I admit that I’ve been seeing movies in a very different way since I
started blogging. It used to be that I would simply watch a movie and
try to enjoy myself. Now, I actively search for nits to pick in the
movie I’m watching. I’m constantly looking for deficiencies, cataloging
them in my head for analysis and documentation after the fact. Sure,
I’ve been slavishly devoted to a few movies — Scott Pilgrim
being one recent example — though that’s never stopped me from voicing
my complaints about them even as I’m singing their praises. This time,
however, I’m at a loss.
I’m serious, folks. I’ve got absolutely no complaints against The
Social Network. To be fair, it’s possible that there might be some
problems with the film in its portrayal of events and people and so on,
but I wouldn’t know because I don’t know a thing about the subject.
Taking the movie entirely on its own merit as a work of historical
fiction, it’s staggering.
Easily the most important contributing factor to this movie’s success
is the collaboration between Aaron Sorkin and David Fincher. Sorkin has
a lot of hard-earned recognition as one of written dialogue’s great
modern masters and he brings his A-game from the first spoken line. The
moments of comedy relief are fantastic. The moments of drama are
electrifying. Every inside joke and callback to a previous scene carries
a lot of heft.
A lot of what makes this screenplay work is the editing. Most of the
film is framed by the various court actions, with the story told in
flashback as Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and co-founder Eduardo
Saverin give their testimonies to the various lawyers and court
officials involved, along with rivals Cameron Winklevoss, Tyler
Winklevoss and Divya Narenda. The two time periods act off each other
beautifully, aided by superb direction, meticulous editing and of
course, outstanding dialogue. In fact, the film is loaded with tons of
dialogue exchanges, every one of which is made much more tense and
better-timed through the wonderful editing and meticulous direction.
Naturally, the actors deserve a lot of that credit as well. Jesse
Eisenberg is amazing to watch in his portrayal of Zuckerberg as an
Aspergian genius. Sorkin gives him a wide range of emotions to go
through, with moments of self-doubt and smart, witty zingers throughout.
Eisenberg handles every line of dialogue like a pro and masterfully
sells himself as a brilliant programming mind who knows or cares about
precious little outside the confines of his skull. In true genius
fashion, he seems incapable of understanding or appreciating anyone who
isn’t of equal or greater intelligence and accomplishment. That role,
believe it or not, goes to Justin Timberlake.
Sean Parker, perhaps best-known as the founder of Napster, is played
as — how do I phrase this? — “a huge prick,” we’ll put it that way.
He’s broke and he knows it, since Napster was built around delivering
content for absolutely zero profit, but this doesn’t stop Parker from
partying, womanizing and drug-abusing whenever he can. Nevertheless,
Parker did completely change the way music is consumed in this country
and Timberlake effectively plays him as a suave and shrewd businessman.
It’s easy to understand how Zuckerberg could see the smart and
successful entrepreneur while overlooking Parker’s many character flaws.
Until, inevitably, Parker starts drowning in his flaws.
Another prominent character is Eduardo Saverin, played by Andrew
“Spider-Man” Garfield. I’d heard a lot of hype about this guy, though
I’d only seen him in Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus. I didn’t see
in that role what made him such a rising star. Now I fucking get it.
Garfield plays the CFO and co-founder of Facebook. He’s the guy that
puts up the seed money and tries to pound real-world sense into
Zuckerberg’s head, getting ignored and ultimately double-crossed for his
trouble. Garfield and Eisenberg play two best friends on opposing ends
of a multimillion-dollar lawsuit. Saverin makes for a very meaty role
and it’s amazing what Garfield does with it.
Also in the category of “pleasant surprises” is Rooney Mara. Again,
here’s an actor who had previously underwhelmed me (this time, it was
the Nightmare on Elm Street remake). Again, she’s been picking up
accolades left and right recently. Again, Mara proves in this movie
that the hype is worth it. She does an incredible job with Sorkin’s
dialogue and she acts beautifully off of Eisenberg. Alas, Mara doesn’t
get a lot of screen time — in fact, the lion’s share of it is before
the opening credits. Still, her character is a constant off-screen
presence, as we frequently see that she’s never completely left
Her symbolic importance is multi-faceted, at once representing all
the negative side effects of social networking and also of Zuckerberg’s
many social failings. I don’t know if their first date is the only
mistake that Zuckerberg wishes he could take back, but it’s definitely
the one he regrets the most. However, that failure and its entire
fallout were the direct catalysts for every success that followed and I
think Zuckerberg knew that. He goes through the entire movie wishing he
could make it up to Erica while keeping everything else the way it is,
though he can’t have it both ways. It’s a damn shame that Mara couldn’t
get more screen time, though she made enough of a great impression that
her character was just as meaningful in absentia. And anyway, I’m sure
Fincher will give Mara a lot more time in their next movie.
It’s interesting to note that the movie doesn’t really have any
villains. Some are more of a douchebag than others and they all have
moments of stupidity, but it’s hard to say that any of them are
completely in the wrong. Nevertheless, if any of them were to be
considered the villains of the piece, it would probably be the
Winklevoss brothers and their business partner, Divya Narenda. Of the
three, Narenda is the truest bastard, the fastest one to start screaming
“Lawsuit!” and the least transparent about his true intentions (you’ve
probably heard his line in the trailer. The one about watching over
Zuckerberg’s shoulder as he writes Narenda a check). Still, though Max
Minghella plays Narenda with just the perfect amount of slime, his work
pales in comparison to that of the unfortunately-named Armie Hammer.
After all, it’s hard enough for one actor to play twins, but it must be
some other kind of challenging to play twins who are as divided on their
opinions as Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss. One wants to do things the
honorable way, the other’s out for blood (“I’m 6’5″, 220 pounds and
there’s two of me!”) and they both act wonderfully off each other. And
they’re the same actor. Amazing.
Further kudos are due for the score. The music in this film —
composed by Trent Reznor, of all people — is a strange mix of mundane
and powerful, evening out to wonderfully subtle. I found it quite
surprising how well the score complemented the action onsceen. An
honorable mention goes to this awesome cover
of “In the Hall of the Mountain King”and its placement in the movie.
The only problem I had with this movie when it first ended is that I
thought it was too short. The story pretty much ended as Parker fell out
with Eisenberg and I wanted to see more of the litigation that the
story had been leading up to. I thought the film had lacked a proper
ending. But then I thought about it and remembered that I had already
seen the litigation: It was being used as a framing device throughout
the movie. That was a rather clever way of showing us the court process
without making all the talking seem redundant, now that I think about
it. What’s more, the trials’ outcomes were all explained by a text
epilogue and the story itself continues with the ongoing success of
The Social Network is a very unique kind of good. It’s not
just “go pay to see it” good. It’s not just “guaranteed to win some
Oscars” good. This is the kind of good that only comes along once in a
generation. This film is enjoyable and superbly crafted in every
possible way. Go see it at your earliest opportunity.