Sunday, October 3, 2010
THE SOCIAL NETWORK / ****
Release Date: October 1, 2010
Running Time: 120 minutes
MPAA Rating: PG-13
How many times a day do you check your Facebook account – five? 10? 20? Have you ever stopped to thank Mark Zuckerberg for creating the most popular and highly addictive social network site of all time? Did he steal the idea? Possibly. Did he stab his best friend in the back on his way to becoming the world’s youngest billionaire? Probably. But the bottom line is at the end of the day, Mark Zuckerberg created the greatest invention of my lifetime and that alone makes him a worthy subject for a biopic written by Golden Globe nominee Aaron Sorkin (“A Few Good Men”; “The American President”; and “Charlie Wilson’s War”) and directed by Oscar nominee David Fincher (“The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”).
Jesse Eisenberg stars as Zuckerberg in a performance that’s sure to earn him his first Oscar nomination. I along with many others first noticed Eisenberg as an actor to watch in 2005’s “The Squid and the Whale,” and this is the performance that years from now people will look back on as the moment Eisenberg arrived as an actor.
The film opens with Harvard student Zuckerberg and his Boston University girlfriend Erica Albright (Rooney Mara) at a bar, engaging in intellectually exhausting conversation. One could unknowingly walk in on this scene and immediately know that Aaron Sorkin wrote the screenplay (based on the book “The Accidental Billionaires” by Ben Mezrich).
Erica grows weary of Zuckerberg’s arrogance (borne from his intelligence) and curtly ends their relationship. Zuckerberg storms back to his dorm to drink more beer, and starts blogging. With a desire to forget about his now-ex, he comes up with a project for himself. He hacks into the Harvard house student directories, steals all the females’ pictures, and creates a site called FaceMash.com, in which people see two pictures side by side and vote on which one is hotter. The site attracts so much traffic that the Harvard network completely shuts down. He’s given academic probation and becomes a social pariah, even more so than before.
Face Mash gives Zuckerberg an idea. Around the same time, a group of social elites – identical twins Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss (Armie Hammer and Josh Pence with Armie Hammer’s face digitally imposed onto his body) and Divya Narendra (Max Minghella, the late Anthony’s son) have a similar idea. They approach Zuckerberg about working on their project – a dating site, but exclusive to Harvard students. Zuckerberg quickly agrees, although future communication with Zuckerberg becomes quite difficult. Then out of nowhere, The Facebook, a Mark Zuckerberg production, pops up online. The “Winklevi” and Narandra are agog. He stole their idea.
At least that’s their story, as told through depositions that took place several years after the debut of The Facebook (the “The” would later be dropped). This is only one of the two lawsuits Zuckerberg is wading his way through. The other is from his former best friend Eduardo Saverin (Andrew Garfield), who supplied the initial money for the project and was named CFO, only to later be pushed out and left in the cold by the nefarious Sean Parker (deftly played by Justin Timberlake), the founder of Napster.
At least, that’s his story. One of the fascinating aspects of “Social Network” is that it shows many points of view but rarely lets us inside the mind of its hero/anti-hero/villain/whatever works for you, Mark Zuckerberg. Is it because Zuckerberg himself is often not mentally invested in the things going on around him, preferring to live in the Facebook world he created, where lines of code are more important than maintaining a relationship with your best friend and CFO?
Fincher expertly weaves the story back and forth through time, using the depositions to set up flashbacks that tell the story of Facebook’s creation. The reason the movie works as well as it does is that Fincher (along with cinematographer Jeff Cronenweth and composers Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross) creates suspense from the events that happen when a creation becomes wildly successful and friendship is involved. It may be about the invention of Facebook, but it could have been about the creation of anything, which is the sign of a great movie.
One scene in particular that stuck out to me was late in the film when Zuckerberg runs into Erica at a restaurant. Erica is out with a group of friends, people Zuckerberg doesn’t know. He wants to talk to her alone for a minute. She insists that whatever he has to say he can say in front of them. This scene is a like a microcosm of the way Facebook works. Anything you say to someone can be seen by people you don’t know if they’re friends with the person you do know.
Jesse Eisenberg owns this movie with a magnetic performance that is sure to command some awards attention. He plays Zuckerberg as too smart for his own good, although on several instances he is shown to be not as cruel as his rough exterior may suggest. As young lawyer Marylin Delpy (Rashida Jones) tells him: “you’re not an asshole, you just try so hard to be one.” Eisenberg pulls of the complex feat of taking a character with innumerable reasons to dislike him and somehow making him sympathetic at best and wholly compelling at worst. Andrew Garfield and Justin Timberlake are nearly as impressive as the physical representations of Zuckerberg’s id and ego.
Facebook has become such an important part of our pop culture and the way we communicate with each other that a film was inevitable. For the film to come along this early in Facebook’s history and be this sharp, this perceptive about its place in our society is nothing short of remarkable. This is a work of pure genius. “The Social Network” is one of the best films of the year.
Theater: RMP Festival Plaza 16, Montgomery, Alabama
Time: 200 am (private screening)
Date: October 1, 2010