Review: “The Social Network”

Mark Zuckerberg pokes people the wrong way in David Fincher’s depiction of the Facebook story.

Tony Libera

âÄúThe Social NetworkâÄù

 

Directed by: David Fincher

 

Starring: Jesse Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield, Justin Timberlake

 

Rated: PG-13

 

Showing at: Area theaters

 

When critics began comparing âÄúThe Social NetworkâÄù to âÄúThe GodfatherâÄù and âÄúCitizen KaneâÄú âÄî perennial contenders for the title of Greatest Movie Ever Made âÄî the indelible words of Flavor Flav started ringing in my ears. âÄúDonâÄôt believe the hype,âÄù the clock-adorned Muppet whined.

Such bold declarations can usually be chocked up to pandering and critical knob-jobbery, but âÄúThe Social NetworkâÄù is actually worthy of praise. âÄúThe Godfather,âÄù it is not, but this film gives us insight into the origins of what is arguably the most important creation of the new millennium, and it captivates while doing so.

The movie takes us back to Cambridge in 2003, when a young Mark Zuckerberg âÄî future co-founder of Facebook and the youngest billionaire of all time âÄî is engaged in a type of hyper-literate verbal sparring match not seen since the end of âÄúGilmore Girls.âÄù The dialogue is punchy and quickly details ZuckerbergâÄôs personality: HeâÄôs absurdly smart, quasi-cool in his nerdiness and a bit of a prick.

After pissing off his opponent/girlfriend, he returns home and, fueled by drunken machismo, hacks HarvardâÄôs student databases and creates a website that allows students to vote on the hotness of their female classmates. ItâÄôs offensive, misogynistic and it gets Zuckerberg into plenty of trouble, both legal and social. But it also sows the seeds of Facebook.

ZuckerbergâÄôs subsequent rise to power is saturated with moments of innovative brilliance, dumb luckand ruthless betrayal, which in many ways validates the âÄúKaneâÄù and âÄúGodfatherâÄù references. To be clear, âÄúThe Social NetworkâÄù is on a tier lower than those two films, but its themes and its presentation are undeniably similar.

Director David Fincher, working off a script by âÄúThe West WingâÄù maestro, Aaron Sorkin, presents much of the story in flashback form, bouncing between later litigation and FacebookâÄôs infancy. This non-linear storytelling, combined with the tycoon protagonist and a sense of loss amongst riches, does invite âÄúCitizen KaneâÄù and âÄúGodfatherâÄù comparisons. Still, Fincher retains his own cinematic style, painting ZuckerbergâÄôs life in murky hues and dipping into the Welles vault of tricks only when need be. Employing Trent ReznorâÄôs score bolsters the overarching darkness with ominous undercurrents and walls of throbbing industrial noise.

Yet FincherâÄôs greatest feat is the way he humanizes each character, instilling the multifarious and contradictive qualities of their real-life counterparts. ThereâÄôs no easy villain here, no easy hero. Zuckerberg, former partner Eduardo Saverin, the homo superior Winklevoss brothers and the like are depicted with an amount of nuance thatâÄôs rarely matched in cinema.

Sorkin shares some of the credit, as does the standout cast headed by Jesse Eisenberg. Eisenberg gets to do his patented fast-talkinâÄô routine, but trades in kindly Cera-esque awkwardness for blatant insensitivity. Zuckerberg is a complex figure, and Eisenberg sells his genius, his drive and his bitterness. Andrew Garfield imbues Saverin with a spirit of grief thatâÄôs affecting when it isnâÄôt maudlin, while Justin Timberlake makes Napster mastermind Sean Parker both slick and sleazy.

âÄúThe Social NetworkâÄù is already being hailed by some as the defining film of our generation. While thatâÄôs certainly a case of over-hyping, it doesnâÄôt detract from what is an expertly crafted film.

 

3.5/4 Stars