//REVIEW: ‘The Social Network’ (2010)

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]

Alex started Film Misery in early 2009 after living the site’s title for many years. His film obsession began in high school when he and his friends would see all of the Oscar Best Picture nominees and try to make predictions...Full Bio.