REVIEW: ‘The Social Network’ (2010)

Grade: A-

Two years ago, when it was announced that a movie about Facebook was in the works, the general response around the internet seemed to be of a facetious nature. In reality the response should have been a resounding “it’s about time.” No other phenomenon has captured the American consciousness more than social networking has in the past several years. It is no longer an option whether or not to be a part of this internet movement – it is a necessity.

Our country’s obsession with digital social connections is the predominant theme in David Fincher’s film The Social Network. Through a biographical look at Facebook’s creator Mark Zuckerberg in the year leading up to the launch of his revolutionary website, Fincher turns the lens back on us – the one billion users of Facebook and our own obsession with online recognition. Zuckerberg is obsessed with being in the spotlight and has no preference whether that means being loved or hated as long as he is noticed. His creation allows for millions of people to create their own spheres of popularity where they have “Friends,” “Likes,” “Pokes,” and everybody seems to care. However, just like Zuckerberg’s relationships presented in The Social Network, Fincher shows that those connections don’t exist beyond a computer screen.

The desire for notoriety is the most prevalent, but not the only theme present in The Social Network. The film delicately balances thematic elements like a computer programmer who has a monitor with several windows open. Fincher exposes us to the nature of privilege and the power of exclusivity, the class system as it relates to a collegiate environment, and the question of whether or not truth can exist in a world of instant status updates and information that spreads like a disease. It is not Fincher’s best movie, and it frequently finds itself guilty of some annoying editing gimmicks, but in our world overwhelmed with technology The Social Network will be hailed for years to come as a very important movie.

The film opens on a neurotic and distracted Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) in the process of getting dumped by his girlfriend Erica (Rooney Mara). While under the influence he returns to his dorm room and hacks into the websites of the major girls’ halls at Harvard and he posts their pictures on a website he calls facesmash.com. From 2am to 4am the website receives so many hits that it crashes the Harvard servers and gives Zuckerberg his first brush with notoriety.

The rest of the film is intercut between two different depositions, in which Zuckerberg is the defendant, and flashbacks that tell the story of Facebook’s creation. Zuckerberg is inspired by an idea from pompous upperclassmen twin brothers Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss (both played by Josh Pence) and their colleague Divya Narendra (Max Minghella) to create a website that only allows students with a Harvard.edu e-mail address to join. Zuckerberg agrees, but instead molds their idea to fit his own and leads them astray while he and his best friend Eduardo Saverin (Andrew Garfield) create their own invention.

The beginnings of Facebook are run like you would expect a frat boy’s organization to be run – job interviews consist of drinking competitions, most of the work seems to be done after dark, and the founders have their own groupies. Zuckerberg and Saverin make friends with Sean Parker (Justin Timberlake), the infamous founder of Napster, and their eventual downfall is that their business plan works too perfectly giving them too much, too soon.

Characteristic of screenwriter Aaron Sorkin, most of the scenes consist of quick back and forth dialogue between two to four characters. Sorkin’s script is the strongest part of the film and it is obvious that he took great pleasure out of creating certain characters, particularly the Winklevoss twins whose supercilious objections are always batted down with a witty retort (best demonstrated in an enormously hilarious scene with the Harvard President). The film is powerfully character driven and plays out with reminiscences of David Mamet or any of the number of other films that profile the cutthroat world of business.

Eisenberg is phenomenal as the neurotic and obsessive protagonist. His constantly wandering eyes only focus when he stares at a computer screen and his social ineptitude implies elements of autism. Presumably Fincher intentionally and ironically points out that the man who changed the way that humans socialize may actually have a “social disorder,” hinting at what the director might think about our new way of communication. Justin Timberlake is surprisingly tolerable as the most despicable character Sean Parker and Andrew Garfield is excellent as the only likable character Eduardo Saverin.

The one area where the film does not work for me is the editing. The transition between the current scenes in the narrative and flashbacks are often intercut mid-sentence with the past version of the character completing the sentences of the same character who is telling the story in the present. The gimmick was overused and quickly became annoying and a distraction from the otherwise solid storytelling.

The biggest thing that The Social Network can hope to accomplish is to spur a dialogue about the state of human communication in this digital age, which it seems to do effectively. The main question that the film raises is an important one: is the exposure to a constant flow of status updates and photo books getting us closer or further to innate human truth?

Bottom Line: Despite its construction flaws, The Social Network is undeniably one of the most important movies of the decade.

[Image: Beyond Hollywood]

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  • http://wadesfilms.blogspot.com Matthew Durham

    Great review Alex, I recently did my Oscar predictions over on my blog site (which I am pleased to announce will eventually become a regular domain website) While going over the Best Picture nods I predicted, I think it’ll come down to The Social Network, The King’s Speech, Inception, and The Kid’s are All Right going for Best Picture.

    I also had Eisenberg down for an actor nod, shot-in-the-dark but he almost seems born to play Zuckerberg. It’s cool seeing how well this movie is doing.

  • http://awardswhore.wordpress.com/ Travis

    Great review! definitely looking forward to this one..

    How was Brenda Song in the film? I’ve been curious to see her break away from Disney Channel, and this is about as big a change as she could have taken.

  • http://www.filmmisery.com Davin Lacksonen

    Matthew, I’d watch out for The Fighter too. I am so glad to hear that this movie is good, forget the Oscars, I’ve been calling this one to be the actual best picture of the year for a long time.

  • http://ramblingsofg1000.blogspot.com G1000

    Glad you enjoyed. Can’t wait for this.

  • http://wadesfilms.blogspot.com Matthew Durham

    Davin, I think The Fighter can squeeze out a nod too, but just like Hereafter, I have no clue how good it will be.

  • http://highoncelluloid.blogspot.com Duncan Houst

    I don’t see what people see in “The Fighter”. It just doesn’t look special to me. Now, I expect “The Social Network” to grab a Best Picture nomination. It was a lock when the trailer came out. However, a critical backlash could hurt the film. We’ll have to see.

  • http://www.filmmisery.com Alex Carlson

    I highly doubt there will be a critical backlash.

  • Davin Lacksonen

    Matt/Duncan check out this article:
    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/10/movies/10fighter.html
    This sounds so much like the underdog story of both Slumdog and Hurt Locker to me, Wahlberg has created a true four-year devoted passion project. I could see the quality hindering it and falling down the Never Let Me Go slide as well. But if it is good, if critics back it, this’ll be a huge player.

    For the record, I doubt Hereafter will get nominated, I also doubt it will be any good. But I’m almost always wrong about everything.

    I agree, Alex, critics love Fincher too much to deny him the credit he deserves, if you are right in his deserving.

  • http://wadesfilms.blogspot.com Matthew Durham

    I love how the Hereafter trailer came on today…looks good, might take Tree of Life’s place on my list, since its delayed…again.

    Davin, Actually if you go on youtube you can see them filming some of The Fighter the acting looks noteworthy for sure.

    I have a feeling The Social Network will be this years Up in the Air, it might go further, but Up in the Air was snubbed for screenplay, I think Sorkin’s the best bet here.

  • http://wadesfilms.blogspot.com Matthew Durham

    I’ve had to change my best picture predictions around a lot the past few days, but i’m proud of this dates draft:

    127 Hours
    Black Swan
    The Fighter
    Hereafter
    Inception
    The Kid’s are All Right
    The King’s Speech
    The Social Network
    Toy Story 3
    True Grit

    The Way Back and The Tree of Life fell off, The Way Back is still possible though. True Grit is another I have not clue about.

  • Quinn

    Glad you liked it I cannot not wait to see it it looks excellent. My Best Picture Predictions are:

    “Black Swan”
    “The Fighter”
    “Hereafter”
    “Inception”
    “The Kids Are Alright”
    “The King’s Speech”
    “The Social Network”
    “The Tree of Life”
    “Toy Story 3”
    “The Way Back”

  • Davin Lacksonen

    Neither of you foresee Another Year getting nominated?

  • Quinn

    I would love “Another Year” to get nominated, I think it looks great, but I think it may be too small. But I wouldn’t be surprised if it did get nominated.

  • http://www.filmmisery.com Davin Lacksonen

    Fair enough, but Leigh’s other small films have always seemd to find a way. The Tree of Life is out of the question though, since it got pushed back.
    http://www.deadline.com/2010/09/breaking-fox-searchlight-buys-terrence-malicks-tree-of-life-plots-2011-release/

    Here is a thought: Let Me In for Best Picture.

  • Jose

    Davin, I see “Another Year” getting a screenplay or an acting nomination instead like “Happy Go Lucky”.

    As for “Let Me In”, I’m curious, are you serious or joking?

  • http://wadesfilms.blogspot.com Matthew Durham

    It be really cool to have a ‘forum’ section on here where we could discuss this stuff…we are totally off topic of The Social Network haha

  • Quinn

    Haha yeah we are. And you have to kidding about “The Tree Of Life” being pushed back again. Its ridiculous.

  • http://www.filmmisery.com Davin Lacksonen

    I am half joking, yes Jose, but in all seriousness, incontention.com just wrote a bit about how the Toronto International Film Festival premier of the film is garnering reviews saying it is stronger than the original. Obviously I’m not predicting it, but… just think about it.

    @Matt, yeah I think the important part is that we are having a pretty solid (not angry) discussion. And I think we all have high expectations for The Social Network, does anyone else have reviews up other than LA Weekly?

  • Jose

    Here’s another thought then: “How To Train Your Dragon”.

  • http://www.filmmisery.com Davin Lacksonen

    That thought has been pretty beaten to the bone but I still can’t imagine it happening, not with Toy Story 3 there. It’s like this years Fantastic Mr. Fox.

  • Jose

    That’s what I keep thinking about “Dragon”.
    Personally I love the movie but “Toy Story 3″ is the better one, but whenever I go to other sites there are other people, a lot surprisingly, who say that “Dragon” is the better movie and deserves the Oscar attention more.
    And this is just me, but I thought “Fantastic Mr. Fox” was better then “Up”,.

  • http://wadesfilms.blogspot.com Matthew Durham

    I saw some reviews from other people who attended screenings for TSN on the imdb boards, but I try to stay away from those.

    How to Train Your Dragon was a phenomenal movie and experience. It was so beautiful, the story, the score, the effects. I would love to see it up for best pic with Toy Story 3, but there can only be one haha. I really hope to see HTTYD in much more categories though.

  • http://wadesfilms.blogspot.com Matthew Durham

    oh and… Fantastic Mr Fox is one of my favorite animated films of all time, Wes Anderson is one of my favorite directors.

  • http://www.filmmisery.com Alex Carlson

    ‘Fantastic Mr. Fox’ is excellent, but ‘Up’ is just filmmaking on another level. Superb in every way.

  • http://wadesfilms.blogspot.com Matthew Durham

    When I did my list for favorite films last year, Up and Mr. Fox were the 2 best for sure. I cried like a baby in Up’s opening scene

  • http://www.filmmisery.com Davin Lacksonen

    Whether or not Fantastic Mr. Fox is better than Up is not really the point I was trying to make. Similarly whether or not How to Train Your Dragon is better than Toy Story 3 does not affect my analogy that the pixar films have much better oscar odds.

  • http://wadesfilms.blogspot.com Matthew Durham

    I agree completely, but I still, personally, want How to Train Your Dragon to get as much as it can.

  • http://www.amateurfilmcritics.com Brandon Cooley

    I would bet money that True Grit will nominated for Best Picture. Also I thought that Up was a little bit overrated.

  • Quinn

    the words “Up” and “overrated” don’t even belong in the same sentence.

  • http://www.filmmisery.com Davin Lacksonen

    I’d be careful on True Grit… I love the Coens irrationally, but my eyebrows are raised. I’m predicting it, but I’d be careful just where you put your money. I’m about ready to put money on The King’s Speech winning though. The only downside is that it is peaking too early, hopefully it’s actual release will carry it through. I see a Cadillac Peoples choice, followed by the National Board of Review, Golden Globe, and Best Picture. But, if it peaks too early it will end up looking like Precious last year. But right now it reminds me more of Slumdog.

    Oh, and anyone predicting Hereafter, I’d pull it right now, early reactions are awful. That one reminds me of The Lovely Bones.

    But this is all pure speculation, I don’t do predictions too often because I get too excited too quickly, and comparing films to previous films is usually irrelevant, since each film and each year is different, but as you can see, I can’t help it.

  • http://wadesfilms.blogspot.com Matthew Durham

    “Up’ is highly rated and deserves every bit of it.

    True Grit is looking sketchy right now, it’s still in there for me,but idk I might have to remove Hereafter unfortunately, but at this point the list is changing every day so i’m going to leave that slot open.

    I actually liked The Lovely Bones, wasn’t as good as the book though.

    The King’s Speech I think will get highly nominated, but idk if it’ll win best picture.

  • Quinn

    I liked “The Lovely Bones”, though it was flawed and not nearly as great as the book.

  • Jake G.

    Best Picture Predictions:
    Hereafter
    The Kings Speech
    The Social Network
    The Town
    True Grit
    Inception
    127 Hours
    How Do You Know
    The Fighter
    Black Swan

  • Quinn

    I would LOVE if “The Town” got nominated. Its my most anticipated movie of 2010 and I’m in the middle of the book its based on, but I don’t it will be nominated.

  • http://www.filmmisery.com Alex Carlson

    I’m seeing ‘The Town’ tonight and I will let you know how it is (and it’s Oscar chances).

  • Quinn

    You are so lucky.

  • http://wadesfilms.blogspot.com Matthew Durham

    I missed the chance to see it last night, I was pretty mad at myself

  • Davin Lacksonen

    The only movie I have access to right now is Secretariat, not worth it. The Town looks cool but I don’t know if I foresee oscars. More importantly, the trailer went way too far into the plot.

  • http://wadesfilms.blogspot.com Matthew Durham

    I have a chance to see Legend of the Guardians next week early…I might actually take it.

  • Quinn

    How was “The Town”?

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