Yes that’s right, we’re giving a third opinion review on David Fincher’s The Social Network. Why, you ask, why not I answer. Every once in a while a film comes along that is so important and so monumental that everyone’s opinion on it matters. I know I’m a bit late to the party but I have now seen it and all I can say is ‘Dear Winklevoss twins, if you guys were the inventors of Facebook, you’d have invented Facebook.”
David Fincher is a man who directs good movies, there’s really no way to argue that fact. The man’s filmography is exemplary and he has crafted some truly extraordinary films. With Fincher behind the camera, you knew The Social Network would be good, and with Aaron Sorkin penning the script, you knew it might even be amazing.
While some may disagree, I feel that to really understand and really ‘get’ the film, you have to be a member of the youth in society, plain and simple. High school, university, etc. People from these demographics will be hit hardest and connect most with the film, no doubt.
The film starts off with a brilliant mini-masterpiece of an opening scene. From the moment Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) opens his mouth he has your attention. As he starts spitting out dialogue at near light speed from his mouth, we instantly get an idea of who Mark Zuckerberg is. If you aren’t instantly pulled in right off the bat then I’d seriously question if you’re even human.
When we first see Zuckerberg, he’s at a campus bar, circa 2003. He’s having a drink with his girlfriend Erica Albright (Rooney Mara, the actress who won the much sought after prize of the lead role in Fincher’s next film, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo). In the breathtaking opening, words and insults fly out at breakneck speed. Mark is having a fight with his girlfriend. The brilliant five minute opening plays out like a sparring match of dialogue where words fly across the screen rapidly as Erica and Mark trade insults. Mark, condescending and snobby, clearly has no social skills. His people skills are non-existent and how he even found a girlfriend in the first place is beyond me (although the character of Erica is reportedly fictional).
Clearly not knowing how to treat a girl, Mark continues to insult her which leads her to tell him that they’re finished. She breaks up with him and storms off. Mark is crushed. More so than crushed, he’s furious. He runs back to his college dorm room and with the help of a few beers, starts blogging. His first post begins “Erica Albright is a bitch. . . . For the record, she may look like a 34D, but she’s getting all kinds of help from our friends at Victoria’s Secret. She’s a 34B, as in barely anything there.”
One thing leads to another and after a few more beers, Mark continues to vent his anger through blog posts on the internet. He then moves his anger from just towards Erica, towards all girls. He blogs about an idea he has, for a site that compares girls to farm animals. By this point Mark is surrounded by his roommates and together they evolve the idea. They decide to make a website that simply compares two girls. People can view pictures of the girls side by side and they can vote on who is better looking. Within hours Mark has hacked into the databases of the various residence halls, downloaded pictures and names and put up the site, FaceMash.
It spreads like wildfire and that night, the site manages to become big enough to crash Harvard’s network. As expected, Mark is punished, the site is taken down and Mark now has a lot of people mad at him.
Not everybody is upset though. Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss (both played by Armie Hammer) or the Winklevii as Mark refers to them, are twins at Harvard who represent everything that Mark isn’t. Athletic, rich, popular, born into a prestigious family etc. Along with their business partner Divya Narendra (Max Minghella), they are eagerly looking for a computer programmer to help code their new website, Harvard Connection. Mark seems like the perfect candidate and so they approach him. Mark signs on almost instantly and the four of them begin to work on Harvard Connection.
Weeks pass and Mark grows more and more distant from the Winklevoss twins and Divya. Mark continuously tells them he’s busy or he has prior commitments and can not find time to work on Harvard Connection. The twins and Divya get upset and start to get suspicious of Mark. They wonder what he’s really up to and where his loyalty really lies.
Meanwhile, Mark approaches his best friend Eduardo Saverin (Andrew Garfield) with an idea for a website called ‘The Facebook’, an idea that is all too similar to the Winklevoss’ idea for Harvard Connection, a fact not known to Eduardo. With the help of Eduardo’s money, Mark starts up ‘The Facebook’ and the ball gets rolling.
The film cross cuts between the present and the past. There are essentially three storylines going on here. The first is Mark at Harvard and the creation and developing of Facebook. The second is a deposition for a lawsuit that Eduardo has brought against Mark (in the present day) and the third is another deposition for a lawsuit that the Winklevoss twins have brought against Mark (in the present day). We are treated to these lawsuit scenes from the get go so it’s no spoiler to say that Mark obviously made a few enemies along the way. It’s the why and how that keeps you engaged.
Throughout the film we watch as Mark feverishly builds up Facebook. Like a man stuck on tunnel vision, he is absolutely fixated on his end goal. He will do whatever it takes to build Facebook into the next big thing. Along the way he gets some help from Sean Parker (Justin Timberlake), the founder of Napster. As Facebook grows more and more popular, and more and more money and fame is thrust into the equation, things get ugly. People are betrayed, friendships are tested and we are treated to the true story of the founding of Facebook.
In an almost Rashomon like style, The Social Network lets us see the story from everyone’s perspective. We get to see Mark’s point of view, Eduardo’s point of view and the Winklevoss twins point of view. Most of us know how the story ends but that doesn’t stop us from being on the edge of our seats the whole way through.
There is never a dull moment in The Social Network. It moves at such a brisk pace that it dares you to keep up with it. Sorkin’s script is flawless and dazzles you with dialogue that is sharp as can be. The writing here is brilliant and it is without a doubt the best script of the year. In an almost mesmerizing fashion, characters spit out the witty and scintillating dialogue, captivating you in every scene. Between the crackling dialogue, the lightning speed pacing and the haunting and hypnotic score by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, it all comes together to produce a feverish energy that drives the film.
As good as a film is, it’s nothing without solid performances. Luckily, Fincher has assembled three extremely talented individuals to carry the movie . Eisenberg, who plays Mark Zuckerberg, is spellbinding as the programming prodigy. Zuckerberg is a fascinating individual and Eisenberg brings him to life on screen miraculously.
From the moment I saw Eisenberg on screen I knew I was witnessing one of the strongest performances of the year. Eisenberg gives a tour de force performance as he takes Zuckerberg from an unlikeable, condescending, cocky, arrogant and snobby asshole to someone who you almost feel bad for. Someone who truly just doesn’t fit in due to his lack of people/social skills.
This is the role that Eisenberg seems to have been born for. He brings to Zuckerberg an arrogance and cockiness that despite being socially awkward, makes him the most interesting person to watch in every scene. His accomplished performance here is certainly Oscar worthy and I hope he gets the recognition he deserves.
Justin Timberlake takes on the role of Zuckerberg’s friend and a man who was very instrumental in taking Facebook to the next level, Sean Parker. As Parker, Timberlake more than proves himself as an actor, giving his best performance to date and truly coming off as phenomenal in the role.
Timberlake is charismatic and charming but his character of Sean Parker is also a bit of a shadowy figure. He’s likeable but at the same time we’re never sure if we can trust him. Eduardo doesn’t and as the conscience of the film, we tend to want to side with him. Is Paker going to hurt Mark in the end? Is he going to be beneficial for the company? Timberlake plays the part well as he works Mark like a used car salesman. Selling him on all his ideas and coming off as very slick. As the audience we can’t help but to be totally drawn into his world. He hustles Mark, telling him things like, ‘a million dollars isn’t cool, you know what’s cool? A billion dollars.” Parker’s a true hot shot and Timberlake portrays him superbly
The last lead role goes to Andrew Garfield, a relative newcomer whose biggest projects to date have been Never Let Me Go and The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus. Garfield has also been cast as Spider-Man in the upcoming reboot of the series. As Eduardo, Garfield is shockingly good. He provides the emotional pull for the film and is perhaps the only normal one out of the three. Garfield plays the role quietly and reserved and gives the film a soul that would otherwise be absent. Eduardo isn’t nearly as loud and wild as Sean and he isn’t as socially awkward and relentless as Mark, he’s shy and quiet but always has good intentions.
One scene in particular has Eduardo losing his cool after Mark makes a certain decision for the future of the company. It comes later on in the film but is one of Garfield’s strongest scenes. He takes Eduardo from a quiet gentle kid who wouldn’t hurt a fly to a man who is sick of being stepped on and someone who is finally standing up for himself. He’s a character that deserves sympathy and he does get it. Garfield brings out Saverin’s sense of betrayal and we totally get where he’s coming from. Whether he’s right or not is the question.
Supporting performances from Armie Hammer, Max Minghella, Rooney Mara and even Douglas Urbanski, as the president of Harvard, are very strong. In fact, Urbanski steals the only scene he has and it’s one of the funniest parts of the film.
For a film that is pretty much all talking, it never gets tedious. The Social Network manages to feel as thrilling as Se7en and as refreshing as Fight Club. It’s witty and fast paced but by the time we get to the last shot, we almost feel a sense of sadness.
In the last shot, Fincher shows us that Mark is just a kid and despite everything, he wants what most people want, friendship, companionship and love. In what is the ultimate paradox, Zuckerberg managed to create biggest social network in the world although he himself has no social skills.
He’s still a kid, in his twenties, sitting on top of a company worth billions but he’s all alone at the top. The money, the fame, the fortune, none of it matters to him. As we see Zuckerberg sitting alone at the end, furiously refreshing his screen in hopes that his recent friend request will have been accepted, we sympathize with him. This condescending, snobby, ruthless, socially awkward kid who hurt so many people to get to where he is, maybe he’s the one that’s truly hurting. As the credits roll we’re left to wonder, who really got hurt here and who is really wrong and at fault?
It’s ethical questions like these that drive the film. Was Zuckerberg really that bad of a guy? Were all these lawsuits fueled by jealousy? Did Zuckerberg really do anything wrong? Perhaps Zuckerberg hurt some people along the way but what about all the people that hurt him? All the people who dismissed him as just another computer nerd?
Fincher and Sorkin are careful to never take a definitive position on the issue. They give you a look at the story from everyone’s perspective and they let you decide. There’s no doubt Zuckerberg is a bit of an asshole but perhaps he has the right to be. One scene in particular highlights exactly who Zuckerberg is.
During a deposition, Mark is being questioned and he slowly starts to lose interest. His attention span is dwindling and the lawyer for the Winklevoss twins asks Mark, “do I have your full attention?”
Mark looks at the lawyer and replies cockily and snarky with the following comment. “You have part of my attention, you have the minimum amount. The rest of my attention is back at the offices of Facebook, where my colleagues and I are doing things that no one in this room, including and especially your clients are intellectually or creatively capable of doing.” Mark then pauses and looks the lawyer directly in the eye and asks, “did I adequately answer your condescending question?”.
Like the lawyer, we sit there in bewilderment as Mark, this university student, has just put this high powered lawyer in his place. This is who Mark is. He’s cocky and pretentious but he doesn’t let anyone walk over him. He created Facebook, he knows it and above all else, he won’t let anyone take it away from him. He doesn’t need frivolous lawsuits trying to prove otherwise. His devotion and unyielding loyalty to the company is what made Facebook into what it is today.
At the end of the day, The Social Network plays out much like a thriller. It’s intense and gripping as this tale of revenge, betrayal, fame and fortune is drawn out on screen. It offers an uncompromising look at our society and examines human behavior. It presents it in a fascinating manner that is so shockingly true that it really resonates with you.
In a world where social status is everything and in a world where we’re, as Peter Travers puts it ‘a nation of narcissists’, Fincher and Sorkin collaborate to craft a film that’s as brilliant as its protagonist. Freakishly smart, seriously funny, masterfully directed and expertly acted, The Social Network is a genre defining film, it shows precisely what its like to be a youth in society today. Fincher chronicles our generation and our society so well that The Social Network is almost as scary as some of Fincher’s other films like Zodiac and Se7en.
It’s a film that is never less than perfect. It defines a generation just like Network, Rebel Without A Cause and so many films before it did. The storytelling is unparalleled and with precision and flair, Fincher and Sorkin bring us the story of Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook. A story that serves as both a metaphor and a snapshot, a snapshot of our time and society.
Timberlake’s Sean Parker puts it best when he says “Privacy is a thing of the past! We used to live on farms, then in cities. Now we live on the Internet.” Mr. Parker, you couldn’t be more right.
The Social Network is a spellbinding and compelling story with top notch performances and flawless directing.