The Social Network (Fincher, 2010)
The Social Network represents an age where technology is an integral part of our lives. The experience of living has been dumbed down and recreated for us on computers. Facebook has been a significant stepping stone towards this new kind of social experience. The idea of Facebook was rooted in exclusivity. Only Harvard students would be able to use the site. Soon, other elite universities were invited into the mix. Eventually, all colleges were allowed to take part. Now anyone can join. Facebook, meant to embody the college experience, has ironically become a free-for-all, where members frequently find themselves running into even their own parents. To think of Facebook as exclusive is laughable. Zuckerberg also did not want advertisements, thinking it would take away what makes the site “cool”. Ads now, of course, present themselves on the borders of the page based on our specific interests. The film, without going into how the site functions today, shows that the site became much bigger than the idea behind it. Facebook transcends itself, for better or worse, and has come to represent Generation Y and modern technological culture.
The Social Network is set with the weighty task of providing broader cultural relevance plus providing a fictional account of Mark Zuckerberg’s infamous lawsuits following his creation of the site. There are few films where every piece comes together this perfectly. Putting David Fincher and Aaron Sorkin together is a match made in heaven. Sorkin’s script features him at the top of his game, obsessively controlling its fast pace, razor sharp dialogue and chronological structure. He brings all of these characteristics together with an overarching layer of much appreciated disdain and cynicism. Fincher, in his finest work to date, (a major step up from the overly sentimental Curious Case of Benjamin Button) wisely takes a more observational approach with the various perspectives. He compliments Sorkin’s scathing cynicism with a distant and critical eye, coolly studying the characters and catching them in compromising moments. This is not a warm film; its atmosphere fits the fall season.
Fincher uses the industrially electronic score (by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross) to fuel the frigid mood and radiate intensity. More importantly, he uses the score as the ground level, from which Fincher constructs highly complex sequences which are spaced out accordingly. Featuring some astonishing editing and accomplishing the kind of effect often found after watching a big musical number, these sequences are perhaps the most mesmerizing part of The Social Network.
Chronologically jumping between the two lawsuits and the creation of the site, several different perspectives are shown. One of those is best friend Eduardo Savarin (Andrew Garfield), who early on, made a deal with Zuckerberg when he invests his money into the site, agreeing on getting thirty percent of the profits. Eventually, the involvement of Napster founder Sean Parker (Justin Timberlake) would lead to the downfall of their friendship and one of the lawsuits. Another perspective is that of the Winklevoss twins, Cameron and Tyler (both played by Armie Hammer). They first suggested the idea to Zuckerberg, which he then took and developed on his own without telling them. Is seeing the true potential in an idea just as substantial as having the idea in the first place? Later in the film, another perspective enters the mix with Sean Parker. Zuckerberg’s trust and worship of Parker catapults us into the final act of the film.
How do you make yourself standout in a university filled with geniuses? With this dilemma and the inability to get into the elite clubs, Zuckerberg is painted as someone operating out of loneliness, in addition to a need to make a contribution. He substitutes his isolated feelings with accomplishment and an unbearable superiority complex, particularly with Eduardo. If he does not feel like speaking, he won’t. However, if he does, believe he will say what he wants. His constant ability to condescend is on full display in the first scene (arguably the best in Sorkin’s script). The break-up scene between Mark and Erica (Rooney Mara) feels like a punch to the gut. Jesse Eisenberg, in not only his best performance but one of the best performances of the year, is fearless. He delivers his lines with frightening conviction and deadpan. His defense mechanism is unbreakable. Only the audience sees those rare moments of his wall being broken down. He never lets the other characters in. Andrew Garfield easily plays the most
sympathetic character. The script may not place him in the role of the hero, but he elicits our remorse. Garfield shows us his fondness for Zuckerberg and justifies staying friends with someone who puts him down so often. Justin Timberlake portrays Sean Parker’s charisma but more importantly the paranoia and troubled mogul who has become removed from reality. Armie Hammer is nothing less than fantastic as the Winklevoss twins. There is no weak link in this cast.
Even though The Social Network comes very close to perfection, there are a couple of irksome observations I have. The biggest being that Zuckerberg’s arc is somewhat lost by the end. As Parker becomes more involved in the film, we lose track of our main protagonist. He gets sucked into a lifestyle without partaking in it. He is very worn out and continues to spend his time working on the site. The film becomes too distant from him in the last third. By the last scene, which picks up his characterization once again, it feels as if there is a connective thread missing. Also, the purpose of the Christy Lee (Brenda Song) character is lost on me. She seems to further the film’s lack of respectful female characters (the only two being Rooney Mara and Rashida Jones in bit parts).
The Social Network is a remarkable piece of filmmaking, a project that rose far above its label of “the facebook movie”. It works as an observational character piece, exploring dynamics and deception. It also works as a cultural exploration, a portrait of an important moment in the growth of technological social life and its wide-reaching implications. There are few films that are not to be missed. This is one of them.