We are now in the year 2010 and odds are that nearly everyone you know at least knows what Facebook is or actually has a Facebook page. THE SOCIAL NETWORK chronicles the people that created the website known as Facebook, along with the legal and personal ramifications that followed. The film is directed by David Fincher (FIGHT CLUB) and based off the novel, “The Accidental Billionaires.”
Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) is an extremely bright fast talking Harvard student always looking for a way to impress his peers. One night he spawns an idea to collect all the pictures of undergrad girls on campus and pit them against each other two at a time in a voting system to pick which one is more attractive. In a matter of hours the site is up designed and functional, and in no times crashes the school’s servers and catching the attention of aspiring olympians, the Winklevoss brothers. They offer Mark the opportunity to code a Harvard specific networking site which he accepts. Mark gets inspired by the idea and begins his own work on a similar website with the help of his best friend Eduardo (Andrew Garfield). Eduardo provides Mark with the money he needs for servers and other things he needs to get the site running, but the two have different ideas on how to expand the site once it takes off. From there Mark and Eduardo’s friendship begins a downward spiral with the addition of Sean Parker (Justin Timberlake) to the team, and the persistence of the Winklevoss’ anger towards Mark hijacking their idea.
Now that you get the basic premise behind THE SOCIAL NETWORK, let me tell you that’s just the tip of the iceberg. There are several deep and complex stories weaved throughout the film, starting with the creation and maintenance of Facebook, the friendship between Mark and Eduardo, the Winklevoss’ dilemma with Mark, the strain of Sean Parker’s involvement with the website and of course the two lawsuits weaved in and out of the course of events. Not to mention the fast and furious dialogue whipping its way out of the characters mouth. With all the stories, fast dialogue, humor and interesting characters the film just flies by.
The film is a perfect opportunity for actors because there is A LOT of talking, therefore giving all the actors plenty of stretch room to show off their chops. Jesse Eisenberg and Andrew Garfield are given the majority of screen time, and both turn in great performances. Eisenberg is a perfect mixture of a decent guy that is also inherently despicable. He plays the type of character that knows how smart he is and would never miss an opportunity to point it out to you. At the same time he often talks without thinking which alienates almost everyone around him as he seems oblivious to the fact that he’s insulting them. Eduardo, played by Andrew Garfield, is easily the most likable character, playing Mark’s smart yet far too trusting best friend. As the film goes on the rift between Mark and Eduardo only gets more strained with Napster mastermind Sean Parker, played by Justin Timberlake. Timberlake also turns in a good performance, but isn’t quite as consistent as the rest of the performances.
THE SOCIAL NETWORK obviously is not an action blockbuster, therefore does not rely on elaborate action set pieces to move from scene to scene. Instead what it relies on is the slick and smart script adapted by Aaron Sorkin. It’s full of some really funny jokes, subtle humor, complicated computer jargon and effective drama. It also weaves aspects early on that are called back later on including a bit that gets referred to often about animal cruelty. The film chronicles the creation of the world’s largest social networking website and also pokes fun at the obsession that people exhibit with the site, such as over reacting to a relationship status, the quickness and frequency at which news and rumors travel and our obsession with checking to see if someone as befriended us after we’ve requested them.
The score, composed by Trent Reznor (Nine Inch Nails), also adds a little extra to the film, making scenes instantly more interesting. At times it’s very dark and ominous creating tension even in a scene where all that’s going on is Mark jogging from a bar, through Harvard’s campus and then to his dorm. It also accents the dramatic moments perfectly with subtle beats that keep our eyes and ears glued to what’s happening on screen.
The film is not quite flawless though, I do have to nitpick certain aspects. I did end up enjoying Justin Timberlake’s performance, but there were times when we first meet where his line delivery just feels awkward. There’s also times where it’s hard to buy him as a computer geek and a drug abuser, but oddly enough he does play paranoid pretty well. On another note, I don’t consider myself a computer genius by any means, but within the first 20 minutes or so it throws out lots of computer programming language and math algorithms like they’re common knowledge. While it’s still interesting, I have to admit my eyes nearly crossed; I understand things like web traffic a little bit of html etc., but this was a whole new ballgame.
THE SOCIAL NETWORK takes a story with the potential of being mundane and exponentially boring and tells it with such skill and flare that it feels explosive. It’s anchored by strong performances, engaging drama and sophisticated humor. The film deserves to be called a must see and should be enjoyed by Facebook junkies and anti networking folks alike.