Yes, The Social Network is the movie about the founders of facebook. But as adapted by Aaron Sorkin (A Few Good Men) from the Ben Mezrich book “The Accidental Billionaires” and directed by David Fincher (Zodiac, Se7en, etc.), you can be damn certain that the story is a hell of a lot more complex and intense than it sounds. This is a film for and about our generation. It really speaks to us, and best of all, it still feels like a Fincher film, which is really what separates The Social Network from being just another Middle Men or 21 (which was also adapted from a Mezrich book).
Jesse Eisenberg stars and does his usual Eisenbergy thing with perhaps an added level of sardonic disdain as Mark Zuckerberg, a Harvard undergrad who craves acceptance and decides he must do something special if he hopes to gain the attention of one of the university’s very exclusive clubs. One of his initial endeavors raised some eyebrows at the school when he created a website called “Face Smash,” which had students voting on and ranking the hotness of their female classmates, but it is his next idea that sets the world on fire. That, of course, is the idea to put the entire college experience on your computer screen with facebook (then called “the facebook”).
We rather abruptly find that Zuckerberg is engaged in a pair of lawsuits: one with his former best friend and facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin (Andrew Garfield), and the other with twin Olympic canoers who claim Zuckerberg stole their idea. The rest of the story is told in anecdotal flashbacks as they correspond to the hearings in these two cases.
The dialogue is smart, fast, hard-hitting, and quite often hilarious, while Trent (Nine Inch Nails) Reznor’s pounding musical backdrop suits the film perfectly and should give Hans Zimmer’s Inception score a run for its money on the awards circuit.
It’s hard to empathize with these kids who are really just too smart for their own good, especially Zuckerberg who is cut-throat in his relentless smart-assery. Our alliances effectively shift for and against Zuckerberg over the course of thefilm as it passes by in its hazy, smoky visual tone, which is probably exactly what college life looked like pre-smoking ban. It works well because it would be too much to ask from us to cheer for this highly unlikable character for the film’s entirety.
Yet it is with Garfield’s Saverin who we feel compassion after we see him cut out of the business he co-founded and funded from the get-go. Garfield gives the film’s standout performance and I felt that it was his character, not Eisenberg’s, who was the true heart of the movie. This entire cast is like 2010’s The Outsiders, featuring talented young actors who we are sure to see for many years to come announcing their arrivals with commanding performances.
When Justin Timberlake arrives in the latter half of the film as Sean Parker, the founder of Napster, he really eats up the screen and is truly great in one scene in particular. Still, I think his performance might be getting a bit overhyped as he isn’t asked to do much other than showboat the majority of the time.
I’m sure there will be some point in the future where this film might feel dated, with audiences no longer understanding our slang terms and inside jokes. But what will never change is the fact that it is an iconic slice of this decade that, much like Easy Rider or Wall Street, will always be cool and continue to be respected as a quality piece of cinema. That’s how strongly I feel about The Social Network.