“The Social Network” Movie Review

Going through college life as a nerd really puts this movie into a brand new perspective for someone like me. I’m not entirely sure if that is necessarily a positive, but that just is what it is. This tech-based biographical drama was first unveiled as one of the opening features at the 2010 New York Film Festival. It was then released in theaters by Columbia Pictures a week later on October 1st, 2010, where it supplanted middling expectations among people in the industry. It went on to gross nearly $225 million at the worldwide box office as well as some of the best reviews of that year. It then went on to practically dominate awards season, including winning 3 Academy Awards and nominated for 5 others. Directed by David Fincher, the film was originally written by celebrated screenwriter Aaron Sorkin in the mid- to late 2000’s. It pulled largely from the book, The Accidental Billionaires: The Founding of Facebook, a Tale of Sex, Money, Genius and Betrayal by Ben Mezrich. Although its primary subject had no involvement with the production whatsoever, he did apparently buy out a whole theater so that his employees could all go see it. Based on the true story, the film starts in the Fall semester of 2003 and stars Jesse Eisenberg as Mark Zuckerberg, a young, socially awkward but brilliant computer science major attending Harvard University. Following some emotional circumstances, he and some friends decide to create Facebook, a social networking site that would allow users to connect with others online. We witness as he gains enormous global success from the invention, as well as the aftermath with two separate lawsuits. One concerns twins Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss and their business partner Divya Narendra, who claim Zuckerberg stole the idea from them, and the other is his former best friend Eduardo Saverin, for a variety of personal reasons. Truth be told, The Social Network is one of those movies that took me a little while to really grow on and love. In fairness, I was probably a tad too young when I first watched it; there were a whole lot of things in the story that didn’t make sense to me and I felt cold watching it. It also has the distinction of being the first film of David Fincher’s that I ever watched, though I wouldn’t get a hold of his other work until much later. In retrospect, the whole idea of a feature film centered on the founding of something as mundane as Facebook seems extremely boring and outlandish. I have no social media at all, aside from this Blog and Letterboxd; so it would be especially hard for me to relate. And now, after a rewatch or two this year, I have finally come around to see how truly amazing this film really is. The largest reason for its success is how Sorkin and Fincher are able to compromise and find common ground for this story. I love Aaron Sorkin’s work on The West Wing and Steve Jobs, but his writing sometimes comes off as either overly optimistic or too bitingly cynical. Fincher is able to balance things out because he empathizes with Zuckerberg so much, a young visionary who very few people believe in. Yes, there are numerous factual inaccuracies with the story, especially in the way certain motivations are portrayed. But unlike many other films that do this, (See: Bohemian Rhapsody, or don’t) The Social Network gets by because nothing about it feels cheap. Social media has come to define our very ways of life, so its relevance will only increase as the 21st Century rolls along. Say what you want about his later roles, Jesse Eisenberg is practically perfect as Mark Zuckerberg. Don’t let his lanky, small physique fool you; this is a brilliant, ruthlessly calculated performance, able to spit out incredibly complex sentences in a very precise manner. His lack of eye contact and general social ability makes him seem almost inhuman in his intellect and disconnected as a person, telling a lawyer, “Did I adequately answer your condescending question?” We empathize with him a lot, as all he really wants to do is fit in somewhere or be respected by his peers. In early roles, Armie Hammer and Andrew Garfield are excellent as the Winklevoss twins and Eduardo Saverin, respectively. Hammer pulls double duty using new facial technology to play the two brothers, whose frustration at Facebook’s success is both darkly humorous and understandable. Garfield, meanwhile, is captivating because while he wants the best for Mark, himself, and their partners, it’s clear they’re not on the same wavelength and are headed for a tragic end. Other people include Justin Timberlake as a manipulative businessman swaying Mark to his darker impulses, Brenda Song and Rooney Mara as irritated love interests for Mark and Eduardo, Max Minghella as the concerned friend of the Winklevi, and both Rashida Jones and David Selby as pragmatic lawyers trying to get the deposition finished with as little bloodshed as possible. Meanwhile, the technical aspects show The Social Network to be yet another film that David Fincher has complete control of his craft. The first time he worked with future collaborator Jeff Cronenweth, the cinematography showcases the director’s signature steely color palette through which we see the world. The lack of major colors creates a cold atmosphere, reflected by the immense amount of technology present at our fingertips. It uses extremely precise movements following a character’s actions, however big or subtle, making the audience totally in sync. The film is edited by Angus Wall and Kirk Baxter, who deservedly won an Oscar for their work here. They splice all of the scenes together in a highly stylized and energetic manner, much like the snappy dialogue that Sorkin has cooked up. Most importantly, it makes a plot revolving around computer screens gripping and cinematic. Nine Inch Nails members Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross team up to compose and conduct the instrumental film score, the first of many collaborations between the two. It turned out to be one of the most innovative and defining scores of the decade, challenging many ideas of what we expect from one. Minimalist but never content to background noise, the most famous track is “Hand Covers Bruise,” using a deceptively simple piano riff against the backdrop of skipping distorted violins. It doubles as both a genius idea just burgeoning from the mind and a melancholy feeling for things that could have been. They also make use of an extremely creative cover of “In the Hall of the Mountain King,” and the song “Baby, You’re a Rich Man” by the Beatles for the final scene. Considering how protective EMI is of their license, it was money well-spent as it perfectly illustrates Mark’s state of mind after success. It’s unquestionably a great achievement for all parties involved, but it still suffers the same issue as a lot of Aaron Sorkin’s work. While his dialogue is extremely smart and enticing to listen to, it feels as though all of the characters talk exactly the same way. He puts huge words and metaphors into the mouths of so many individuals, it sounds more like solely his voice processing this situation, not to mention the lack of character development in certain areas. Despite this small aside, The Social Network is a superb marriage of direction and script, with a timeless story at heart. If anything, this film has aged like a fine wine as more social media apps get created and used every day. It isn’t my favorite work by David Fincher, but it certainly measures up to his other directorial works and is perhaps his most humane cinematic effort. Power and privilege are highly tempting, but they often come together at the expense of those around you. No matter what your invention is.

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