beginning to the madness that would ensue for Mark, as his once “untouchable” company was being tested to limits he never thought were possible until they were staring him right in the face.
Who was in it? Any cast where the most recognizable face is Justin Timberlake can’t be one worth a whole lot, right? How could it be, but the longer you watch this cast work under the careful direction of David Fincher, you start to realize they might just be the next “up and comer’s” Hollywood has to offer. Timberlake, of course, is no stranger to acting having already appeared in films like “Alpha Dog” and “Black Snake Moon.” But, what I liked with his role here was how he immediately energized the story and cast with his role as Napster founder Sean Parker. JT clearly has talent and this role seemed to fit him to a ‘T’ that you couldn’t help but get caught up in everything he was able to do with the limited screen time.
As for the rest of this young cast, I was amazed in what Fincher was able to do as I believed each and every role played out by Brenda Song, Rooney Mara, Max Minghella, Andrew Garfield and Armie Hammer who essentially played two roles as the Winklevoss twins. But, where this cast shined was with any moment supporting Jesse Eisenberg, who couldn’t had been any better as Mark Zuckerberg. In fact, I was often left wanting more of Eisenberg and all the intricate details he was able to master as the famed Facebook creator. Each snarky comment or educated response by Eisenberg pulled you into the mind of his character as the more you watched, the more you became impressed in what the young New Jersey native was able to do. And that’s not really knowing who the “real” Mark Zuckerberg is all about; so how close this resembled the often misunderstood entrepreneur, I’ll never know, but who cares when Eisenberg (Adventureland, Zombieland) entertains you like he does so well here.
Unheralded storytelling – One common theme overtakes this cast when asked about the experience making “The Social Network.” And no, it’s not working with JT, even though I’m confident much of this cast are fans of the iconic pop star turned actor. Believe it or not, what helped this cast shine was the guidance of their director David Fincher, who truly made all this possible using the well-penned script by Aaron Sorkin. Known for his extreme angles and often laid back approach, Fincher has this ability to draw the audience into the most inopportune moments within a story. Maybe it’s his heritage as a music video director that helps everything seem so easy and fun to watch, as the same could have been said for his last film “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” which wound up being nominated for Best Picture.
And while this film doesn’t scream “Oscar,” I wouldn’t be surprised if it found its way onto a few ballots, as any story on or around something as popular as Facebook might get recognized when it’s all said and done. That’s despite Mark Zuckerberg’s initial negative comments regarding the film, stating “I just wished nobody made a movie of me while I was still alive.” So, while I can empathize with Zuckerberg on that front, knowing what a phenomenon this story truly is erases any possible ‘smear campaign’ that might follow it. Reality is, Zuckerberg is worth around $4 billion and is widely known as the youngest billionaire, so any story that surrounds something as amazing as that is not only entertaining, but something frankly everyone should see.
Bottom Line – A lot will be said about “The Social Network” and how it may or may not be the “true” story, but with any film based loosely around an influence like Zuckerberg, that will always be the case. Truth is, with the help of a crafty soundtrack by ‘Nine Inch Nails’ frontman Trent Reznor, this film flat entertains from start to finish answering a lot of questions so many of us has had about how such an addicting program like Facebook was derived.
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