Review: The Social Network

You’d be hard-pressed to think of a film concept  more socially relevant and relatable to 500 million people than a movie about the origins of Facebook. “The Social Network,” however is not some insouciant attempt to capitalize on the world’s most popular social networking site for revenue purposes. It is a loaded drama that unlike most based-on-true stories, is a bit unforgiving of its “protagonist” (or anyone else for that matter) and unafraid to handle the unflattering side of human nature. Check the idea of this being a “Facebook movie” aside; this is the story of what can happen in today’s age when an arguably stolen idea can be born at a frat party and turn into a $25-billion-dollar property in fewer than 10 years.

We learn right away that our quick-tongued smart-allick main character, Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg), is “special.” After the opening scene finds him dumped by his girlfriend (Rooney Mara) for obsessing over winning social approval from the elite Harvard clubs and insulting her in the process, he goes back to his dorm, pounds a few beers and writes a website code for evaluating the comparative hotness of Harvard girls using the his best friend Eduardo Saverin’s (Andrew Garfield) algorithm and pictures he hacked off the women’s clubs’ sites. We’re then overwhelmed with techno-babble in this early scene that one can’t help but realize not just anybody could’ve created Facebook.

Although we’re certainly not asked to like Zuckerberg, we never find him so deplorable that the film becomes intolerable. The first of many contentious actions in the story involves Zuckerberg using the idea of Harvard boys Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss as the springboard for creating Facebook. With the excitement of watching Facebook unfurl also comes the web of deceit. The script doesn’t give Eisenberg many redeeming moments to work with, but the humanity comes through just as much as the jerky characterization in his performance.

It doesn’t take very long to get hooked into “The Social Network.” The pacing of David Fincher’s film is exquisite; the scenes are meticulously calculated and never let up on drama or intrigue with the lone exception being an overextended rowing scene/analogy toward the end. But the highlight is certainly “The West Wing” creator Aaron Sorkin’s script: sharp, intelligent, thought-provoking and seamlessly telling two narratives at once as the film jumps between the story of Facebook’s creation and the “present day” civil suits filed by Eduardo and the Winklevosses, separately. Throw Trent Reznor’s cool mood-generating electronic score underneath and you have one of the better produced films in a while. “The Social Network” certainly has a share of live horses in the Oscar race.

Anchoring it all are these young, blossoming actors. Fincher has a reputation for bringing along remarkable talents (just look at what he did with Brad Pitt) and Eisenberg and Garfield might be two of the best in their generation. Eisenberg will shed the Michael Cera comparisons with this performance, but Garfield (future Spider-Man) really impresses. It’s possibly because his character earns the most sympathy, but his confrontation scene with Mark is powerful. If the best actor categories weren’t such gentleman’s clubs, these two would certainly be there.

The strength of “The Social Network” lies in the ability to show the flaws in every character and to make us realize that in the shoes of Mark and Eduardo, we would have made just as many mistakes. When Justin Timberlake’s character Sean (creator of Napster) enters the picture and starts trying to sell the boys on becoming billionaires, we begin to see how unforgiving the business world can be. Mark might have done some questionable things, but he kept himself afloat. Eduardo might have been cautious and pragmatic, but he got lost in the shuffle.

So “The Social Network” is not “the film that defines our times.” It’s not about social networking, but a story of ambition and dreaming big and the harsh realities of the business world. That’s a timeless motif, not a modern one. Sure, there are plenty of nuggets for those “fans of Facebook” who will enjoy the moment when Mark realizes to put relationship status on the site or when the Facebook wall is referenced, but that merely dresses the film up as “with the times.” If anything, it shows how we live in a world today where there’s a value on intellectual property and it’s a high stakes competition to turn ideas into tremendous revenue. So how can you fault these “kids” for the mistakes they made? It’s a lot for anyone to handle. “The Social Network” helps us recognize that admitting fault and making amends after the fact is sometimes the best you can do.

4.5/5 Stars

The Social Network
Directed by David Fincher
Written by Aaron Sorkin
Starring: Jesse Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield, Justin Timberlake, Rooney Mara


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