Sunday, October 3, 2010

The Social Network

Would you watch a movie about Tom Anderson creating MySpace?  How about a flick that chronicles the founders of Google netting their first zillion?  Neither would I.  So, why make a movie about Facebook?  I mean, seriously, who gives a shit?

People who love, like or simply enjoy movies, that’s who.  Here’s why.

Mark Zuckerberg, the youngest billionaire ever, created Facebook in 2003 when he was a sophomore at Harvard.  After the site gained gargantuan success, he ended up getting sued by two different parties who felt Zuckerberg had suckered them out of billions of dollars.

Simple, right?  But, for what it’s worth, that’s what David Fincher’s damn-near flawless film, The Social Network, is about.  But, like all great films, the plot isn’t nearly as interesting as the execution.

You’ll fall in love with this movie during its first scene.  The scene, staged in a crowded bar, involves Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) and his girlfriend (Rooney Mara) bantering back and forth about the troubles of youth.  This is screenwriting as an art form.  Writer Aaron Sorkin, who’s made a career out of making his dialogue snap crackle and pop in works like The West Wing and A Few Good Men, delivers his best work in years, having his characters speak a mile a minute in Harvard-appropriate discourse.

But the words are only the beginning.  Eisenberg, who I’ve found increasingly annoying save two good performances in Roger Dodger and The Squid in the Whale, is a revelation here.  In one of the most challenging films roles so far this year, Eisenberg takes it in stride.  He nails Sorkin’s asshole, genius, superior, isolated version of Zuckerberg, while filling Fincher’s frame seamlessly.

Speaking of assholes, let’s discuss the film’s best role, thereby producing its best performance.  After losing all of his money due to hundreds of lawsuits, Napster founder Sean Parker set his sights on Zuckerberg, coaching him on the practicalities of his site (step one, lose the “The” in 

In what could be a simple, throwaway role, Justin Timberlake turns it into a scene-stealing work of bravado.  Timberlake, arguably the most recognizable face in the world right now, takes egotistical arrogance to a completely new level.  He plays Parker as a smart, know-it-all God for the Gen-Y crowd. 

Watch, in the film’s best scene, when Zuckerberg’s best friend and business partner Eduardo (a New York-perfect Andrew Garfield) loses his shit in the Facebook corporate office.  Their argument may attract your attention, but watch Timberlake in the background, snootily sipping his coffee, obnoxiously chiming in at the best times.  Say what you will about Timberlake’s music career, but this is one hell of a talented actor.

As is evident in Fincher’s best work (Se7en, Zodiac), the man has a keen eye for the craft of cinema.  The narrative in which in chooses The Social Network to unfold, which will initially trick you, is ingenious.  Also, like all great auteurs, he constantly gives us something we’ve never seen before. 

No novice towards the use of digital effects, Fincher pulls off two feats in The Social Network that I’ve never seen on film.

First, he casts identical twins in roles of the ultra WASPy Winklevoss brothers, who are suing Zuckerberg.  The kicker is, the actors playing the twins aren’t related by blood. Fincher used one of their voices to dub both of the actors’ dialogue, and put one of their faces on both bodies.  It’s a far more impressive feat than anything Fincher pulled off in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

I can’t even describe the second moment, except to say that with some new use of digital photography, Fincher makes a simple rowing competition look like a visual poem.  I have no idea how he he did it, but I couldn’t take my eyes off of it.

The Social Network is the unlikeliest of great films.  It isn’t an epic, it doesn’t have a firm resolution, and it doesn’t make its case as 100 percent fact (Fincher says he made a fiction film, Sorkin says he wrote a nonfiction film.)  It will make you laugh, it won’t make you cry, but damn if it doesn’t stick in your head.  That is, in part, what makes it so good: it’s a little film about a topic more than 500 million people are aware of, that creeps up on you and stays.  You hear that?  That’s the starter’s pistol signaling the beginning of this year’s Oscar race.  A


  1. you hear that? that's alex withrow getting closer to becoming the next roger ebert

  2. I love your writing style, I hope to write as well as you do one day. Anyways, I loved this movie. My favorite scene was the rowing shots. I think my mouth dropped