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Review: The Social Network

The Social Network
Sep. 28, 2010by:
9 10

PLOT: The story of Facebook, from its development by Harvard students Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg), and Eduardo Saverin (Andrew Garfield), through its explosion in popularity under the hand of former Napster kingpin Sean Parker (Justin Timberlake), through the various lawsuits instigated by the many people Zuckerberg steamrolled on his way to becoming a billionaire.

REVIEW: Funny that I saw THE SOCIAL NETWORK the same day I saw WALL STREET: MONEY NEVER SLEEPS. While the latter was a good film, and certainly relevant to our post recession era, it couldnt help but feel a tad old-fashioned and tough to relate to unless you really know a lot about the financial sector. That was a bit of a surprise, as the original WALL STREET wasnt like that at all, as it told a universal story about greed and corruption.

David Finchers THE SOCIAL NETWORK is a film that in many ways feels like the true follow-up to WALL STREET, with it being a product of its time in the same way that film explored the ME decade. THE SOCIAL NETWORK turns its gaze to our new, highly inter-connected generation that wouldnt know how to get by without email, social networking, and all the free music and films we could ever desire with just the click of a mouse pad.

Yet at the same time, it never really feels like a film ABOUT Facebook, but rather the way success inevitably corrupts. Is Mark Zuckerberg greedy? The film suggest that no, hes not, as Facebook was never about making money to him. He couldnt care less about being rich. His drug of choice: recognition. To him, moneys not worth shit unless EVERYBODY knows he alone is the man that developed Facebook. To him, being sued for millions of dollars is nothing. Its having his genius challenged, and the threat that people might recognize that he got help along the way to creating Facebook that truly frightens him.

Whats great about THE SOCIAL NETWORK is that the film never really judges Zuckerberg. Sure, he comes off as incredibly arrogant, with the opening scene where hes strikingly, but unknowingly condescending to his girlfriend (future Lisabeth Salander Rooney Mara) being a perfect example of that. However, the film takes pains to acknowledge that yes, Zuckerberg IS a genius. Whether or not anyone deserves to share the credit is left up to the viewer.

Zuckerberg is a role unlike anything Jesse Eisenbergs ever had to play, and hes downright revelatory. Watching him stripped away of his usual goofiness, or innate likability is something to behold. Ive always liked him, but THE SOCIAL NETWORK will really be the film that establishes him as one of the greats of his generation. In a few years, he might even be on par with someone like Phillip Seymour Hoffman.

Andrew Garfield, whos in the middle of a great run between this, NEVER LET ME GO, RED RIDING 1974, and the upcoming SPIDER-MAN reboot, plays Saverin, who is the likable one, and who were meant to sympathize with. However, the film also takes pains to show that Saverin, while a nice guy, may not in fact have been as responsible for Facebooks success as he later claimed, so theres a shade of gray to the characterization thats fitting. I really think Garfields a guy to watch (check out BOY A if you get the chance), and brilliant work like this almost makes me wish he hadnt been cast as Peter Parker. The inevitable success of that reboot will mean hell turn into another Tobey Maguire. Before SPIDERMAN, Maguire did THE ICE STORM, RIDE WITH THE DEVIL, THE CIDER HOUSE RULES, WONDER BOYS, etc. Since SPIDERMAN, umm SEABISCUIT and BROTHERS. Thats about it. Hopefully Garfield will be able to balance the franchise with small scaled films, as hes truly a gifted actor that brings a lot to a film like this.

Another noteworthy performance in the film comes from Justin Timberlake, as the egocentric, and high-living Napster founder Sean Parker (i.e- the guy who brought the music industry to its knees). Of everyone in the film, its Parker that comes off as the most sinister, and Timberlake is terrific in the role. I saw this with a friend of mine who loathes Timberlake due to a severe dislike of his music, but in the end, he admitted that THE SOCIAL NETWORK has made a fan out of him- if only for his acting. This is a great performance, and he holds his own with the more accomplished (in terms of acting) Garfield and Eisenberg.

Another important factor in THE SOCIAL NETWORKs success is the score by Trent Reznor, and Atticus Ross. Its an incredible, yet ultimately not overpowering score thats among the best scores of the year- next to Hans Zimmers INCEPTION, and Ross own score for BOOK OF ELI.

One thing that never left my mind throughout THE SOCIAL NETWORK was this. Director David Fincher is truly one of the greats of our generation, and relatively few directors have been able to balance personal projects with mainstream fare the way he has. While accessible, you can tell that THE SOCIAL NETWORK is one of Finchers pure projects, like SE7EN, FIGHT CLUB, and ZODIAC. Thats mighty good company to be in, and THE SOCIAL NETWORK is worth all the buzz its been getting. While this will definitely make my top five of 2010, its still too early for me to say where itll fit in. One things for sure; if ever a film demanded to be seen twice, THE SOCIAL NETWORK, like INCEPTION, is one of those films. Its far less complicated than that, but its likely just as full as subtleties and nuance. Ill be first in line on opening day.



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