Posted on 10/21/10 12:29 PM
I'm going to be honest: The Social Network was getting rave reviews way before it was even approaching its release date. Buzz about it being this year's Best Picture and all that jazz were already working their way through the media, and no one had even seen the film. Of course, this is largely due to the film's relevance: that is, it's 100% relevant. The film is about Facebook, I mean, who doesn't have a Facebook? Your grandmother probably has a Facebook and doesn't even know about it.
If your grandmother suffers from Alzheimers, and this is why she doesn't know she has Facebook, I deeply apologize for the misunderstanding.
And thus! The Social Network is born from famed director David Fincher and screenwriter Aaron Sorkin, starring Jesse Eisenberg of Zombieland fame as the "protagonist," if you will, Mark Zuckerberg. Social Network is a modern story of how that blue thing on our computers that we hate and love came to be, and how much trouble Mr. Zuckerberg got into while producing it. If anything, The Social Network is an allegory for almost any "unknown father" scenario, starring Mark Zuckerberg as the troubled mother and Facebook as the emotionally scared child...
Bad analogies aside, The Social Network is most certainly a work of art. Just because I got hype left and right about it for so long doesn't mean I was immediately going to dismiss it. In any case, Social Network has impeccable pacing, one of the best scripts I've ever experienced, and an extremely talented cast, making it one of this year's best films by far.
The story follows Facebook from its baby steps all the way to when it became the world-wide phenomenon we know today. The path of a Facebook is a trying one, however; the film is framed within two separate lawsuits. One revolves around the idea that Mark completely stole the concept of "Facebook" from two brothers and their friend while seemingly working on that same project for them. Without them knowing, Mark developed his own code and invented what he wanted to, claiming that he didn't steal the idea but simply improved upon it. Of course, he wouldn't dare give any ownership to the other party, considering they had nearly no input on his project.
The other lawsuit is between Zuckerberg and long-time best friend and business partner Eduardo (Andrew Garfield). I don't want to spoil why there's a lawsuit there in case you haven't heard Facebook's history, but this is really the more important of the two framing plots and the more interesting by a long shot.
I have no idea what Mark Zuckerberg is like in real life, but as a cinematic character, I loved him. He's cold, he's witty, he's relentlessly insulting and he plays by his own rules. Eisenberg definitely puts the "cool" in "school" with his portrayal of the antisocial mega nerd, and you may hate him and yet want to be him at the same time. Endearing performances abound from the rest of the cast, however, including Garfield and even Justin Timberlake as Sean Parker, the fictional version of Shawn Fanning, founder of Napster. There exists very little input in the film from female roles, however, which may strike some as strange. The only real female characters are Brenda Song as Eduardo's crazy (but relatively unimportant) girlfriend, Christy and The Office's Rashida Jones as Marylin, a lawyer-to-be who sits in on the lawsuit between Mark and Eduardo and gives some commentary from time to time. Otherwise, this is a boys only movie; the film almost treats women as just objects (if it weren't for a female-empowering scene at the very end of the film).
But I digress, all the quips from Zuckerberg are quick strikes. He insults and defends himself with ease, and makes looking like a nerd who creates a multi-billion dollar empire by the age of 26 a breeze. As alienating as he may be, he's likable and pretty relatable; other than being the bearer of a 298,441 IQ, he's just a regular college kid like many of us are, have been, or will be. He eternally strives to meet girls, and he likes to feel invincible and completely independent. This side of him becomes attached to us, while his Harvard background is the part we get to see unfold on-screen. His best buddy Eduardo is a bit more accessible, being the guy who just wants acceptance in a world where acceptance is hard to come by. The two come together to create "The Facebook" and both of their lives spiral out of control, for better and for worse.
Then Mr. Timberlake chimes in as the founder of Napster, and the plot finally sets in. Sean Parker is your typical slick big-wig formal-casual attire-donning businessman. He edges himself into the Facebook craze and becomes a pretty big stock-owner, becoming Mark's most loyal and trusted business adviser.. a position originally belonging to Eduardo.
The personal connections and interactions between the main characters seem real at times, yet soulless at others. If I had to say this film was missing something (other than dinosaurs and a series of explosions), it's a soul. The cinematography, as a whole, is very Harvard-feeling in that everything looks pristine and as close to perfect as possible. Aside from sets taking place at the actual Harvard campus like dorm rooms, classrooms, libraries and gyms, boardrooms are another recurring set, giving everything a "boring" feeling to them. It's a bit difficult to explain, because the film is by no means "boring" but it has that upper-class snooty feel to it, a feel that it pretty much needs to have. This may be why scenes taking place at a nightclub or a pool feel so much out of place, considering things in these scenes are much more hectic than the normal feeling of Harvard. The film definitely shoots for these feelings directly and never misses a mark, which isn't what makes this film "soulless" at certain points... it's the rare far and few moments of happiness anyone ever feels at any given point. Mark is a pretty stoic character and rarely shows emotion to begin with, and Sean gets relatively animated and excited at every turn, but since you're also following the footsteps of Eduardo, he never seems to be complacent with any event, even ones that should get him extremely excited. It almost seems that for every great thing, there's at least an equally terrible occurrence that keeps every character from achieving their nirvana.
All in all, The Social Network is viewed as defining a generation. This is both true and false; although it accurately depicts a lot of college life and emphasizes the theme of interconnectivity between people, it never really hits the nail on the head. I only wish that The Social Network had a few more emotional feelings and scenes as well as focusing on people as a whole rather than just a few and just Harvard... but this is a small gripe at most. The Social Network is, as I stated, a work of art. Facebook is what has defined a generation, and a film chronicling it from start to its current peak in popularity isn't a film to be missed.
-Kyle E. Shelton