Tuesday, October 05, 2010

The Social Network

Film: The Social Network (2010)
Dir: David Fincher
Rating: ****1/2 out of 5 stars

Ever since it was announced that David Fincher was making The Social Network, there have been skeptics who have basically dubbed it “Facebook: The Movie.” In reality, this is not a film about Facebook. It is a classic story about ambition, jealousy, and regret. The birth of the social networking site may be used as a template to tell this story, but the film’s themes are as old as time itself and will continue to find a captivated audience long after Facebook is forgotten.

In his early years at Harvard University, Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) was already launching networking websites by hacking into school databases. His antics made him so notorious on-campus that he was asked by elite Harvard athletes, the Winklevoss twins, to help with a Harvard-exclusive networking site. Believing he could make something better, Mark creates Facebook instead with help from his best friend, Eduardo (Andrew Garfield).

As the site becomes wildly popular and adds new schools, it draws the attention of Napster founder and playboy, Sean Parker (Justin Timberlake), who encourages Mark to move to California and live the high-life in Silicon Valley. In the process of becoming the world’s youngest billionaire and a geek-chic rockstar, Mark loses a few friends and becomes the target of multiple lawsuits, including one from the Winklevoss twins for intellectual property theft.

The Social Network does not set out to portray an idea-stealing jerk, nor an imperfect genius. The character, much like the truth, falls somewhere in-between. Mark is reminiscent of Charles Foster Kane of Citizen Kane - both ambitious men who seek fame and fortune, but it never makes them happy. Despite all their success, they cannot let go of a single detail from their past. Kane’s hang-up was his lost youth (“Rosebud…”), but for Mark it was a girl – Erica Albright. His drive to succeed is spurred by his attempts to get her back, or by his jealousy of other people who have what he never could. Also like in Kane, the film’s non-linear narrative is divided between young Mark’s rise to success and the lonely man he turns into (as shown during lawsuit depositions).

No doubt many viewers will get hung up on whether or not all the events and conversations in this movie really happened. The truth is, it does not matter – this film works just as well even if it was 100% fictional. Still, screenwriter Aaron Sorkin is very good about being unbiased and not suggesting that anyone is lying or plagiarizing. For instance, the Winklevoss twins could have easily come across as douchey jocks, but the film goes out of its way to defend their honor. Even Mark, for all his flaws, is sympathetic and often regretful of his poor decisions. And even if the real Mark Zuckerberg is nothing like the one portrayed in this movie, so what? Who can fault Sorkin for creating a fascinating character study? A great, fake story beats a crappy, true one any day.

The entire cast of this movie is fantastic. Jesse Eisenberg proves his acting chops as Mark Zuckerberg. Gone is that awkward, funny guy from Zombieland. In addition to his sharp wit and brains, Mark is brutally honest and condescending, and Eisenberg disappears into the role. On the opposite end of the personality spectrum is Mark’s best friend Eduardo, portrayed by Andrew Garfield. After being quite impressed with Garfield’s performance here, I am far less worried about his casting as Spider-Man in the forthcoming reboot.

Armie Hammer is also very good in Social Network, playing both of the identical Winklehoss twins himself. Each of the brothers was so different in personality that you can tell them apart despite their identical faces. Justin Timberlake is pretty good, too, and his Lady MacBeth-esque character is a great aspect of the story.

The soundtrack is another important aspect that makes The Social Network what it is. The music, composed by Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails, is exciting, tense, and haunting in all the right places. Not only does the soundtrack kick ass, but it is very appropriate to have this movie scored by an artist from the same generation as Facebook.

Just like Citizen Kane is still considered one of the greatest films ever made, The Social Network is a movie that transcends the time period in which it was made. The character types and themes are universal, and while Facebook may be an icon of this generation, the movie will always be relevant and engaging.


HitmanDJ said...

Great review, I thought the film was amazing, possibly the best of the year(if I can narrow it down). It's scary how good a film Fincher can make, especially one that originally you just think "a movie about facebook...seriously?!". It's quite an impressive film one that definitely warrants multiple viewings. It is a timeless film that wont be stuck up on pop culture references because it sets itself in just good cinema instead of alienating itself to a certain generation. Even non facebook generation will find the film fascinating. On a quick side note, the real Mark Zuckerberg watched the film and just was quoted as saying "it was fun". Anyway, great review again. Keep it up.

Sean D. said...

I really dig this review, and I especially love the comparisons between Kane and Zuckerberg. I saw the quote from Fincher where he called The Social Network "The Citizen Kane of John Hughes movies." However, I did not put as much thought into that statement as you clearly did here. You're spot on. Nice writing.

The Social Network said...

thanks for the great review. i find this film fascinating! and yeah - the soundtrack totally kick ass! :D