- Rated PG-13
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All photos © Sony Pictures
Reviewed by Jason Zingale
or a movie about one of the biggest pop culture phenomena of the last decade, David Fincher’s “The Social Network” is surprisingly modest, relying mainly on great dialogue and strong performances from its young cast to propel a story so riveting that it transcends the film's ugly reputation as The Facebook Movie. Of course, Facebook is merely the vessel for the story. You could replace the social networking site with any other corporate empire built on ruined friendships, broken promises and massive egos, and it would still be just as interesting. What makes Facebook a particularly fascinating subject, however, is its relevance in our day-to-day lives, resulting in a movie that’s not only one of the year’s best, but one that could very well define a generation.
It’s funny to think that Facebook was cultivated from one drunken night in front of a computer, but for Harvard sophomore Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg), that’s exactly how his billion-dollar idea began. Though Facebook wasn’t created that night, Mark did launch another website called Facemash – which allowed students to vote on the attractiveness of their female classmates – that gained the attention of the advisory board, as well as twin brothers Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss (Armie Hammer), who were searching for someone to help design their Harvard-based dating site. Though Mark initially agreed to do some programming for them, the site inspired an even better idea of his own – one that he presented to friend Eduardo Saverin (Andrew Garfield) for help in getting off the ground. Unaware that Mark was working on his own website behind their backs, the Winklevoss twins were devastated to learn about the launch and success of Facebook in February 2004, claiming that Mark had stolen their idea. Not long after, Mark joined forces with Napster co-founder Sean Parker (Justin Timberlake) to find new investors and take the site global, leaving Eduardo behind in the process.
That may sound like a pretty big spoiler, but even for those who aren’t familiar with the lawsuits against Mark Zuckerberg, “The Social Network” doesn’t waste any time in giving away its ending, as the movie is told mostly through flashbacks as the two parties – Eduardo Saverin and the Winklevoss twins – recount their respective stories of betrayal as they attempt to sue Mark. Though many might have been tempted to structure the story as a more linear narrative, David Fincher and Aaron Sorkin – who are admittedly a bit of an odd couple when you compare Fincher’s slow-burning thrillers to Sorkin’s rapid-fire scripts – have created a framework that not only makes more sense, but really helps in the film’s kinetic pacing. Sorkin’s script, in particular, is filled with the kind of zippy, clever and darkly comical dialogue that has made him one of the most in-demand writers in Hollywood, and it might just be the best thing he’s ever written.
The actors are also better because of it, and you can almost see the excitement on their faces as they unload each clip of dialogue like a machine gun, spitting words at each other so fast that they sometimes miss what the other is saying. Andrew Garfield and Justin Timberlake deliver strong dramatic turns as the figurative angel and devil on Mark’s shoulders, while Armie Hammer gets a little help from some special effects wizardry to portray both Winklevoss twins. But it’s Jesse Eisenberg who completely owns the movie, stepping away from being typecast as the sweet and harmless nerd to play one of the most magnetic film characters in recent history. Falling somewhere between overconfidence and playful sarcasm, Eisenberg depicts Mark not as a villain, but a socially inept whiz-kid who doesn't want people riding the coattails of his genius.
This is an important distinction to make, because while Ben Mezrich’s “The Accidental Billionaires” (the blueprint on which Sorkin based his script) paints Mark in a slightly better light than in the film, he still has to be somewhat likeable or the audience won’t care about his meteoric rise. A disgruntled girlfriend played by Rooney Mara says it best when she tells Mark, "You are probably going to be a very successful computer person. But you’re going to go through life thinking that girls don’t like you because you’re a nerd. And I want you to know, from the bottom of my heart, that that won’t be true. It’ll be because you’re an asshole." Whether or not the real Mark Zuckerberg is actually this spiteful is irrelevant, because while Fincher and Sorkin may have taken some liberties with the story, the movie is so compelling that it doesn't matter what's fact and fiction.
Collector's Edition Blu-Ray Review:
Sony has done a great job of putting together a worthwhile collection of bonus features considering the quick turnaround time. Along with individual audio commentaries by director David Fincher and writer Aaron Sorkin and the cast, the two-disc release also includes a feature-length making-of documentary ("How Did They Ever Make a Movie of Facebook?"), five production featurettes on everything from the visual effects to Trent Reznor's score, and Ruby Skye VIP Room: Multi-Angle Scene Breakdown feature.