THE SOCIAL NETWORK
Rated PG-13 for sexual content, drug and alcohol use and language.
**** 1/2 out of 5
Article first published as Movie Review: The Social Network on Blogcritics.
What’s the first thing you did this morning? At some point I can almost guarantee it was logging into Facebook. If it wasn’t before you left the house it was more than likely something you did as soon as you got to work. Or maybe even while sitting in traffic with your handheld device of choice. The fact of the matter is that Facebook runs a huge portion of everyday life whether we “like” it or not. And if you ever wondered how the mega-site came to be or are simply looking for a second frontrunner for this year’s Best Picture race then look no further than David Fincher’s “The Social Network.”
Fincher comes locked and loaded, armed with a motormouthed lead (Jesse Eisenberg, “Zombieland,” “Adventureland”), a hilariously game supporting cast and a surefire Best Adapted Screenplay from Aaron Sorkin (“A Few Good Men,” “The West Wing” and “Charlie Wilson’s War”) based on Ben Mezrich’s novel, “The Accidental Billionaires,” accounting the infant stages through the millionth members of Facebook.
Even I have to admit that I originally hated the idea of Facebook: being friends with all kinds of people you've either never met or haven’t seen in years suddenly anchoring themselves into your every thought and action. While “what’s on my mind” may not be as continually updated as others, I have since pretty much abandoned my Myspace account. Now after having seen this movie, I actually appreciate Facebook a little more, even if in the grand scheme of things, it all comes to fruition through years of litigation, backstabbing and ultimately an egocentric case of envy.
In Fall 2003, Mark Zuckerberg (Eisenberg) has just been broken up with by his Boston University girlfriend Erica Albright (Rooney Mara, the new “Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”). After she explains to him that he’s like dating a Stairmaster, he gets drunk and starts blogging about her being a bitch — and her false-advertising bra size. At the same time, he hacks into Harvard’s database and steals as many pictures of the female student body as he can. He launches a new site called facemash.com (a “hot or not” rip-off) which crashes Harvard’s server after 22,000 hits in 2 hours.
This brings him to the attention of the Winklevosses: Tyler and Cameron (both played by Armie Hammer). They want him to create a site they call “Harvard Connection” where students can socialize online. After weeks of putting off the brothers, and scoring financial backing from his best friend Eduardo Saverin (Andrew Garfield, the new “Spider-man”) to set up their own site called “The Facebook,” Zuckerberg launches his site. This pisses off the brothers Winklevi and their cohort Divya Narendra (Max Minghella), who want to sue the pants off Zuckerberg and get him expelled for stealing their idea.
Eventually Zuckerberg gets stuck in litigation hell being sued by everyone from the Winklevosses to Eduardo himself (after his stock is diluted to the point that he has absolutely nothing to do with The Facebook anymore). All this is really brought on after Zuckerberg and Eduardo meet with Napster founder Sean Parker (Justin Timberlake). While Zuckerberg and Parker want The Facebook to remain “cool,” which is its niche, Eduardo thinks that they need to start generating revenue and gets totally cut out when he takes a summer trip to New York to look for advertisers. What initially seems like a minute change to drop the “The” suggested by Parker is really what sets things in motion. It is the grappling hook that Parker plants in Zuckerberg’s back.
To say anymore would ruin some big surprises. For what may seem like just another 120-minute gab-athon, brings about some pretty deep human rivers of emotion. Although Eisenberg has been pigeonholed into playing the same type of character he's played before, it’s a hilarious character. What he brings this time is a snarky attitude and very subtle mannerisms that speak much louder than anything screenwriter Sorkin has coming out of his mouth.
Whether you love Facebook or detest it, you’re probably on it. Even Erica Albright and both Winklevi have profiles and fan pages. Unfortunately, while the site may still be as “cool” as Zuckerberg and Parker wanted to keep it, it’s also chock full of the advertising garbage that Eduardo sought out. Thankfully you can hide and block such applications as Mafia Wars and Farmville.
While some people love the idea of having thousands of friends spread all across the globe, I have a hard time even being friends with some family members. When you don’t like the idea of your closest friends (I currently only have 219) knowing your secrets, why would you want someone in a foreign land sharing them with everyone else they know, but I digress.
As for “The Social Network,” Fincher has created quite a snapshot of the Internet generation and whether we like it or not, this is our story. Everyone wants to be somebody even if it’s just to their own friends. While showboating may be a great way to get noticed, how better than to broadcast it across the Internet on a wall where hundreds of friends will surely notice. I mentioned earlier that we have a surefire screenplay nomination but there’s also no way that Fincher and the film itself won’t be taken for granted come awards season. Along with his cinematographer Jeff Cronenworth, editors Kirk Baxter and Angus Wall, another nod hopefully goes out to the cast as well as the score brought to us by Atticus Rose and none other than Nine Inch Nail’s Trent Reznor. “Inception” and “Toy Story 3” finally have some competition.