Review: ‘The Social Network’-Facebook is now taking over our movies

2 02 2011

Jesse Eisenberg and Justin Timberlake as Mark Zuckerberg and Sean Parker in "The Social Network"

Aaron Sorkin and David Fincher make a movie about facebook and it’s actually interesting and incredibly entertaining. Full review after the jump…

The Details

The Social Network (2010, 120 minutes, rated PG-13)

Directed by: David Fincher (see also: Zodiac (2007), Fight Club (1999), and Se7en (1995))

Written by: Aaron Sorkin, adapted from the book “The Accidental Billionaires” by Ben Mezrich

Starring: Jesse Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield, and Justin Timberlake

The Review:

When I first heard that this film was being made I thought to myself that there’s no way it’d be good or at all interesting, if anything it was going to be boring and a little nerdy. Then I heard Justin Timberlake and I was on board. You probably already know the story, it’s all about how facebook came to be. Mark Zuckerberg was a student at Harvard when he came up with the idea for facebook, he wrote the code for the beginnings of the website in his dorm room and from then on the social media revolution was born. The film tracks the early days of facebook as it started slowly and little by little grew across the country and into a worldwide phenomenon. The film also covers the legal trouble that plagued Zuckerberg after the huge success of the website, there is a lawsuit by two brothers who also attended Harvard and claimed that Zuckerberg stole the idea from them, and there is the lawsuit by Zuckerberg’s former best friend and facebook co-founder who was slowly pushed out of the company. For being a film centered on two legal depositions and the creation of a website it is incredibly watchable from start to finish, never slow and always interesting. It’s a (somewhat) fictionalized retelling of the last 7 years on the internet but also a serious character study of a (very) fictionalized Mark Zuckerberg. Mark is a genius and created one of the most well known, most used websites that is used solely for networking and socializing (and farmville…) yet the man has no real social skills whatsoever. It’s a funny that a man with little to no social skills would completely revolutionize they way millions of people interact with each other.

David Fincher and Aaron Sorkin had their work cut out for them. These two men, with the help of great performances throughout, make a seemingly boring story fascinating and so enjoyable. The movie’s two hours fly by with a clear, focused direction. The story, which could be weighed down by too much insider info and tech jargon, hurtles forward and is told with complete clarity. Fincher is as cocky and as sure of himself as Mark Zuckerberg is in every scene of this movie. And Sorkin’s dialogue is brilliant, but I would expect nothing less from the man who created “The West Wing.” By intercutting the two story lines (the legal depositions and the early days of the website) together and bouncing back and forth the pace never slows, and for this film that is a very good thing. For this film Fincher has reigned himself in a bit (if you’ve seen Fight Club you know what I’m talking about). There’s nothing uber flashy about his direction here, but it is ever-focused and very deliberate. He’s made a very clean, tight movie that relies more on this beautiful script by Sorkin and really just tells a story. Fincher is in top form for this one.

The film is full of very good, consistent performances. Jesse Eisenberg shows us an exercise in underacting, and I mean that as high praise for him. Eisenberg is playing a nerdy, socially awkward introvert. It’s a very subtle, but very effective performance. Watch his eyes, there will be entire conversations when Eisenberg doesn’t move a muscle except those eyes and he still conveys all the emotion the scene calls for. Even the cadence of his speech is this very deliberate way that may not be an accurate impression but it the whole performance is so different than those of all the other actors we notice it. Eisenberg effectively plays a man with little communication skills by limiting the things many actors rely on to communicate emotions (hand gestures, body language). It’s a really brilliant performance that deserves all the recognition it has been getting. Eisenberg is surrounded by strong supporting performances throughout including Andrew Garfield as Zuckerberg’s ex best friend and co-founder of facebook Eduardo Saverin. Garfield plays Saverin just right, more socially aware and skilled than Zuckerberg, he’s a guy that wears his emotions on his sleeve but it never feels like Garfield is being hammy or overacting. He plays all the notes right, from that feeling of shock to being betrayed he nails it. Justin Timberlake plays Sean Parker, founder of Napster and one of the first financial backers of facebook. Timberlake shows up as a confident, young billionaire that thinks he knows exactly what to do. He’s smart, sharp, and the “cool” guy that comes in to bring facebook to the next level. And when you want “cool” who better to have than Justin Timberlake. It’s a little bit of a shame that neither of these guys have been recognized for their great performances by the major awards this season. Oscar nominations or not, these are solid performances. And the movie is full of them, Rashida Jones plays an the sympathetic lawyer who sees Zuckerberg as a lonely man, Armie Hammer plays both of the Winklevoss twins who sue over the original idea. Very solid throughout.

The Verdict:

Fincher and Sorkin have truly captured the zeitgeist of this generation and made this film at the perfect time, when facebook has never been more popular. Plus, what better way to make a popular movie than to make one that over 600 million people can relate to. The directing is tight and focuses, the performances are understated and brilliant, and Sorkin’s script makes this thing fly through two hours as an incredibly entertaining ride. It’s interesting, wildly entertaining, what more could you want?

Whose movie is it?

Though the directing is fantastic and the performances carry it through to the end this is Aaron Sorkin’s movie. He has written an incredible screenplay that makes (seemingly)  boring premise into something tense, exciting, and fascinating. The dialogue is where he really shines; listen to what these these characters say, the dialogue is beautiful. This screenplay is what makes the movie possible.

Last Word:

When The Social Network was released it was immediately considered the Oscar frontrunner, and deservedly so. It even won the Golden Globe for Best Picture. Last week it was nominated for 8 Oscars, Fincher, Eisenberg, and Sorkin were all recognized for their great work. But as the award season continues it looks as though The King’s Speech is gaining momentum and nothing is stopping Colin Firth from winning Best Actor. Plus, the Academy is a sucker for British period piece dramas. I suspect Sorkin will get Best Adapted Screenplay and it may pick up a few awards in the technical categories for being a really well made film.




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