Posted on 2/16/11 08:21 PM
And finally I got to see it, nearly a month after its initial release I got my hands on The Social Network, easily one of the most highly anticipated films of the year. Before kicking off my review lets talk a bit about that anticipation. When it was first announced that a movie about Facebook was being made people, and I include myself in this group, were rather baffled. A movie about a social networking website that, yes, is a huge phenomenon and is incredibly relevant to our society, but is an invention that has been around for only four years, and surely there can't be movie-worth material in the story of its founding.
That's our first mistake, because the story told in The Social Network is more than movie-worthy, but that's to be discussed further on. Anyways, people were still confused, and then the key players started aligning themselves, and you had to start believing there was something here. The producers of the film included Michael De Luca (who has served as producers in such masterful films like Boogie Nights, American History X and Magnolia), Scott Rudin (who has produced, among many others, The Royal Tenenbaums, There Will Be Bloodand No Country for Old Men, for which he won an Oscar) and actor Kevin Spacey, who's a very smart man and definitely knows how to pick his projects.
So yes, the producers behind it were pretty incredible. But that may sometimes amount to nothing, but then we got word of the director and the writer who signed on for this one, and we knew that if we added this pairing to the mix the result would have to be amazing. The writer was Aaron Sorkin, a guy who created and wrote for two seriously amazing TV series, The West Wing and Sports Night, and that, in the movie front, has done A Few Good Men, The American President and Charlie Wilson's War. So yes, that's a pretty remarkable resumé, and for those of us who are familiar with his work we knew that his style, of tightly-written rapid and witty dialogue, would suit this story tremendously.
As for the director, the man needs no introduction, he is David Fincher, one of the very few directors that, in my opinion, has done not a single bad film in all of his career, and not only that, but has crafted a couple of masterpieces as well. His resumé speaks for itself: Se7en,Fight Club, Panic Room, Zodiac, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. As I said, the guy needs no introduction, and he's a very picky director, and knowing the quality of his past films, one had to know that if he chose this to be his next film it was because there was more than something to it.
So yes, I guess you could say we were in good hands. The cast then quickly started shaping up and one had to love it. Jesse Eisenberg, a personal of mine, signed on to play the lead role of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg. Andrew Garfield,who's having an amazing year thanks to this and Never Let Me Go and is poised to have an even better decade when he leads theSpider-Man reboot in 2012, signed on to play Eduardo Saverin, one of the co-founders. Justin Timberlake was set to play Napster founder Sean Parker, and Mr. Timberlake is a guy who's underrated as an actor, and his performance in this one is just amazing, but more on that later. Rooney Mara, who much like Mr. Garfield has an amazing career in front of her, not to mention that she clearly made a great impression on Mr. Fincher, who cast her as the lead in the highly-anticipated american film adaptation of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo was cast as Erica, Zuckerberg's one-time girlfriend. The rest of the cast was rounded out by Rashida Jones, who you have to be stupid not to love, and Armie Hammer, who also delivers his own star-making performance.
So yeah, it shaped up to be pretty amazing. Then came the poster, which was seriously cool, and then the teaser and that full trailer, set to a hauntingly beautiful version of Radiohead's Creep done by Scala, and once you saw that there could be no doubt in your mind that this one wasn't going to rock the socks out of everyone.
But this has all been way too much information from me on the reasons as to why the movie seemed to be one we should all end up loving, now let's get to the reasons we actually did end up loving it, and why it's, so far, the best movie to come out all year. The direction is what you would expect from Mr. Fincher, amazing through and through, super straightforward and very tight, the script could definitely contend for Oscar gold, and there are about six all-around amazing performances, anchored by a pretty much perfect one from Mr. Eisenberg, some of which could also find themselves in the thick of the Oscar race. But all that aside, The Social Network is just, simply put, a thoroughly entertaining film.
The film has sex, questionable ethics, amazing boardroom confrontations and it works as a pretty damn effective thriller. It literally has everything you could expect from it, and it's all adorned with some really sharp dialogue that makes this one move crazy fast, and you keep up with it, loving every goddam frame of it.
Some of you may already know the story. Mark Zuckerberg was a very ambitious Harvard student, who always wanted to come out on top, and nowadays is a billionaire while still in his twenties. I don't know how accurate the portrayal of Mark Zuckerberg is, the real Mr. Zuckerberg famously said that the only truly accurate thing in the film was his clothing, but I don't think so, I think there's a lot of him in how Jesse Eisenberg portrays him, as someone terrifically smart, someone cold, someone who lacked some social skills, someone who knew what he wanted and decided he was going to get it.
And Mr. Eisenberg's portrayal is fantastic, and it is him, with all of the above listed qualities, that guides the film through its stages. It's a testament to Mr. Fincher and Mr. Sorkin how well this works, they made "the movie about Facebook" into the best film of the year so far, they told a story that would seem boring, and translated it into pure entertainment. Sure, some facts may be off, Mr. Sorkin tells us he combined three versions of the story and told all three perspectives meshed with one another, and I don't care if it's not that historically accurate, because it's still real, it still resonates, and it's still quite perfect.
Mr. Eisenberg is known for how well he plays the socially awkward, you only have to seeAdventureland to be able to attest to this, and he goes into that bag of tricks again in this one, but he also trades one of his tricks here, because instead of playing his usual clueless characters here he plays ambitions and decisive. That social awkwardness was needed because Mr. Zuckerberg had to have this sort of bad interpersonal relationship skills, and that's, basically, why he created Facebook. He goes on a date with Erica, played by the poised-for-greatness Rooney Mara, and he completely jabbers on about everything and nothing, aggressively so at times, and she ends up calling him an asshole and just leaves.
Erica is actually one of fictional parts of The Social Network, but she proves a point, and there probably was an Erica in real life, or even more than one, the girl(s) who told the Mr. Zuckerberg to sod off and left him wondering how these social interactions could be made easier. He goes to his dorm after that date and creates a site, by using the head shots of every girl at Harvard, in which users can rate the girls depending on their level of hotness. He created this as some sort of personal vendetta, but being the visionary the man is, he saw beyond that, he saw what it could potentially become, and he went with it.
That's Zuckerberg's part of the story, the one we all know. Then come the other sides of it that the movie shows, and that's what makes this film so damn amazing. We get the Winkelvoss twins, played in a double duty by Armie Hammer, who think the idea for Facebook was stolen from a site they had developed for Harvard students. Armie Hammer's performance is terrific, he played one twin on the set, while a body double was the other one, and later went on to shoot just his head as the other twin, and the end result is amazing.
We also meet the founder of Napster, Sean Parker, in that wonderful performance by Justin Timberlake, who, out of these three supporting characters, gave the best performance of the bunch, and that's saying something, and, were it up to me, he'd be nominated for an Academy Award for it.
And, last but not surely not least, we get to meet the only real friend the movie tells us Mr. Zuckerberg had, Eduardo Saverin, his roommate at Harvard and the guy who was the first investor in Facebook, and who had a subsequent fallout with Zuckerberg which led to a lawsuit. His performance is another one to be reckoned with, and, combine this one with the one he gave in Never Let Me Go, and we can rest assured that our web-slinging friendly neighbor's franchise is in good hands.
It's great to see how Mr. Fincher tells this story, this after all still feels entirely like a David Fincher film, there's no Brad Pitt involved but it's still a very Fincher film, the lighting, the colors, how it's shot, this is his masterful work through and through, and I like it that he, alongside Mr. Sorkin, decided to pay attention to the claims by Mr. Zuckerberg as well as the ones made by the Winkelvoss twins and Mr. Saverin. I liked it because it showed all the sides, it wasn't biased, it made them all pay, and they didn't forcefully fill in the blanks and gaps, they left that up to us, to decide on our own who's the good guy and who's the bad guy.
This is a perfect film, the dialogue, the direction, the performances, they all combine sublimely to give us this, a film that's always exciting, sometimes quite funny, and just plain great, whether it's been over-fictionalized or not. And about that, I usually care about the real stories when they're portrayed in film, I get mad when those films go too much out of the road, but inThe Social Network, though obviously a very glossed up version of the true events, I didn't really mind about just how much was true, how much was blown out of proportion and how much just plain didn't happen, because this is a film sold not as a biopic, but as an effective drama, a different sort of thriller, a modern masterpiece.