David Fincher has a real penchant for telling thoroughly engrossing stories. His filmography reads like a Dean’s List of phenomenal films, stuff ranging from the dark and moody Seven, to the super-charged and testosterone-filled Fight Club, and the cerebral and tension-filled Zodiac, Fincher has repeatedly told stories that feel like events.
The Social Network is no different. In fact, it could perhaps be Fincher’s greatest overall work, as it both captures and transcends the creation of popular megasite Facebook.com (speaking of which, be a fan of our page).
The film is the true story revolving around the creation of the incredibly popular website, and the main character of the film is the infamous Mark Zuckerberg, creator and founder of the famed social networking website. Zuckerberg is played by Jesse Eisenberg (The Squid and the Whale, Zombieland), and we are immediately thrust into a conversation that on the surface could be just like any other disagreement a guy and a girl have had at a bar. Eisenberg’s Zuckerberg comes off as condescending, if not creepily confident in himself and his skills.
The film is a fascinating, at times tremendously engrossing, portrait of a brief period of time in recent history that has made a surprising impact in pop culture worldwide. Fincher lets the tension build and build throughout the movie, and the structure of the film was somewhat surprising to me.
But it’s that structure that gives the movie part of its very distinct flavor. Aaron Sorkin (The West Wing) peppers the film with pithy, intelligent dialogue and well-developed characters. The protagonist/antagonist relationships are more “shades of gray” than black/white relationships. To a degree, the major characters blur conventions in creating a film where nearly every character isn’t likable, but full of vibrant, interesting characteristics.
The script recounts the entire story through dual lawsuits between Mark and people who believe he has screwed them over. I appreciate the different approach, rather than telling the entire thing chronologically we can feel the relationships slowly deteriorating just because every one of the people involved is mortally flawed in one way or another; through greed, entitlement, pretentiousness, or all of the above.
The cinematography is flawless, at times even awe-inspiring. Fincher has always been underrated in shot selection, and his films use natural light at its finest. He perfectly sets the mood right from the first scene between Mark and Erica at the bar, giving us just enough insight on Mark’s psyche in that conversation so that we never quite feel sorry for him, but he is quite noble in the steadfast, take no prisoners pursuit of his goals.
This isn’t a love letter to Zuckerberg by any means. Most films based on true stories always seem to be neutered in some way, but this one still has all of its necessary parts. It’s a movie largely about a guy creating a website (through nefarious means or not) to connect with friends when he has no discernible real friends to call his own.
Eisenberg really hits a home run in the role of a lifetime. He’s verbally concise, quick witted, mean spirited, and a programming genius that somehow still has a shred of humanity underneath is brash, entitled exterior. Eisenberg gives you just enough to respect Zuckerberg without sympathizing greatly with his own self-inflicted circumstances. Eisenberg’s performance isn’t award worthy, but it’s a tricky balancing act that he seem to pull off quite easily.
The supporting cast is also strong without being wholly amazing, with one big exception.
Justin Mother Effing Timberlake.
Yes, I’m quite serious.
Timberlake inhabits the second half of the film like a greedy, seasoned leech, and his portrayal of Napster co-founder Sean Parker is truly fantastic. Timberlake at times bursts off the screen with his natural charm and charisma, and the relationship between Parker and Zuckerberg is very well done. Zuckerberg, throughout the entire film, plays everything close to the vest and for himself. But with Parker, he opens himself up to an attack from within just out of sheer admiration for Parker. Timberlake gives one of those performances that will hopefully make people take notice of how talented he really is.
The rest of the supporting cast does a fine job taking hold of the moments they are given. Rooney Mara does very well in her brief screen time as Erica Albright, the object of Mark’s affection. Their relationship is portrayed quite well in its brevity, as they only have two or three scenes together. It’s effective, and it humanizes Zuckerberg a little. He is capable of emotion, although on the exterior he never really shows it. Andrew Garfield as Eduardo is good, and I’m not sure if it’s a rare response but I felt like Eduardo was actually the most unlikeable character in the movie. He’s arrogant in a way Zuckerberg isn’t, because Eduardo has social skills, and I felt myself rooting against him nearly the entire movie. Garfield’s portrayal is effective.
Armie Hammer as the Winklevoss twins was incredibly effective in his entitled, macho dickishness. Like Mark, you almost hate the twins from their first moment on screen, because they really have every single base covered. They come from wealth, they’re Harvard students, Olympic rowers with fantastic physiques, and members of an elite, private social club on campus. But their ineptness in approaching Mark, and letting him blow them off for weeks shows that while you might have all the cards you need in your hand, you still have to put them together the right way to win the pot.
Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross’ soundtrack work is also top line stuff. It’s broodish and sleekishly and subtly violent. It’s electronic and contains very hypnotic, almost trancing melodies, and it really suits the movie greatly.
The Social Network is a fantastic film that wonderfully encapsulates a very unique time in current American culture. David Fincher’s directing is as prolific as expected, and Aaron Sorkin’s screenplay lacks any noticeable flaws. The performances are solid all around, with Jesse Eisenberg anchoring the film with a difficult, and at times poignant performance. Justin Timberlake steals every single scene he’s in as slimeball vulture Sean Parker, and the film takes a unique approach to the recounting the pivotal events behind the creation of Facebook. It’s easily one of the best films of the year, and quite possibly the most relevant film of a generation.
Score: 9.5/10 (Amazing)