The Social Network
THE SOCIAL NETWORK begins with Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) and Erica Albright (Rooney Mara) engaged in a lightning fast dialogue exchange while drinking beers in a college bar. They discuss a variety of topics, but the point of this scene is not to get you involved with what they’re saying or even to get you to care about their pseudo-relationship. In this brief, five minute scene, screenwriter Aaron Sorkin establishes Mark Zuckerberg as a walking contradiction; a kid that wants to be popular and well liked, but is completely inept in social situations. This is a theme that permeates throughout the film as this skinny, loner computer geek creates the most popular social networking site in the world. This simple dialogue exchange is also Sorkin’s way of telling the audience that this film is going to move fast and it won’t repeat itself to make sure you got everything.
The simple “Facebook movie” is anything but. On the surface, this is a film about how the hugely successful social networking site came to be, but the reality is that this film is about the relationship Zuckerberg had with the people that happened to be around him when he designed and created Facebook. The key relationship in the movie is between Zuckerberg and Eduardo Saverin (played by future Spider-Man Andrew Garfield), who was originally the CFO of Facebook when it was just a little site ran out of a Harvard dorm room. But as the site grew, so did the distance between Saverin and Zuckerberg, eventually leading to Saverin suing Zuckerberg for his share of the profits.
The beginnings of the site are told via flashbacks, but not in the traditional sense. Zuckerberg was actually engaged in two separate lawsuits (he was also sued by the Winklevoss twins, who hired him to create a similar site) at the same time and we cut between them while at the same time getting the flashbacks of what really happened. This was a brilliant move by Fincher and this constant switching back and forth kept this dialogue-only movie flowing so fast and smooth, you felt like you were watching a summer blockbuster. It’s also told in a surprisingly unbiased manner and will likely spark debate amongst friends that see it together. Some people are going to feel that Zuckerberg was the victim in all this and that Saverin and the Winklevoss twins were out to get him. Others are going to feel that Zuckerberg was a jerk and a thief and that he should have had to give up more of the profits of Facebook. But that’s just one of the many great things about this film.
As fast as the film moved, the audience almost instantly cares about every character. Zuckerberg comes off as a bratty jerk at times, but Sorkin was clever with how he scripted him and created an interesting parallel between Zuckerberg and Albright and Zuckerberg and the people that were suing him. There’s a scene where Zuckerberg approaches Albright in a public setting and asks repeatedly to speak to her in private to which she refuses. He was supposedly going to apologize, but refused to do so in such a public setting. That refusal to swallow his pride was perhaps one of his undoings as his best friend eventually sued him. Perhaps a public apology or an admittance of guilt would have alleviated some of the public struggles Zuckerberg faced.
The audience is constantly challenged with how they feel about Zuckerberg. We love his quick retorts in the depositions and his laissez-fare attitude towards money and insults, but as the film progresses, we start to question whether or not he stole the idea. Sean Parker (played by an energetic Justin Timberlake) interjects himself when Facebook is starting to take off and his character makes us question Zuckerberg’s intentions again. Parker is the rock star socialite that we think Zuckerberg wants to become, only to see him shun Parker when Parker parties too hard. Eisenberg is spot-on with his portrayal of Zuckerberg, but again, the brilliance in the character is how Sorkin crafted his reactions to the drama going on around him.
But the greatest feat of David Fincher’s THE SOCIAL NETWORK is the film’s ability to feel like a huge summer blockbuster and an indie character drama all at once. Fincher has made some of my favorite films, but this is his best directorial effort to date. He didn’t have the benefit of fight scenes, a panic room or a man that ages in reverse to tell his stories. He had a handful of obnoxious nerds, a semi-famous programmer and some lawsuits, but managed to make this film just as captivating as anything else he’s done.