The Social Network
Directed by David Fincher
Starring Jesse Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield, and Justin Timberlake
As a university student, chances are good that if you’re reading this review you have a Facebook account that you check on a somewhat regular basis. If you own a Blackberry or an iPhone, then it is likely that you check your Facebook account at a rate that is classifiable as addictive. Part of what The Social Network does so brilliantly is explain how and why we have become so dependent on Facebook – and what it has done to change its creator as much as its users.
That is why there is no movie currently screening in theaters that needs to be seen more than The Social Network. It is the most relevant and ambitious achievement in contemporary cinema.
Jesse Eisenberg (The Squid and the Whale, Zombieland) stars as Mark Zuckerberg, the 26-year-old CEO and co-founder of Facebook. Eisenberg’s portrayal of Zuckerberg is a fascinating, if deeply troubling, character study of a genius with serious social issues. Often funny and at times even sympathetic, Zuckerberg is seething with anger and resentment towards women and those he perceives as intellectual inferiors looking to financially benefit from his success.
Using a complicated plot structure reminiscent of Rashomon and 12 Angry Men, The Social Network is framed within a courtroom scene where Zuckerberg is defending himself against a lawsuit filed by his former friend and co-founder of Facebook, Eduardo Saverin. Within that courtroom scene, the narrative unfolds and tells the story of Facebook’s creation in the Harvard dorm room where Zuckerman lived, following him as he develops Facebook, fights bitterly against both friends and enemies in adjudicated hearings, and alienates everyone he has ever known.
The story of The Social Network is one that is both familiar and foreign: a cautionary tale about the brilliant, ambitious young men that are defining culture and technology as we know it. The Social Network raises many of the issues – such as intellectual property and privacy rights – that have come to prominence in the Internet age. Fincher and Sorkin clearly have serious reservations about how Facebook has come to define our relationships and everyday social interactions. Each frame of the film is suffused with anxiety and tension, and despite its status as a contemporary historical drama, The Social Network has the nervous atmosphere of a thriller.
In addition to the Oscar-worthy performance by Eisenberg, Fincher’s impeccable direction, and Sorkin’s dynamic and verbose screenplay, Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross’ original score was a total surprise, and reminiscent of Nine Inch Nails’ free-to-download, Ghosts I-IV.
Superhero movies are great and 3D movies about flying owls are entertaining. I am not disputing this. Sometimes though, a film needs to be seen because it is important, because it captures the contemporary zeitgeist in a way that demands critical scrutiny and careful thought. The Social Network is one such film.