Thursday, October 14, 2010

THE SOCIAL NETWORK (2010)

Written by Aaron Sorkin


Directed by David Fincher


Where & When: Vista Theater, Los Angeles, CA. October 3, 2010



I have to admit that I am probably one of only a handful of people on the planet who is not on Facebook. I have flirted with the idea of joining over the years but I always just wind up finding something better to do.

When I first heard that they were actually going to make a film about the creators of the friend-collecting, time-wasting site, I thought that watching some techie-geeks sitting around talking about computers and the girls that won't pay them any attention wouldn't be all that exciting.

How very wrong I was.

I was not really all that familiar with the origin of Facebook, but the film, "The Social Network" reveals a very fascinating story, indeed. Most especially in the hands of the brilliant film maker, David Fincher of "Se7en" (1995) and "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" (2008) fame and the very talented writer of "The American President" (1995) and the television show, "The West Wing", Aaron Sorkin who together made one of the most interesting and best films of the year.

We first meet Mark Zuckerberg, wonderfully played by Jesse Eisenberg, who is a student at Harvard, in the middle of a conversation with his girlfriend, Erica Albright (Rooney Mara). This exchange perfectly shows his brilliant mind and anti-social behavior but also clearly explains why Erica is breaking up with him.

Upset about being dumped, Mark storms back to his dorm room and after a few beers, decides to enact a little revenge. After posting a blog that bad mouths Erica, Mark then easily hacks into the school's database and downloads the names and pictures of the students. With the help of Eduardo Saverin (Andrew Garfield), who is probably Mark's only true friend, comes up with a web page called "Facemash" that puts two female students pictures together to vote on which one is more attractive which he sends out throughout the campus. It becomes so popular that it causes the school's network to crash.

Mark is put on academic probation after he is caught and is a pariah with the female students but his work catches the attention of three upperclassmen. The Winklevoss twins, Cameron and Tyler (these characters were created with a computer with Arnie Hammer as the face of both twins and Josh Pence as the body used for one of the twins) and Divya Narendra (Max Mingella) approach Mark about creating a program for them that would connect the students at Harvard and call it "The Harvard Connection". Mark agrees to do it.

Later, Mark tells Eduardo about his idea to create a social network where people can share personal information without the worry of an invasion of privacy and he wants Eduardo to put up the seed money. Eduardo agrees and it is called, "Thefacebook". The site becomes very popular, very quickly throughout the school. Divya gets wind of  Mark's deception and tells the Winklevoss twins that they need to sue him for stealing their idea.

Soon Thefacebook expands to other universities and Eduardo and Mark have different ideas on how to have the site grow. Eduardo's girlfriend, Chrissy (Brenda Song) arranges a meeting with Napster founder, Sean Parker (Justin Timberlake). Sean is a fast-talker and very charismatic but Eduardo is not charmed and doesn't trust him but Mark is captivated. Sean gives his opinion about how the site should be handled which is very similar to what Mark wants to do but no deal between them had been decided. Sean does give some free advice, which is to drop "the" from the name of their website.

While Eduardo seeks advertising support in New York, Mark moves their operation to Palo Alto, California where he rents a house to work out of. Sean Parker happens to run into Mark and in no time, Sean has moved in to the house and helps make business decisions. Later, Eduardo arrives in California and is upset to find that Sean is living in the house but Mark tells him that they now have an informal investor, thanks to Sean.

Eduardo is soon deceived when Mark allows Sean to arrange to reduce his shares in the company from one third to less than one tenth of one percent and have his name removed as a founder. It's not too long after this that during a party for Facebook, Sean is busted with some underage interns for possession of cocaine. Not surprisingly, Mark is sued separately by Eduardo and the Winklevoss twins for what each thinks he stole from them.

The film is based on the book, "The Accidental Billionaires" by Ben Mezrich and although there was no involvement by any of the actual participants on the film, I find it interesting that no one in this story has come forward to claim that anything in "The Social Network" is not fairly accurate. Mr. Sorkin has taken the facts from this story and made a very sharp and clever script by vividly creating a semi-fictional account of the events while objectively showing each person's side of it. This will be the script to beat during award season.

After years as a successful music video director, Mr. Fincher made his first feature film, "Alien 3" in 1992. The film was a complete disaster but it did show his potential and he was fortunately given another opportunity which he has gone on to make some brilliant movies that include some of my favorites like "Fight Club" (1999), "Panic Room" (2002) and "Zodiac" (2007). His eighth, "The Social Network" is another solid film that is fast-paced, thought-provoking and highly entertaining. He is currently working on the English language re-make of "The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo" and although I still don't think it's necessary, I am looking forward in seeing what he will do with the material.

A great cast of young actors has been assembled which includes a surprisingly effective job by Mr. Timberlake. I always feel a little resistance to musicians who decide to become actors because normally they tend to be too obviously out of their element but in the right hands, they can sometimes deliver a really great performance. I don't know if this means Mr.Timberlake has a long film career ahead of him but he most certainly can be proud of this moment.

I always saw the potential in Mr. Eisenberg in all the films he has done, most especially "The Squid and the Whale" (2005) but this film has really given him a great opportunity to shine. He skillfully is able to have Mr. Zuckerberg come across as ambitious and complicated but also manipulative and deceitful while still not seeming like such a awful guy. It's a great performance and all the Oscar talk is not just hype.

"The Social Network" is the rare film that speaks to the youth of the digital age in a smart and insightful way. It is a clear reflection of the beginning of the way our society now communicates with each other and because of the anonymous nature of it, people no longer feel the need to consider the moral consequences of what they say or do over the internet. The film shows how technology can be used to add quality to our lives but also how it can be used, if we are not careful, to be very destructive.