09 October 2010

The Social Network

**** 4.5 stars

I spent my day off yesterday at the movies with my favorite movie buddy, word of the day Jennie. It was down to "Easy A" ("No comedy," was Jennie's only stipulation), so we went with "The Social Network" instead. In case you've been living under a rock:

"The Social Network" is based on the novel "The Accidental Billionaires" by Ben Mezrich and directed by David Fincher. It follows the rise and subsequent lawsuits surrounding the founding of Facebook. Jesse Eisenberg (perennial nebish nerd) stars as Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg. He is later sued by fellow Harvard students (Armie Hammer pulling CGI double duty as Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss, and Max Minghella) as well as his former best friend and CFO Eduardo Saverin (Andrew Garfield).

Screen writer Aaron Sorkin ("The West Wing", "A Few Good Men") doesn't try to answer the question that plagues the movie- Who's idea was Facebook?- but instead focuses on what can be known and that is the instances leading up to and following the websites success. Instead of saying the film is inter cut with scenes from the multiple depositions Zuckerberg attended, I would say the depositions are inter cut with scenes from their life. From the dorm rooms at Harvard to the crewing down the Charles River to Silicon Valley to the crescendo that is Facebook gaining 1 million followers, we are there like a fly on the wall witnessing it all. Sorkin will not reveal all of his sources (though it has been well publicized that Natalie Portman, Harvard alum, met with me), only to say that they had details down to what kind of beer they were drinking at what time. That sounds pretty accurate. Still, he never demonizes any one party. Everyone seems to blame in some way for their part in the whole mess.

Eisenberg does a great job as the "asshole" Zuckerberg. I couldn't help but wonder, if this portrayal is in anyway accurate, why no one has raised the argument that he might not be an asshole but rather suffers from Asperger's. He is unable to control what comes out of his mouth, is unaware of how what is said effects others, and further more; doesn't seem to care. He doesn't care about money, but works hard to control and edge out those who helped him rise to billionaire status. His only real relationship was with Saverin whom he reportedly pushed out of the company. Infamous Sean Parker (creator of Napster and part owner of Facebook, here played by Justin Timberlake) comes across as money hungry and stupid. He has the genius to recognize good ideas and get them to the right people, but he can't organize his own life. Meanwhile, Saverin never quiet understands the demon that Facebook is becoming and gets left in the dust. Who is to blame? Does it even matter?

My personal demi-god Trent Reznor makes his big screen debut with a score that highlights and supports every scene without drawing attention to itself. You will immediately recognize his signature, but he is smart enough to know when and how it will work in the context of the film.

The Oscar buzz is certainly worthy. Fincher delivers a well crafted film that is just enough outside what we would expect from him to make it refreshing without making his name above the line meaningless. Sorkin weaves fact, fiction, and humor into every scene. With his background in television it is no wonder he has an ear for dialog and it has never been more on display than in this work. Eisenberg may be left behind. The character is too similar to ones he's played before, though I don't fault him that: Know what you do well and do that. The only difference is in his likability. Either you do or you don't. Garfield has had a banner year so far, though I'm still concerned about him as the new Spiderman. I wish that movie would fall apart and he would be forced back into (somewhat) anonymity and carefully chosen "serious" work. Timberlake gets to show off his acting chops and I cannot wait to see what else he has in store for us. I would also recommend Reznor's score and Jeff Cronenweth's cinematography (he also shot "Fight Club" and several well known music videos).

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