The irony of the creation of Facebook, the social network that brings people together, is that it destroyed a great friendship. At least that’s the way David Fincher and Aaron Sorkin tell the story of Mark Zuckerberg and Eduardo Saverin, the two friends that started Facebook. As the famous social network comes to life their friendship deteriorates until it becomes a lawsuit. It is this dramatic situation that makes up most of the movie and it’s why The Social Network is one of the finest movies of 2010.
The movie starts at Harvard, in 2003, as Mark (Jesse Eisenberg) is breaking up with his girlfriend, Erica (Rooney Mara) because of his aloofness and inability to realise when he’s hurting peoples’ feelings. It’s a fast-paced scene, exciting and a preview of the whole movie: Mark has a serious deficit of social skills and will drive his loved ones away.
Then we jump into an exciting montage which, amidst booze, daydreaming and revenge blogging, shows Mark inventing Facebook’s ancestor, the puerile Facemash, which allows users to rate the hotness of college students. Mark invents what will become Facebook after getting dumped by a girl and trying to get some revenge on the entire female species (keep track of the ironies, the movie is full of them).
The success of Facemash leads the brothers Winklevoss (Mike Hammer and Josh Pence) and Divya Narendra (Max Minghella) to invite Mark to create HarvardConnection for them, a social network exclusive to Harvard students. The premise is that chicks just love Harvard men. Mark accepts but then gets a better idea and, with the financial support of his friend Eduardo (Andrew Garfield), starts working on Facebook instead, while keeping the Winklevoss thinking he’s still working for them, a mistake he’ll literally have to pay for later.
The movie shifts back and forth in time, in one of the best editing works of the year, seamlessly weaving two lawsuits and Mark and Eduardo’s past story together in an exciting narrative. One is the lawsuit the Winklevoss file for intellectual property theft, and the other is by Eduardo, for being cut out of the business he helped create. Bit by bit all the events leading up to this fall into place until they form an incredible story about friendship, ambition, greed, backstabbing and loneliness.
There are three great things going for this movie: first of all, the casting. It’s a pleasure to see so many fresh faces on the screen. Most of the actors involved haven’t had great roles yet. But like the characters they play, I think they’ll become successful overnight.
Secondly, the actors are very good. Eisenberg, Mara, Hammer, Minghella. Justin Timberlake surprises in his performance as Sean Parker, the infamous creator of Napster. And Andrew Garfield steals every scene he’s in.
Eisernberg delivers a fine performance, walking the tight line between a deliberate moron and a clueless egotist. He portrays so well Mark’s ability to hurt peoples’ feelings without realizing it, that could almost believe Eisenberg is just like that in real life.
Timberlake plays a man with a chip on his shoulder, a drug-addling paranoid entrepreneur who must be the center of all attention, a man who is, as Eduardo so aptly puts it, cooler than a million dollars. Smooth talking, friendly, he’s also a self-destructive lunatic who coaches Mark in the cynical world of businessmen and uses him to boost his own ego.
Garfield plays a man with his feet firmly grounded on the world. He’s a businessman. He invests money and expects profit. He wants to monetize Facebook. Mark doesn’t. In comes Sean Parker who says just what Mark wants to hear and proceeds to turn him against Eduardo. Eduardo represents everything Sean hates, the businessmen who screwed him in previous businesses. Eduardo is slow to realize that he’s becoming isolated. But his response is amazing. “You best friend is suing you for 600 million dollars” must be one of the best lines of the year.
Finally there’s Aaron Sorkin’s dialogue. Sorkin is one of the best screenwriters alive, even if he doesn’t write much for movies. Watching Charlie Wilson’s War in cinema seems like something that happened a long time ago in my memory. But it’s worth the wait. Sorkin has the monopoly on fast-paced, witty dialogue. All his characters speak in a vibrant, clever, entertaining, endlessly quotable way, while retaining their individuality.
There’s not much to say about David Fincher’s directing, except that I never felt I was watching a David Fincher movie. He’s directed a lot better and he can direct a lot better. It was a long time ago when I watched Se7en and fell in love with cinema. That was a visually beautiful movie. The Social Network merely gets the job done. Except for some neat montages, there’s nothing really spectacular about the visuals of the film. Fincher shoots every scene in the easiest and most predictable way possible, as if he’s anxious to wrap things up and move on to Stieg Larsson’s adaptation, which hopefully will look like a proper Fincher movie.
Trent Reznor’s awful electronic music doesn’t do the movie any favors either. Every time I had to endure more noise from Reznor’s ugly synthesizers I remembered the lovely version of Radiohead’s ‘Creep’ played in the trailer. It’s not good when trailer music is more exciting than a film score. But that’s sadly becoming a trend.
All in all, The Social Network is a very watchable character drama about the destruction of a friendship disguised as a biopic. I say disguised because of all the liberties taken with the facts. That’s probably for the best. How exciting could the truth about the invention of a social network be new anyway?
Director: David Fincher
Screenplay: Aaron Sorkin (screenplay), Ben Mezrich (book The Accidental Billionaires)
Cast: Jesse Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield, Justin Timberlake, Rooney Mara, Armie Hammer, Josh Pence, Max Minghella
Runtime 121 min