Monday, February 7, 2011

The Social Network


Director: David Fincher
Starring: Jesse Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield, Justin Timberlake

A film about the inception of the most popular social networking site, its seemingly arrogant creator and the legal troubles he faces doesn't necessarily sound like thrilling and riveting entertainment, but with a screenplay by Aaron Sorkin, a strong cast and a talented and stylish director like David Fincher at the helm, The Social Network transcended all of my expectations.

Though the names are real, what is actually true and what is fiction in The Social Network is debatable. However, like Oliver Stone's brilliant 1991 film, JFK, after a while, the film is so good, you don't really care. The Social Network traces founder Mark Zuckerberg's creation of Facebook and its hysterically rapid growth in popularity and the subsequent lawsuits he encounters, both from those who sue him for intellectual property theft to the one person who supported him throughout, financially and emotionally, but was denied a piece of the pie.

Jesse Eisenberg is mind-blowingly fantastic as Zuckerberg, with machine gun-like speech patterns, a mind that is working in a million different directions at once and a disdain for most of the people he meets. His best friend, fellow Harvard student Eduardo Saverin (Garfield), shares Zuckerberg's intellect, but is his complete opposite; he's charming, outgoing and socially dialed-in. Garfield plays Saverin as sweet and soft-spoken, which makes his downfall all the more tragic. When the two begin to expand Facebook across the country, they end up meeting Sean Parker (Timberlake), the founder of Napster who wants to get in on Facebook, and though he is outgoing, possesses a crippling sense of paranoia. Though it honestly took me a while to get used to Timberlake in a dramatic role, I just finally had to realize that he's a total natural when it comes to the acting thing, and he really did a great job with Parker, who is a complex character, to say the least.

Sorkin's script is quick and clever, yet very compelling. Without being heavy handed, or beating anyone over the head with a sense of "See? This is what I'm telling you", he addresses the obvious irony of an incredibly socially inept person creating a social network with more than 500 million members. He writes Zuckerberg as someone unwilling to change or acknowledge his difficult demeanor, yet has a staggering desire for acceptance. Sorkin takes content that could have been nothing more than an article in a newspaper or possibly a featured article in a magazine and turns it into a sublime Greek tragedy rife with dishonor, regret and desire for redemption.

David Fincher, who I've admired back to his music video days, has such a strong aesthetic sense that I think has not been fully utilized in some of his feature films. Sure, his work has all been slick and, regardless of its content, interesting to look at. However, just looking at the Regatta scene in The Social Network, with its tight shots of elongated, straining, sinewy muscles and grimacing faces...I'm no longer watching a film, but looking at a Mannerist work of art. However, it isn't just the high style that is most impressive about Fincher's direction. He is able to not only keep up with Sorkin's quick pace, but turn a scene where a guy is hacking into a web site (without the cliche of security about to confront him) into a seriously action-packed sequence. Or jumping between multiple deposition scenes with the snap of a finger, but giving the audience enough visual clues to figure out exactly where they are at that particular moment within a second; it's kind of like watching a great tennis match.

Before I saw it, never in a million years would I have thought that The Social Network was not only going to be nominated for eight Oscars, including being one of the front runners for Best Picture of the Year, but appear on my Best of 2010 list. But it has surpassed all of my expectations and is truly a well written and sublimely directed film that, upon a second viewing for purposes of writing this review, hadn't lost any of the suspense or gloss in the three months since I first saw it. The Social Network is a supremely intelligent film that holds appeal for a wide audience, something that can be said about a shamefully few amount of films lately.

4 1/2 out of 5 stars

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