Facebook. Love it or hate it, people are using it. The social networking website has 500 million users and counting, and for many it has become a way of life, a way to stay connected to friends and family across the country and around the world, especially the ones you don't like enough to actually talk with on the phone. Facebook has redefined the way people interact, share and talk, and it's the brainchild of one Mark Zuckerberg, who is now the youngest billionaire on the planet.
Zuckerberg is 26 years old, and is the unlikely subject of David Fincher's latest movie The Social Network. The thought of watching a movie about Facebook was not appealing at first. After all, Facebook is everywhere. Why would I want to watch a movie about it? Just as importantly, what's so interesting about the life of a 20-something who went to Harvard and became rich?
As with the rise of many great companies - Microsoft comes to mind - there is a lot more drama than one could imagine. Regardless of the facts - and The Social Network, based on a book with no input from Zuckerberg, and written by Aaron Sorkin, who himself said "I don't want my fidelity to be the truth; I want it to be to storytelling," is surely not a wholly accurate tale - it's clear Zuckerberg rubbed people the wrong way. His original investor, Eduardo Saverin, ended up suing him for $600 million; fellow Harvard undergrads Cameron Winklevoss, Tyler Winklevoss and Divya Narendra sued him for stealing their idea and misleading them about the delivery of their own social networking website, for which they had hired him to develop.
The Town may have officially kicked off awards season a couple weeks ago, but The Social Network is the first legitimate contender. Featuring an edgy script by Sorkin ("The West Wing"), fabulous direction by Fincher and excellent performances by all cast members involved, The Social Network is a compelling, disturbing and at times sad character study, and, simultaneously, tense business thriller. It's original and mesmerizing, and easily one of the best movies of the year.
Eisenberg, who has flirted with breaking out in a huge way over the last several years (Zombieland, Adventureland and The Squid and the Whale), delivers an award-worthy performance as Zuckerberg. He portrays Zuckerberg as an emotionally dysfunctional cretin, a near sociopath save for the fact that he cares all too much about what others think about him. Regardless of how accurate the character is to the true Zuckerberg, it is a disturbingly intriguing performance, one that both paints Zuckerberg in a negative light and yet sympathizes with him.
Andrew Garfield, who will play the new Spider-Man, is also excellent in a supporting role, as is Justin Timberlake, who steals scenes as Sean Parker, the inventor of Napster. Parker is portrayed even more negatively than Zuckerberg and Timberlake thrives as a result. While unlikely, don't be surprised to see his name tossed around come awards season. Rooney Mara, who is about to break into the mainstream in the upcoming Fincher remake The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, plays a small but pivotal role and jumpstarts the movie with a beautifully scripted opening scene.
The real stars are Fincher and Sorkin, however. In other hands, The Social Network could have been bland or meandering, but Sorkin pours acid over the subject matter and eats it to its core. The result: one of the edgiest, most satisfying screenplays since Juno and a sure-lock for Best Adapted Screenplay. Fincher brings the screenplay to life with the same gusto he injects into any of his thrillers. The Social Network looks great from beginning to end.
There was a lot of buzz leading up to the release of the movie, and The Social Network doesn't quite meet those expectations. But it's still a sharp-tongued, intelligent movie that is immensely satisfying. It's too early to say where it will rank at the end of the year, but expectations are that it has a legitimate chance at the Best Picture throne.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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