Film Review – The Social Network

Film Review – The Social Network

We open with a guy and a girl sitting at a restaurant having drinks.  They are smart, confident, and intellectual.  The guy tells the girl of his desire to do something significant, to gain the attention of the college clubs.  The girl asks why he so desperately wants to be a part of these organizations.  He responds almost surprisingly, the clubs are exclusive, they’re cool, and they can lead to a better life.  He offends her for even questioning their validity, and she calls him an asshole.  It is here where the birth of the website Facebook is born, the subject of the new David Fincher film, The Social Network (2010).

The film stars Jesse Eisenberg, the star of Adventureland (2009) and Zombieland (2009) as Mark Zuckerberg, the creator and CEO of Facebook.  He is a brilliant computer programmer, and early in the film we see him, after the argument of the first scene with his crush Erica Albright (Rooney Mara), create a small website comparing the physical beauties of female Harvard students, send the website out to the rest of the classes, and gain a large amount of internet traffic in the form of nearly twenty two thousand hits, all in the span of a few hours.  This sparks the interests of Divya Narendra (Max Minghella) and the Winklevoss twins (Armie Hammer), three high standing Harvard students who belong to one of the most prestigious clubs in the school.  They invite Zuckerberg to help them create an exclusive social networking site, but instead, he along with his friends and business partners Eduardo Saverin (Andrew Garfield), Chris Hughes (Patrick Mapel), and Dustin Moskovitz (Joseph Mazzello) use that idea to create their own website, TheFaceBook.

As we watch the development and popularity of the website explode in to the global sensation it is today, the film partners this with scenes taken a few years later, with Zuckerberg in the middle of two lawsuits, one with Narendra and the Winklevoss twins, and the second, surprisingly, with Saverin, the man who was known to be Zuckerberg’s closest friend.  It is said that one of the most important rules of business is to not work with your friends, and that is certainly no truer than seen here.  We find both parties suing Zuckerberg for intellectual theft and illegal business practices.  As both parties describe their side of the story, the film flashes back to the actual occurrences, with the website building in popularity, the company moving out to the sunny hills of California, the involvement of Napster founder Sean Parker (Justin Timberlake), the earning of billions of dollars, the abandonment of the Harvard boys, and the crumbling of both the business partnership and friendship of Zuckerberg and Saverin.

Now that the plot has been sufficiently described, let’s start with the good things about the film.  First off, David Fincher is a good director, he has always been a good director.  Even in films that I didn’t particularly love, I always have to hand it to Fincher to create a film that is interesting.  The look of it is common to all of his previous work, with its dark, drab, and muted colors, creating an engaging atmosphere.  The editing moves swiftly between the legal proceedings and the events spoken of, with Aaron Sorkin’s screenplay creating good balance between the two.  Eisenberg shows here that he is an actor of great promise; he handles Sorkin’s dialogue with ease and efficiency, spouting his lines with an almost stream-of-consciousness tenacity.  There is a scene where Zuckerberg explodes in a firestorm of words, leaving his adversaries (along with the audience) completely speechless.  Justin Timberlake is surprisingly effective as Parker, he displays the confidence and experience of man who may seem like he knows what he’s talking about, but can secretly fall apart at any instance.

The single highlight of the film, though, is Andrew Garfield, playing Eduardo Saverin.  I had previously remembered him as the young, impressionable student in Lions for Lambs (2007), but here he comes completely in to the forefront.  We feel the most for Eduardo, in the beginning of the film he is the main contributor to the website, but as it grows in to what’s known today as Facebook, and Sean Parker becomes more involved, we see Saverin’s influence shrink to almost nothing.  He is cautious, careful, but always willing to help his friend.  However, as gets left on the wayside for bigger and better things, he explodes at Zuckerberg in arguably the best scene of the film.  I have my doubts for the Spiderman reboot set for 2012, but the filmmakers have certainly picked a very talented young actor.

Now that we’ve talked about the good things, let’s take a look at the bad.  Despite the good acting, dialogue, and direction that the film obviously employs, there was one question I kept asking myself while watching it: “Why should I care about this story?”  What exactly is so engaging about intelligent, rich, Harvard bred businessmen fighting over the biggest piece of the corporate pie?  I find myself not having much sympathy for a guy who complains about not earning a billion dollars, and having to settle for only a couple million.

My biggest complaint is that of the Zuckerberg character himself.  Here we have the most arrogant, narcissistic, self-indulgent anti-hero I’ve seen in a long time.  Zuckerberg is presented with little to no redeeming qualities; his character arc throughout the film is completely flat.   He treats authority figures as intellectually incompetent of being in his presence, he spends the legal proceedings half awake or doodling on his notepad, and the fact that he goes to meetings in hoodies and flip flops point to a person not even remotely concerned with his surroundings.  He carries around a business card that reads, “I’m the CEO, Bitch.”  Talk about subtle.  And the idea that the entire origin of Facebook came from his immature attempt at getting back at the girl who dumped him teeters toward borderline ridiculous.  Regardless of whether that’s a fabrication of the writing or an actual characteristic of the real Zuckerberg, either way it didn’t make me any more concerned about his story.

I don’t know, perhaps the complaints I had are just the result of a guy who, of the same age as the characters of the film, didn’t become the billionaire that they did.  Although the film has some very good qualities about it, it didn’t present the characters (particularly Zuckerberg and Parker) as any more than money hungry entrepreneurs ready to back stab anyone that stands in their way, lacking any sign of guilt or regret.  If you haven’t been living under a rock the last few years you’ll know how this story will end and what has become the phenomenon known as Facebook, as of today Mark Zuckerberg sits as the world’s youngest billionaire.  Bottom line: this was a very good film about not-so-very-good people, put that in your status update.

Final Grade: B

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