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Friendship, Betrayal, And Success--An Online Social Revolution Is Born From A Real World Social Ineptitude
on October 28, 2010
Director David Fincher is back in fighting form! Those fearing he may have lost some of his bite with the ponderous "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" or the disappointing returns of the criminally overlooked "Zodiac" need not worry. "The Social Network" is a caustically funny and incredibly contemporary look at the evolution of Facebook. Playing like a thriller and a blisteringly dark comedy, this terrific film may be Fincher's most sophisticated piece to date (and certainly his most riveting since the days of "Seven" and "Fight Club"). On paper, "The Social Network" might not sound exhilarating but with the perfect screenwriter (Aaron Sorkin) and the perfect cast (Jesse Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield, Justin Timberlake, and Armie Hammer)--Fincher's tale of betrayal, pride, and avarice has become one of this year's must see films.
While I'm sure that everyone knows the subject matter of "The Social Network"--very briefly, the film's plot construction is structured as two pieces of litigation are being brought against Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg (played with intensity by Eisenberg). One lawsuit is from his former business partner and best friend--a co-founder of the original website who got systematically squeezed out. The other is by a trio of Harvard grads (Armie Hammer plays 2 of the 3, they're twins, in a starmaking performance!) who claim Zuckerberg stole the idea from them after he was hired to create an exclusive dating site. Seen through these concurrent cases, deftly edited with flashback footage, the full picture starts to unravel. From Zuckerberg's social ineptitude, but superior intellect, a social revolution was born. And the more powerful Facebook grew, the more disconnected Zuckerberg became to his only friends and compelled by the drive for domination (his ultimate sense of acceptance).
Make no mistake, while "The Social Network" is incredibly smart and literate, it is also grandly entertaining. Screenwriter Sorkin (creator of "The West Wing" and my favorite "Sports Night") has put together what, in my opinion, is the best screenplay of the year. Sorkin is known for his whip fast dialogue and it is spot-on here! The movie is corrosively witty and uncompromisingly in your face. The film is cast with thoroughly unlikable types in a battle for supremacy. Eisenberg has never been better--no doubt Zuckerberg is a tool (both before and after his success), but Eisenberg makes you understand why and (I'm startled to say) actually appreciate it. Timberlake (as oily Napster creator Sean Parker) is a fantastically appealing devil-in-disguise, but as much as you may dislike him--he was integral to Facebook going wide. Hammer, as I said, is the film's biggest surprise. And Andrew Garfield, as Zuckerberg's betrayed partner, is vivid and alive--and, dare I say, the only character to elicit actual sympathy. But again, the film is merciless--even though we know that Garfield is screwed, we also know that it was an essential part of the successful expansion of Facebook. Business ethics be darned.
"The Social Network" is grown-up entertainment that has much to say about success in the modern era. I appreciated that no one veered away from the heart of darkness in this morality piece--that's what makes everything seem so relevant. Can someone be both repugnant and admirable? If you told me earlier in the year that a film about computer geeks at a keyboard would be edge-of-your-seat entertainment, I wouldn't have believed it. But here, I go. For sheer entertainment, remarkable performances, and an incredibly sophisticated screenplay--"The Social Network" is easily one of my favorite films of the year! Easily. KGHarris, 10/10.