David Fincher's The Social Network
Here's the link to the published version of my review in my column at The Richmond Examiner:
The Social Network (2010)
For some, it's the first thing they do in the morning and the last thing they do at night: checking Facebook. It's a strange curiosity that has these people wanting to know exactly what their friends are up to every day, what their relationship status is, and what new pictures from the latest event they've posted. Ever wonder how this whole craze got started? Well, that's an interesting question.
Back in the fall of 2003, a college student at Harvard by the name of Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) had a strange breakup with his girlfriend Erica (Rooney Mara). After clearly having drank too much, Mark proceeds to blog his feelings about Erica, while at the same time, he comes up with a website on which his fellow Harvard attendees can rate women based on looks. The site receives so much traffic that it crashes the network. This impresses Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss (Armie Hammer), twins who have their own idea for a site.
They want to build a site that will allow students at Harvard to interact with each other online that would include profiles of their friends. After hearing about Mark's expertise with computer code, they come to him with their idea. Mark agrees to be a part of it but quickly decides that the site could be much bigger than they imagined. With the help of his friend, Eduardo Saverin (Andrew Garfield), they put together what they at first call "The Facebook" on which students at Harvard can get together and see each others' statuses and much more. However, when Cameron and Tyler hear about this, they are less than thrilled to see that Mark has taken their idea.
That is just the beginning of the saga which is told in flashbacks from two different hearings in which Mark is being sued. In one of them, Cameron and Tyler are suing him because they claim he took their idea, while Eduardo is suing him for a matter disclosed much later in the film. The film jumps back and forth between the hearings and past events in an attempt to unravel the truth about the founding of one of the internet's most infamous and most visited websites.
Talk of "The Social Network" has been building recently as early buzz had critics saying such things as "film of the year" or that it's a leading contender for the Oscars next year. I have to say that it didn't quite live up to that hype. It's definitely a good movie, but its greatness has been exaggerated a little bit.
The film is an interesting look at how Facebook began, and it remains engaging throughout, but it never really rises above the level of just being moderately engaging. The characters themselves, particularly Zuckerberg, keep the movie flowing at a good pace, but none of the characters are really the kind that you can get attached to. Zuckerberg is portrayed as such an ass that you kind of hope that the lawsuits against him are successful by the end of the film, while his acquaintances are just in it for the money.
Most of the film plays out like a series of betrayals with characters continually grasping for a piece of the pie. Trying to get to the truth of the matter seems like an almost impossible task, or so the hearings would have you believe. Sometimes it becomes hard to tell who is telling the truth, or if anyone is at all. Cameron and Tyler claim that Mark stole their idea outright while Mark claims he merely took the basis for their idea and made it something better. Sometimes truth is simply in the eye of the beholder.
The flashbacks slowly show us how things came to be where they are at the time of the hearings, and it is this structure of the film that really holds it together well. The excellent screenplay by Aaron Sorkin, of "The West Wing" fame, mixes together the hearings and the flashbacks in such a way that keeps our attention and has us guessing as to what could possibly happen next. The dialogue is also well-written and has several moments of zippy, two-person, back and forth dialogue that also helps keep the story moving along. Sorkin's screenplay also sprinkles in bits of humor throughout the movie just when the film seems to be leaning a little heavily on the dramatic side, which gives it a more enjoyable touch.
Of all the Oscar talk, I believe Sorkin has the best chance of finding himself with a nomination (for Best Adapted Screenplay, the source material being “The Accidental Billionaires” by Ben Mezrich). Then again, the Academy and I haven’t been seeing eye to eye very much lately. I thought last year's "The Hurt Locker" was OK, and we all know how that ended up. Similarly, I thought David Fincher's previous directorial effort, "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," was also OK. 13 Oscar nominations later... I think you get the point, so let's just say I won't be all that surprised if this gets more nominations than what I think it deserves.
Speaking of Fincher, he has recently been taking risks by moving into material that we are not accustomed to seeing from him. Most people know him from films such as "Seven" or "Fight Club," but he has shown that he is able to handle more dramatic work, particularly with "Benjamin Button," but also with this film, which calls for a lot of dramatic interplay between the characters.
The conclusion of "The Social Network" left a little to be desired. The audience waits in anticipation for the conclusion of the hearings, but instead of being shown what happens, we are informed of the results through captions. Not exactly the most compelling way to bring to a close the tension that had been built up in those scenes, but at the very least, it tells us what we want to know.
To reiterate, this is a good film. It has an engaging story with interesting characters. It's just didn't seem quite as good as the early reviews are making it out to be. This could simply be because it might require more than one viewing to take in all the elements of this fast-paced film. Facebook has an unusual history, so making a movie about it seems like a natural thing to do, especially with its insane popularity. If you are one of the 500 million users of Facebook, you will more than likely find this to be an intriguing story. Even those who don't use it will probably find something to like here. Overall, Fincher's keen eye for direction and Sorkin's sharp script make this worth seeing for fans and non-fans of the site alike. 3/4 stars.
The Social Network
Movie stars require a quality of aggression — at least if audiences are going to feel wired to their every move. In films like The Squid and the Whale (2005) and Adventureland (2009), Jesse Eisenberg, his head lowered and jutting like a faithful dog's, has played anxiously fast-talking, insecure nice guys, and he has often been marvelous. This movie is already at kookíca, just enjoy it!
The Social Network
Facebook is the social site that has inhabited most of the world’s attention. It has become the network that people as a means to connect with friends and family the quickest way possible. With a simple stroke, a person can invite ten people to a party at a bar, a family gathering, even a graduation. This seed was grown by the corporate magnate known as Mark Zuckerberg, but how was it able to grow? Through the film The Social Network, director David Fincher directs it to backstabbing and power plays, creating a perfect film that dives into the character of Mark Zuckerberg, and how his need to branch out socially through his work left him to be even more isolated, as well as the center of lawsuits from former friends and fellow students who were also part of the birth of Facebook.
The first thing that needs to be stated about this film is its dialogue. From the opening scene with Mark Zuckerberg and his girlfriend that plays as a sort of birth place towards the creation of Facebook, it is lean, quick, and engaging. This is mostly to the keen writing skills of Aaron Sorkin, who wrote the screenplay based off Ben Mezrich’s book. It is the dialogue that drives this movie for the most part, and it never feels like it is the emergency brake, but rather the ignition. These characters are fighting to get the last word, especially in the scenes where there is a need to have control over the given situation. It also helps that there are actors and actresses in the film that are more than willing to contribute with making this dialogue work in the film’s surrounding.
For Jessie Eisenberg, who plays Mark Zuckerberg, this is an amazing performance. At first glance, his portrayal of Zuckerberg seems like a know-it-all genius who feels like he is above the rest. It’s that portrayal that soon sheds to show a sorrowful soul who just seems to think things through without a hesitancy of what is going to be a negative or positive outcome of the situation. It’s the afterthoughts of the moment that shows the quick sense of sadness and regret that Eisenberg lets loose for just a second, but then puts a shield up to show the personality that is on the offensive. It’s done and cannot be undone in his mind. This is the kryptonite that resides in Zuckerberg in terms of making a valuable social connection, and Eisenberg handles it brilliantly.
In regards to the other actors, Andre Garfield is also solid as the friend of Zuckerberg who was helping fund the birth of Facebook a, Eduardo Saverin. For the character of Saverin, he understands how Zuckerberg’s isolating personality can be, but still remains and good friend and business partner. Garfield mostly plays Saverin as the supporting friend, but when the gloves begin to come off and tension rises with Zuckerberg, and he definitely rises up to the challenge of going against Eisenberg in terms of acting.
Then we have Justin Timberlake, who plays the smarmy Sean Parker, one of the former owners of Napster who begins to wedge into Zuckerberg and Saverin in terms of controlling how Facebook will grow. For Zuckerberg, Parker is the man that can run along with Zuckerberg’s growing train of thought of what Facebook can be become, and Timberlake portrays that confident character with poise and coolness. I never understood the comments on the fact that Timberlake is a bad actor. He was one of the only few who tried to exude more than one dimension in a world of unsympathetic characters in Alpha Dog, and was fine in Black Snake Moan. The rest of the actors, particularly Armie Hammer and Max Minghella, are great as the prestigious Harvard students who were the possible starting points of Facebook, with the basis of the social network being strictly for Harvard students. Max Minghella brings great frustration and resilience as Divya Narendra and Armie Hammer, particularly, is great at playing both twin brothers of Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss respectively; evoking some of the film’s hilarious moments.
Now, with excellent writing, director David Fincher handles the directorial attributes excellently as well. The editing and shots are just as quick as the impact of Sorkin’sa dialogue, enacting certain moments to portray a bit of emotion for Zuckerberg, or to set up the next big conformation with the characters. Also, let’s not forget Trent Reznor and Atticus Rose’s haunting music score for the film, setting the correct mood for what each scene, as well as character, is trying to portray.
David Fincher’s The Social Network is sort of the movie that resonates with a current moment in America’s life, in this case Facebook, while also eliciting a character study and portrayal of real life events. Then, add kinetic directing, a fire cracking script, excellent performances across the board, a moody, yet electrical score, and you have more than just a good movie; you have an amazing movie.
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