THE SOCIAL NETWORK (B)
I usually try to steer clear of any other critics' reviews before I go see a movie - I prefer not to have my perspective and/or expectations tainted. But it was hard to avoid the building word on the street regarding The Social Network. For crying out loud, people are calling this the Wall Street (or even the Citizen Kane) of our generation. Really?
I was equally intrigued - that sort of praise is hard to ignore. So I headed out to the movie theater to check it out. And I will say this: The Social Network is a good movie, with a captivating anti-hero at its core (with Jesse Eisenberg hitting a home run as Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg), a strong supporting cast, an interesting story and the usual crackling dialogue from Aaron Sorkin (The West Wing, The American President).
However, what keeps the movie from greatness is its subject matter. I mean, it's about the battle for Facebook. I mean, it's all well and good to see how this kid started the biggest cultural phenomenon of our generation that doesn't have an Apple logo on it - but it's not exactly Greek tragedy we're talking about here.
I realize the impact Facebook has made in the way in which people connect to one another - revolutionized it, really. And I am one of those 500 million people to use it on a regular basis. But as I walked out of The Social Network after it had ended, I couldn't help but shrugging a bit and thinking, to steal a line from another Sorkin vehicle: "What's next?"
THE ACCIDENTAL BILLIONAIRES
The movie is based on the novel The Accidental Billionaires, a book that clearly was not written with the help of the Facebook founder. Zuckerberg is painted as a genius computer hacker who's as savvy with computers as he is awkward socially. In fact, it spells out that practically the only reason Zuckerberg founded Facebook was to get back at an ex-girlfriend (the final scene is particularly ham handed. We get it - it was never about the money).
It charts the rise of Zuckerberg through flashbacks as told during his multiple lawsuit depositions - including testimony of The Winklevoss brothers, who claimed to come up with the original idea, and Eduardo Saverin (Andrew Garfield, the weakest of the actors in the film), Zuckerberg's classmate and the first CFO of the company, who apparently got screwed over as Facebook went public. In the first half of the movie, Zuckerberg is painted as little more than some sort of autistic savant - knowing the answers to his professor's questions without paying any attention, and barely speaking to anyone other than to discuss code. You almost get the feeling that if Fincher had showed us Zuckerberg's view of the world, it could look like the Matrix.
This is where the movie excels, though - Eisenberg makes Zuckerberg fascinating. You don't exactly root for him, but you can't help but want to know what he'll do next. Eisenberg has finally climbed out of his pigeon hole as the poor man's Michael Cera here and delivers a performance that will likely be pushed hard at Oscar time. He makes you ride that wave with Eisenberg - watch him feel social acceptance as his site gains in popularity and yet, at the same time, feel his disdain for the personal popularity/enjoyment his friends experience. Facebook is one big F-you to all those people who gave him a wedgie when he was a kid or called him an asshole for unwittingly putting down the fact that you went to Boston University.
And again, this is where the movie's strength is also its weakness - it's a character study (and an entertaining one, at that), but not an all time classic drama. After all, where is the drama? When Severin is asked to sign papers diluting his stock shares? Not exactly Santino at the toll booth. And it's not like we don't know what happens in the end - Facebook becomes a monster, Zuckerberg becomes a billionaire and lawsuits get settled. All I'm saying is let's be careful throwing around the platitudes, ok? I'm as hungry as you are for quality movies these days, but c'mon...are we supposed to really feel the chills when
I'M CEO, BITCH
To tell you the truth, I didn't think Zuckerberg came off that bad. So what that he stole someone else's idea? I didn't see any business plans or contracts signed. So what that he screwed over a few of his college buddies as the site went fromcollege novelty to cultural phenomenon. If I'd started a business back in college with my roommates, I would've dumped a few of them along the way, too. And so what that he was a social troll - he's a mega-billionaire now and I'm sure that makes up for quite a lot.
Then again, maybe Zuckerberg is as sensitive as the movie depicts. After all, last month he did donate $100 million to the Newark, NJ school system in an all-too-obvious attempt to proactively repair his image. Zuckerberg counteres this notion:
"The thing that I was most sensitive about with the movie timing was, I didnít want the press about 'The Social Network' movie to get conflated with the Newark project. I was thinking about doing this anonymously just so that the two things could be kept separate."
Is The Social Network the best movie of our generation? I don't even think it's the best movie of the year. So far, that honor goes to the film I saw prior to The Social Network: Let Me In. Still, credit Sorkin and Fincher for making a movie about a socially inept nerd programming a web site that enjoyable.
Go see it. You'll no doubt be entertained. Mike's verdict: B
BUT DON'T JUST TAKE MY WORD FOR IT...
The average Metacritic score was an astonishing 97 out of 100!! I have to admit, I was expecting the next Godfather after I saw all the A's being passed out for this movie. And while it's a solid movie, it's nowhere near the acclaim it's getting... too many critics bowing at the rerspective altars of Sorkin, Fincher and even the might Facebook, I think.
[Rated PG-13 for "sexual content, drug and alcohol use and language."]
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