The Social Network – Review


If this is a “generation-defining” film then I feel very bad for the current generation

One of the reasons why the Rob Zombie helmed remake of Halloween failed as a film is that in exploring the origins of one of cinema’s most celebrated monsters it made him from a masked killer on a rampage into a masked killer who came into existence because of his mommy issues. It takes away from the sheer terror and dread of seeing the massive creature because the film explores issues of psychology instead of focusing on the task at hand. It brings to mind that perhaps seeing the origin of something boiled down to a singular theme takes away from its impressive nature. The story of Facebook, boiled down through The Social Network, comes down to one overriding theme about getting back at an ex-girlfriend takes a bit of the wind out of its sails.

The Social Network is the fictionalized true story of Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg), a bit of a jerk who took out the frustration of a failed relationship several ways. After an unsatisfying blog post insulting her in some hurtful ways, he would later take out some more vengeance aimed at the entire female populace of Harvard University via his prowess with a keyboard. Stumbling on to the social media network that would prove to be a game-changer, he wound up worth billions and evolving into a modern American success story. And it’s set up wonderfully with snappy dialogue, terse moments, sharp scoring and beautiful cinematography as the film’s overall theme revolves around this singular moment in Zuckerberg’s life that fueled what his life’s work has eventually become: a social media network that has changed the way we view social networking.

We meet Zuckerberg with his then girlfriend Erica (Rooney Mara) in a bar, having a drink over a conversation. As the conversation progresses, we see them progress from having a normal conversation to on the verge of a breakup because of Zuckerberg’s behavior towards her. After she ends their relationship, and his attempt at vengeance via FaceMash which allowed Harvard students to compare girls based on levels of attractiveness, the “flash of genius” that all great inventors have comes across Zuckerberg. What if he could take the college experience and put it on a website? Hours of code, thousands of dollars and unimaginable lines of computer code later and Zuckerberg and his partner / best friend Eduardo (Andrew Garfield) have their hands on the next big thing. Throw in Napster founder Sean Parker (Justin Timberlake) to flesh out the grand vision and living happily ever after seems like a possibility. But with a handful of lawsuits from all involved, Zuckerberg’s grand vision turned into a nightmare for his personal life as his friendships fall apart as his checking account grows exponentially.

And The Social Network does everything a film about this subject with David Fincher directing an Aaron Sorkin script, featuring a cast of up and coming young talent, should do. With lots of snappy dialogue, a first rate score and some incredibly camerawork this is perhaps the best film of the year from a sheer aesthetic level. Fincher uses a lot of long and tracking shots around Harvard and Eisenberg to give the film an epic scope. We marvel as we walk through Harvard the same way he does, Fincher allowing Eisenberg to walk through several scenes from afar and letting it develop organically, and Trent Reznor has developed a near pitch perfect score that Fincher uses perfectly throughout. It has a clean, crisp pace and Fincher doesn’t allow himself to get bogged down in details. Shown in flashback form from the two principal lawsuits filed against Zuckerberg, the film is set in the recent past with everyone involved discussing the moments that wound up becoming Facebook. It’s easy to fall in love with the film because it does everything it’s supposed to do from everyone involved, and easy to get sucked into, but it’s lacking one thing: a bit of heart.

The problem with the film is that it takes this overriding theme about Zuckerberg wanting to do something big to impress his ex-girlfriend but doesn’t give us a protagonist drawn thickly enough to care about either way. Eisenberg is game for the role and infuses Zuckerberg with a sense of purpose for what’s essentially a role that allows him to be a jerk to everyone involved but there’s nothing of substance behind him. Everyone around him is much more interesting, making it feel like an excise in futility. He’s a jerk and that’s all the definition of one of the most influential men of the last 30 years is given in a film centered on him. It takes out a lot of the more impressive things about him; there’s more to the character and the man than he’s given credit for and what should be major character points seem to become throwaway dialogue points. And it’s a shame because the film wastes a remarkable turn by hip-hop star Justin Timberlake in what is essentially a three man play about the nature of temptation.

If Andrew Garfield’s Eduardo is the angel on Zuckerberg’s right shoulder then Timberlake’s Sean Parker is the devil and leads him into temptation. Initially developing the site as something cool to do that could make them money becomes something more as Zuckerberg has two opinions to choose from. Eduardo wants the site to rely on the more traditional advertising route to become profitable. Parker sees the film as a long term investment, a game changer that could make them all billionaires. Garfield is terrific in what’s nearly a thankless role as the spurned best friend, showing off great acting chops that should lend itself to the next Spider-Man franchise, but Timberlake steals the movie every time he’s in it as the evil seducer. He’s always had charisma and presence but this is the role he was born for; Parker is a man who’s been humbled after launching the internet application (Napster) that took down the music industry and changed the way music is bought and sold. Broke and without something he can sink his teeth into, and connections into the venture capital world, Parker is the man who helped shape the way Facebook would end up taking and Timberlake is hypnotic on the screen. It’s easy to see how Zuckerberg could want to become a man he obviously looked up to as a teenager Timberlake steals the film every time he’s on screen and hold his own with a pair of actors that have significant more experience and resumes that he does. This is the type of performance that Supporting Actor Oscars are made of.

Films that “define” a generation rarely ever do that and instead end up becoming something critics and cinema aficionados alike can point to as a means of understanding a generation at the moment. If The Social Network is the film that is going to define this current generation we are in for some dark days.

Director: David Fincher
Notable Cast: Jesse Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield, Justin Timberlake, Brenda Song, Rooney Mara, Arnie Hammer
Writer(s): Aaron Sorkin based off the novel “The Accidental Billionaires” by Ben Mezrich

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