Originally Reviewed – 11/3/2010
Approximately one minute after I finish this review for Rotten Tomatoes, a link to it will be posted on the social networking site known as Facebook. Via Facebook, friends I haven’t seen since Mrs. Clark’s fourth grade class will be able read it, like it or maybe even comment on it. My Halloween plans were figured out via Facebook, my local bar sends me drink specials via Facebook, and I find out who among my exes just got engaged via Facebook. Whether you’re for the site or rage against the world knowing your every waking thought, you can’t ignore the impact Facebook has had on everything from business to interpersonal connections. Rather than do a standard biopic of the website origins, the latest film from director David Fincher takes the more interesting approach of examining the mind behind the phenomenon and the result is one of the best films of the year.
The film has three distinct stories running through it and expertly cuts back and forth among them. The film opens with the germ of the idea being born in the mind of Mark Zuckerburg, played in a career performance by Jesse Eisenburg. Starting with an eye opening moment where Mark is arguing with his girlfriend, the film makes it very clear that this is a character study of a flawed genius. As for the lead, Eisenburg does a great job with the character, giving him an emotional complexity that jumps off of the screen. The character of Zuckerburg could have been very one noted but Eisenburg digs deep and finds the essence behind the snarky sarcasm in what could very well be an Oscar nominated performance.
As for the rest of the film, the story jumps between the creation of the site and two depositions, one between Mark and his CFO Eduardo (Andrew Garfield) and the other between the Winklevoss brothers, both played, via a feat of camera trickery, by Arnie Hammer. This allows the audience to see not only how Facebook came to be but the stark realities of being an overnight success. The juxtaposition of watching Mark create the site with Eduardo in their MIT dorm room and the ensuing legal battle is poignant and engaging. Even Justin Timberlake as Napster founder Sean Parker does a fine job in the role, bringing the right amount of world awareness and car salesman chutzpah to the character.
David Fincher has always been one of my favorite directors and he again does wonders with a brilliantly written screenplay by Aaron Sorkin. In fact, while I imagine Fincher will get a deserved nomination for Best Director, it’s Sorkin who deserves the trophy for Best Adapted Screenplay above all. The screenplay is smart, funny and emotional, all while keeping the audience engaged, despite the references to web site design and algorithms. The only negative I could possibly come up with is that I doubt Mike Zuckerburg is really as cold as the film makes him out to be. While I totally get that a film needs a catalyst, the movie is really pretty harsh on the genius towards the end. Luckily, both Eisenburg and Fincher make good decisions in softening the blows a bit. Sure, Zuckerburg comes off as a douche but at least his douchiness has an emotional center seeped in regret, a credit to both actor and director.
Despite very minor issues of character development, The Social Network is a triumph of modern filmmaking. Expertly paced, featuring wonderfully directed actors and an absolutely dynamite script, the film is an early contender for a number of Oscars. Facebook is universally accepted yet very polarizing, much like the mastermind who created it. By examining the person behind the concept, we not only gain an appreciation for how the site came to be technically, we understand the motivation behind it. In the end, we all want to be connected and in the same way Facebook connects us to the world, The Social Network connects us to its inspiration. This is a remarkable film that should be seen by Facebook devotes and adversaries alike.
Score – 95%