“Oh, that Facebook movie?” was the common response from moviegoers when they were asked about David Fincher’s “The Social Network” in the weeks leading up to the film’s release.
Needless to say, hype for the film was rather low; people didn’t seem too interested in watching what they assumed to be a movie about Facebook. However, this preconceived impression is far from the truth.
Adapted from Ben Mezrich’s book “The Accidental Billionaires” by famous screenwriter Aaron Sorkin, “The Social Network” does feature Facebook but treats it as more of a plot device. Instead, the film focuses on the relationships between Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) and everyone else involved in the formation of the popular social networking website.
The film opens with a scene set in a Harvard bar, where Mark and his girlfriend Erica (Rooney Mara) are engaged in a conversation in which she can hardly keep up with him. After he unintentionally insults her a number of times, she breaks up with him, telling him that even though he’ll be “successful and rich,” girls won’t like him, not because he’s a nerd, but because “[he’s] an asshole.”
Angry, Mark returns to his dorm and creates Facemash, a website where people can rate the attractiveness of female Harvard undergraduates. The site receives thousands of hits and catches the attention of Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss (both played by Armie Hammer) and Divya Narendra (Max Minghella), who ask Mark to be the programmer for a Harvard social networking website, an offer which he accepts.
Shortly afterward, he approaches his best friend Eduardo Saverin (Andrew Garfield) with the idea of a Havard-exclusive social network that eventually culminates in their launch of “Thefacebook.” The site booms and is soon contested by the Winklevosses and Divya, who are convinced that Mark stole their idea.
As the site continues to expand rapidly, Mark and Eduardo’s friendship begins to fall apart, especially with the entrance of Napster founder Sean Parker (Justin Timberlake) deepening the rift. It isn’t long before Mark finds himself facing lawsuits from the people whom he has shut out.
Sorkin’s adaptation of Mezrich’s book is fairly faithful (though he changes or meshes events together for dramatic or comedic effect) but that isn’t what makes his screenplay impeccable. It is how he tells the story, as well as the well-written dialogue, that makes this dramatic film so electrifying.
Presented in a non-linear narrative, “The Social Network” goes back and forth between the present and the past. The present shows Mark attempting to ward off lawsuits from Eduardo, the Winklevosses and Divya, while the past presents the development of Facebook and the relationships between Mark and the others.
Through this non-sequential storytelling, the viewer is able to truly understand how the present and the past are related, and why Eduardo, the Winklevosses and Divya are so infuriated with Mark. Indeed, the emotions become clear by means of arranging these scenes side by side.
Sorkin’s trademark rapid-fire dialogue is ever present in “The Social Network.” Each line is arresting and, as a result, the film is never slow. The verbal exchanges between characters are utterly engaging and highlight their emotions. Interestingly, each line tends to be short and there are little to no monologues — perhaps this is meant as a critique of the short-mindedness that complements the Internet culture and generation.
In addition, Sorkin brings some Facebook features to life to show how ridiculous people can be. One particular scene has Eduardo’s girlfriend Christy Lee (Brenda Song) nagging him about how he didn’t change the relationship status on his Facebook profile from “single” to “in a relationship,” despite the fact that they have been together for several months.
Eisenberg is a wonder with his portrayal of the world’s youngest billionaire. He deftly communicates the discomfort that Mark feels around other people through details like his lack of eye contact and his preoccupation with his laptop.
As the only definitely likable character in the entire film, Garfield proves himself to be a formidable actor for his age. He enunciates each of his lines with the right emotion and tone, adeptly hides his British accent and makes great use of physical expressions.
Timberlake’s performance as the sleazy Parker is a pleasant surprise, as he steals every scene in which his character is present. His diction is comparable to the Biblical serpent’s smooth and tempting words, and his mannerisms reflect the opportunistic and laid-back characteristics of his character.
Hammer plays each of the Winklevoss twins perfectly, given that Cameron and Tyler each have a mind of their own which can either complement or contrast one another’s thoughts. With that being said, any time when the brothers interact with other characters is an absolute joy to watch.
Although their characters aren’t as developed as the four mentioned above, Mara, Minghella, Song and the other cast members manage to make some impression by delivering their lines capably and conveying key emotions.
In order to make the film’s dialogue-heavy narrative work well, the film editors have to ensure that no scene or sequence lasts too long. Fortunately, editors Kirk Baxter and Angus Wall know this and subsequently employ so many cuts that each shot lasts no more than 10 seconds. In fact, there are times when a cut occurs almost every three seconds, forcing the viewer to watch the film with rapt attention. From this rapid editing, the film maintains a quick pace.
One of the film’s many terrific achievements is Jeff Cronenweth’s cinematography, particularly his application of establishing shots to indicate a new location and a character’s relationship with it. Due to Fincher’s use of the Red One camera, the film has a somber and subdued color tone to accentuate the darker side of Facebook’s rise to popularity.
What is most surprising about the “The Social Network” is its superb music and sound. Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross are composers of the film’s mostly electronic score, which is appropriate, given the film’s context. Furthermore, Fincher aims for a degree of authenticity by making the film’s sounds as real as possible, as seen in one club scene where the characters must shout to make themselves heard over the very loud music.
To put it simply, “The Social Network” is a masterpiece. Fincher has created an exciting, hilarious, sad and phenomenal film that addresses the importance of social networking and interconnections between people in today’s culture. It is not just the best film of the year so far — it is the film that showcases the role of our relationships within the Facebook sensation and how that defines our generation.
Rating: 5 out of 5