Special thanks to guest Babbler Billy Cuchens for his thoughts today!
The Social Network begins with dialogue between Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) and his girlfriend, Erica, (Rooney Mara) who is breaking up with him. She tells him that girls will break up with him not because he’s a genius but because he’s an a**hole. This phrase becomes a weight that Zuckerberg carries on his back as he creates the most profitable social network in history and becomes the youngest billionaire in the world.
The film begins with the site’s inception in the dorms at in 2003 at Harvard and continues through its explosion in California. At first, it is Zuckerberg’s story as told through a series of flashbacks that center on a deposition in which several people who played a pivotal role in the creation of Facebook.com are suing Zuckerberg. Midway through, the film becomes more about the site and who is ambitious enough to fulfill the site’s potential.
Director David Fincher, best known for the underrated Panic Room and the overrated Fight Club, has hit another home run, although a subtle one. Fans of his darker films will likely struggle to find his distinct style, but he made the right choice not to interfere with the theme of the film, which is the study of human behavior. However, true Fincher fans will find one of the film’s high points to be the musical score by Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails, who provided the song for the opening credits for Seven. Reznor’s music is tense, sad, and original. There are long sequences in the film with uninterrupted music. It reminds me of The Departed, in which the first music break doesn’t occur until over an hour into the film.
Fincher also made the most important decisions in his casting. Lesser films beat us to death with exaggerated stereotypes of the nerdy underdog, the handsome and successful overachievers, and the sleazy businessman. But characters’ emotions are portrayed with more subtlety. The young Eisenberg, best known for The Squid and the Whale and last year’s Zombieland, has the difficult task of playing a complex role and carrying the character through a complicated film, which he successfully pulls off. Perhaps the most interesting performance is Justin Timberlake as Sean Parker, the creator of Napster who takes Facebook to the next level. Parker is sleazy, ruthless, and brilliant, and Timberlake’s performance is terrific.
Aaron Sorkin’s screenplay, based on a book by Ben Mezrich, bears his signature stamp of quick dialogue. Somehow, he has made a film about computer programming so interesting that when it ends abruptly, I looked at my watch and thought, It’s over already? The story is that compelling.
Of course The Social Network not without it’s imperfections. The story seems to take potshots at the Winklevoss twins, whose only faults are lives filled with unrelenting success. Zuckerberg supposedly takes parts of their idea for a social network, improves on it, and leaves them in the dust. But since they are wealthy and good-looking, we’re supposed to feel cathartic when Mark the underdog sticks it to them.
Nevertheless, Zuckerberg is an interesting character, possibly more so than the film presents. The mind-boggling irony is that an antisocial computer nerd created the most successful social website in history. Only a genius who understands the complexities of human wants and needs could have done this.