The Social Network (2010)

15 Feb

The Social Network

Smith’s Verdict: ****

Reviewed by Tanner Smith

It’s hard to make a good or great movie about networking, but it is possible—I am referencing television networking in that statement. It’s even harder (and seemingly impossible) to make a good or great movie about the creation of a social network via computer. But “The Social Network” amazingly pulls it off—this is a great movie, not just because it knows what it’s talking about when it comes to developing this website, but because it’s so skillfully made and highlights a great cast and a sharp script.

You can see in the TV ads that “The Social Network” is the true story about the creation of Facebook, the social network we all (or most of us, anyway) know and love. But you’d be surprised that this is more about people than about Facebook. Facebook was created by an intelligent young man named Mark Zuckerberg, whose creation made him the youngest billionaire in America in his early 20s. In the movie, Mark is played by Jesse Eisenberg as a Harvard student who thinks he is right all the time. This doesn’t do him well with social situations—in an opening scene, he uses logic with his date Erica (Rooney Mara, soon to be known as The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) to the point where she dumps him and calls him an a**hole. Indeed, he is arrogant, persistent, and may be an a**hole, but he’s intelligent and somewhat witty in his own logical arguments.

Mark gets the idea while drunk and blogging that he could develop a site where fellow students could decide which of two Harvard girls is hotter than the other. He hacks into the system with the “facebooks” of students on campus computers, creates the site, and is declared an even bigger a—hole. But this brings the attention of identical twin brothers Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss (Armie Hammer), both of which are on the university’s rowing team, and their business partner Divya Narendra (Max Minghella). They tell Mark that they want him to help them program a new website called The Harvard Connection. Mark agrees, but goes to his best (and only) friend Eduardo (Andrew Garfield, soon to be known as the next Spider-Man) with the idea of making this idea into something bigger—“Thefacebook,” an online social network to Harvard students, where people can display personal information.

Mark and Eduardo eventually launch the site, which brings them popularity and trouble. The film intersects back and forth between those scenes and scenes involving Mark being sued by both the twins, for stealing their idea, and by Eduardo, for reasons to be explained later in the film. This shows you can be popular with one idea, but an enemy to others. In the storytelling scenes, we see as Facebook develops into a wider network, Eduardo is made CFO and pays thousands of dollars to help program it, and we later meet Sean Parker (Justin Timberlake), the founder of two music web startups (Napster and Plaxo). Sean is brought in to give insight on “Thefacebook” (drop the “the,” expand it, create a Wall, etc.). Sean is a manipulative creep who has Mark in his hands and pulls him into the big time. Why expand Facebook—well, why make millions when they can make billions?

The story for “The Social Network” (of which some elements are true, but like most biopics, they add flights of fancy) seems impossible to make into a movie. But the storytelling is amazingly well-developed with an excellent script. This is a great movie to listen to—the dialogue that these bright Harvard students say is on-target and amazing, but never to the point where we’re annoyed. And I love movies that show the whole process of creation—even if the idea of writing or filming how they begin to invent Facebook sounds unfilmable and illiterate, the script still surprises us with spellbinding writing and explanations in ways we can understand. This screenplay, written by Aaron Sorkin, really deserved the Oscar nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay (the film is partially based on the book, “The Accidental Billionaires”). It never falters, condescends, or dumb down the material or the characters. It’s amazing how this writer Aaron Sorkin and the film’s director David Fincher is able to tell this story without boring audiences.

Also, the script is excellent in developing the characters. Mark Zuckerberg is a nonsocial smart aleck, Eduardo is reliable but has a breaking point, and Sean is a bigger a**hole than Mark, but tries to cover it with manipulation and charm. The story gets heavier when Mark doesn’t even realize that Sean redrafts the financial arrangements to keep Eduardo out of the picture. All three roles are wonderfully acted and even “wonderfully” is not a strong enough adjective to describe these performances. Jesse Eisenberg deserves an Oscar (or at least a nomination) for his portrayal of Mark Zuckerberg. We all know from “Adventureland” and “Zombieland,” in which he starred as the lead role, that Eisenberg is a great young actor with a dry, highly verbal sense of humor. Here, he gives his best performance—he gives that same personality in this movie, but he gives something more to the character so we understand his arrogance and intelligence. He makes Mark Zuckerberg a living, breathing character rather than the butt of a joke this movie could have become. He has great screen presence, remarkable comic timing, excellent acting range, and is absolutely fantastic in this movie. Other strong performances—Justin Timberlake is memorable as Sean and Andrew Garfield is very good as Eduardo.

With a great cast, sharp direction, and an excellent script, “The Social Network” is, in my opinion, the best film of 2010.

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