“The Social Network” is simply riveting. I have no idea about how much of its story is fictional, but, as the fiction, the movie is smooth, fast, clever, and entertaining as the drama of a young man who finds himself as the youngest billionaire in the world and does not give a damn much about that. He only cares about what he made in his tunnel vision, but that vision was keen enough to perceive the possibility that eventually results in something worth around 25 billion dollars at present.
When we meet Mark Zuckerberg(Jesse Eisenberg) at the start, there is something awkward about this nerdy Harvard undergraduate student. He is dating with a girl named Erica(Rooney Mara) at the campus bar and tries to get intimated with her. His strategy is abnormal; he constantly spurts out the things he knows and he keeps changing subjects. He wants to impress her with that, but this quick verbal exchange in a few minutes makes her only exasperated and insulted. Their meeting soon results in a breakup with the incisive comment from her.
Angry about this, and also a little intoxicated by beer, Zuckerberg, a computer science major, executes a mean revenge on her. He writes about her insultingly on his blog, which is open to everybody in the campus. He goes far meaner. He hacks into the campus network, acquires the photos of every Harvard female students from the dormitory websites, and then posts them to be rated for “Hotness” on the website he improvisedly makes. The result from this crude prank is bigger than he and his accomplice and “best friend” Eduardo “Waldo” Saverin(Andrew Garfield) thought; the campus network is crashed thanks to its popularity among (mainly male) students. Zuckerberg gets probation for this, but he is not anonymous nerd anymore now – everybody knows him around the campus.
That is how he gets the attention of the Winklevoss twin brothers(Armie Hammers playing both and Josh Pence as a body double) and Divya Narendra(Max Minghella). They ask Zuckerberg to help them for making a website for the campus online dating, and he sees something far more innovate in this request. Without telling them anything, he makes his own website from his own programming codes with the financial help from Saverin. Their “The Facebook” becomes popular in a short period in their campus, and it gets expanded rapidly among the other American universities. Furthermore, its success reaches to the global level thanks to Sean Parker(Justin Timberake), the originator of Napster. However, like any case of a massive success, the big problems begin for Zuckerberg.
It was reported that Zuckerberg himself was not so happy with the movie, but I think I can say Aaron Sorkin’s screenplay, based on the book “The Accidental Billionaire” by Ben Mezrich, is pretty much fair to him as much as the people surrounding him. While maintaining fairly objective viewpoint, the movie makes the audiences understand Zuckerberg as well as others. The Winklevoss brothers and Narendra surely have the decent reasons to be angry about Zuckerberg’s “theft”, but could Facebook have been possible if not for his genius? Furthermore, can it be said that his deed was an intellectual property theft? Can it be said these rich boys are just angry because “things didn’t go exactly the way they were supposed to for them”, like Zuckerberg says in the movie?
In case of Saverin, he really has lots of reasons to be bitter about his friend. He sincerely helped his friend as the appointed CFO of Facebook with lots of efforts. Although the movie also clearly points out that he was not suitable for that job despite his efforts, he does not deserve such a cruel betrayal that mainly results from Zuckerberg’s narrow view and Parker’s influence on Zuckeberg. Andrew Garfield, who has been steadily gaining the recognition with “Boy A” and recently released “Never Let Me Go”, gives a low-key but splendid performance as the sympathetic conscience of the movie.
And Zuckerberg is the compelling center of the story. In his focused performance with the quiet intensity, Jesse Eisenberg presents us a complex human being who is a very intelligent man with the flaws usually observed from the brilliant minds. He is arrogantly confident about his intelligence. He usually wants to spend his time with what he does well and does not like to be bothered with anything else. And he can be really vicious when it comes to his business or his feeling. There are several incidents which might have been perpetrated by him, but the movie does not give the clear answers.
The funny irony is that Zuckeberg intuitively found the way how the human relationships can be absorbed and operated in the electronic world although he does not understand much about them. Maybe he knows the equations and the constants, but he does not understand the variables. The human relationships are more baffling to him than the computer programming. He inadvertently hurts his people, and he seems to be a little sorry for that, but his brain seems to care more about his work even when he is sandwiched between two big lawsuits.
Like any lonely nerd, he wants someone he can get along with as his equal, and Parker is the guy. Justin Timberake is terrific with his memorably flamboyant performance that will probably garner an Oscar nomination along with Eisenberg and Garfield. Living on his past fame from Napster, Parker sees the second chance from Facebook. He captures Zuckerberg’s attention instantly with his paper-thin but brash confidence right from their first meeting. He soon joins the business despite Saverin’s discontent. It was opportunistic indeed, but it cannot be denied that Parker moved Facebook to the next level of a far bigger success.
Zuckerberg is drawn to what Parker promises to him, but, unlike Parker, he has little interest in the indulgence with his success. Sure, he has wanted to join boy’s club and now belongs to the club because he owns it, but he is the last man to have a fun with that. Even after his big success, he still is a socially inept young man who prefers to work with his laptop in an empty office than goes to the party. Look at how much his attire is unchanged throughout the movie except the lawsuit sequences.
While frequently going back and forth between two lawsuits and the main storyline, Sorkin’s script provides a clear sight of how Facebook was developed despite lots of informations crammed into two hours of the running time. Even to the audience unfamiliar with its technology and the legal and business problems associated with it, the movie eventually comes to them as an exhilarating story of the success and its following ramification. The dialogues are precise and effective, and they are delivered as fast as the brisk pace of the movie.
As with “Zodiac”, his best work to the date, David Fincher handles the movie in a more controlled style compared to his boldly stylish movies like “Fight Club”. Rather than drawing attention with how it looks, he focuses on how it is effectively presented as a well-told story on the screen. Like he effortlessly transported us to San Francisco in the 1970s in “Zodiac”, Fincher immediately immerses us in the competitive world inside the Harvard University, and we willingly follow the characters and their fascinating story.
Thanks to Fincher’s agile direction, Sorkin’s shrewd screenplay, and the pitch-perfect ensemble performance, “The Social Network” is one of the best dramas we have encountered in this year. The movie gives not only an exciting look on how Facebook was originated but also an equally interesting human story about it. One of few notable things it does not delve deep into is how Zuckerberg’s creation influences our world, but that is something we have to see for ourselves later, not now. Will they make the sequel for that?