- Directed by: David Fincher.
- Written by: Aaron Sorkin. Based on The Accidental Billionaires by Ben Mezrich.
- Starring: Jesse Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield, Justin Timberlake, Armie Hammer, Max Minghella, Josh Pence, Brenda Song, Rashida Jones, Rooney Mara, Joseph Mazzello, Douglas Urbanski, Wallace Langham.
- Rated: PG-13.
Aaron Sorkin’s dialogue is fast and vicious. The characters of The Social Network speak in quip-offs, perpetually trying to out-witty each other. The claustrophobic initial scene jumps from facts and figures to pessimism and ultimately to the characters’ hopes, dreams, and appraisals of each other. Jesse Eisenberg is speaking in rapid fire Sorkinese to his girlfriend, Erica Albright (Rooney Mara). He is obsessed with Harvard final clubs, she expresses her attraction to non-Mark men who row Crew, he makes a comment about her education and social class, she calls him an a—hole and dumps him.
Jesse Eisenberg’s face shows neither surprise nor regret. He is already looking for an easy fix to the code, because, of course, he’s a Harvard undergraduate and the future founder of Facebook - Mark Zuckerberg. Yet, as the film shows us, the code of human interaction has escaped him. Later that night, a drunk Zuckerberg blogs comparing women with farm animals. He hacks into the facebooks of the many Harvard houses and creates a website allowing men to compare women. The site goes viral and crashes Harvard’s network within hours.
Mark’s later approached by three students, twins and Crew stars Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss (Armie Hammer as each, with Josh Pence as a body double) and their business partner Divya Narendra (Max Minghella) who want him to create a dating site exclusive to Harvard. A few weeks later, Mark approaches his best and only friend, Eduardo Saverin (Andrew Garfield) to create an exclusive social network called “Thefacebook”. Whether or not Mark stole the idea or not is your decision - the movie suggests he did but allows Mark to defend himself.
The closest thing we have to a true protagonist is Eduardo. He’s rich, intelligent, and confident, but he’s grounded and, ultimately, naive. If Jesse Eisenberg fully embodies Zuckerberg’s robotic ego, Garfield is pitch perfect as a character who needs to be calm but is essentially fueled by anger and regret. The film is framed by two lawsuits. The Winklevosses are suing Zuckerberg for stealing their intellectual property, and Eduardo is suing Zuckerberg for shunting him out of his own company.
The first half of the film is remarkably different from the second. Mark is jealous of Eduardo’s acceptance into the Phoenix final club and relationship with Christy Lee (Brenda Song). Thanks to electrifying director David Fincher, the film is always as quick as its dialogue and crackling with tension. He’s counterbalanced by a reflective and simple score by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross. There’s a sense of wonder to the first half as we see the first time Facebook is online, the first time Mark and Eduardo meet hotshot Napster ex-exec Sean Parker (Justin Timberlake). Timberlake rises to the tricky task of playing a character that’s suave, ingenious, and toxic, all wrapped up in a tin foil hat of paranoia and obsession. Throughout it all, Mark is collected and indifferent.
In the latter portion, we see a party for Facebook’s millionth member. There are cheers, but the movie and its characters have essentially outgrown its premise. Instead, we see Mark cracking. He does not know how to deal with Sean’s drugs or Eduardo’s anger. He has achieved everything he has always desired - notoriety, importance, and belonging. It’s hollow.
There are a number of great quotes in The Social Network. I’ve seen it four, five times, yet many lines continue to surprise me with their bluntness or cruel honesty. It’s most memorable is Rooney Mara’s, from the inital scene. “You’re going to go through life thinking that girls don’t like you because you’re a nerd. And I want you to know, from the bottom of my heart, that that won’t be true. It’ll be because you’re an a—hole.” But The Social Network is not just about Mark Zuckerberg being an a—hole. It’s about nobody caring that Mark Zuckerberg is an a—hole - except maybe himself. The Social Network has been widely lauded for its perceptive appraisal of how our society communicates, forming and breaking relationships. It’s been criticized for being a cynical and cold appraisal of youth. But Aaron Sorkin qualifies his cynicism with the friend request and the refresh button. He gives us hope. ☆☆☆☆