Review Of The Social Network
Title: The Social Network
Written by: Aaron Sorkin
Directed by: David Fincher
Starring: Jess Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield, Justin Timberlake, Brenda Song
Reviewed by: S.I.
The Social Network might be remembered as a film that came out too early. Its real-life drama is still ongoing. The film’s drama centre sod Facebook’s founding and the Internet revolution that followed. Two of its four founders – Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) and Eduardo Saverin (Andrew Garfield) – get most of the screen time. Reportedly, Zuckerberg wished filmmakers wouldn’t make his biopic while he was still alive. Not an unreasonable wish considering that The Social Network is character assassination masquerading as compelling social commentary. Story is far more important to director David Fincher and writer Aaron Sorkin. A good story outweighs everything else, the truth especially.
Within the first five minutes of The Social Network, Mark Zuckerberg is unceremoniously dumped by his girlfriend Erica Albright (Rooney Mara). After posts a few bitchy blog comments about Erica, and hacks Harvard University’s databases with Eduardo Saverin’s help. His hacking creates Face Mash, a website where Harvard woman can be ranked by their hotness. The site gets so much traffic it crashes Harvard’s network in a few hours. Impressed, twins Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss (Armie Hammer and Josh Pence) and their associate Divya Narendra (Max Minghella) offer Mark the chance to program their own social networking site, Harvard Connection. Mark agrees to work with them, but never does. Instead, he goes to Eduardo with a social networking idea of his own, and after Eduardo’s thousand-dollar investment, facebook is born. The website’s popularity explodes in weeks and when the Winklevoss twins and Divya get wind of it, they’re ready to sure to sue Mark for stealing their idea. As Facebook grows it acquires a president – Sean Parker (Justin Timberlake), the founder of Napster. it turns into an online empire as Parker’s influence on the company grows. And the inevitable break down of Mark and Eduardo’s partnership turns into one of the most infamous break-ups in corporate history.
Most of the performances in The Social Network are solid enough. Jesse Eisenberg has made a career of playing likeable nerd. Here he plays an unlikeable one. As Mark he talks a mile a minute, spewing pretentious, snarky observations. It’s sometimes hard to see the genius underneath all the dialogue. But Zuckerberg is more than just a whiz kid who understands codes. He can see the future because he will be friend to get there, then that’s just part of the journey. While Eisenberg plays Mark with an irritating energy, Andrew Garfield’s job is to play Eduardo with more calm. Unfortunately, this calm makes Garfield blend in with the wallpaper for most of the film. Eduardo does have one incredible moment, though you have to wait until almost the end of The Social Eduardo confronts Mark and their friendship finally crumbles, he breaks down. Garfield isn’t scenery chewing. It’s the kind of surprising scene that redeems flawed films.
The most arresting performances come from Armie Hammer and Josh Pence. The faces of the Winklevoss twins are played by Armie Hammer while Josh Pence body doubles as Tyler Winklevoss. You won’t spot the body double, but the seamless face technology may well become David Fincher’s trademark, since he also digitally aged Brad Pitt in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. Technology aside, Hammer plays the Winklevoss twins as polished preps with easy charm. Hammer will probably spend his career playing senator and blue bloods. While the Winklevoss twins are privileged brats, they also inject an absurd humor into The Social Network. Zuckerberg’s theft was probably the best thing that ever happened to them – it’s likely nobody would have heard of the Winklevosses otherwise.
While The Social Network features an ensemble cast, it really rises and falls with Sorkin’s screenplay. The dialogue feels written, if such a thing is possible. It grates on the ears and reads better than it sounds. The story itself barrels on and on, nearly going off the rails until the third and final act. Basically, The Social Network feels like two separate films. The first two-thirds give you little room to reflect and the last third is a slowly unraveling tragedy. The ending is stunning and surprisingly silent. Its triumphant and tragic as a billionaire inventor is held emotionally captive by his own creation. The surprising thing about The Social Network is how hard and fast the nerd live. Harvard life is a string of parties filled with dot-com groupies. The film isn’t an endorsement of Ivy League schools, Silicon Valley, on the geeks who infest them. These upstarts are made out as possible no matter how charming some of them may be. It’s as if the film is indicting an entire generation. This is one of its problems. The Social Network has been marked as the film that defines a generation. A film about the internet isn’t enough to pull off that feat. The Social Network isn’t great enough, and the generation it tries to capture can’t only be defined by the websites it uses.
The Facebook saga isn’t over: the Winklevosses have since been hit with their own lawsuit for theft, and they apparently plan to sue Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg all over again. While this emotional drama plays out, the film still feels cold. Caring about these characters is a tough sell. Real or on celluloid, they aren’t likeable enough to love, or evil enough to love to hate.