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Saturday, October 2, 2010

Check Your Wall, I “Liked” The Social Network

The Social Network:  5 out of 5 Stars
Mark Zuckerberg: If you guys were the inventors of Facebook, you'd have invented Facebook.
An important thing to note right off the bat about this film is that it is not "Facebook: The Movie." This is a film, based on a novel that recounts the creation of Facebook through multiple perspectives and the legal action that followed. I believe this film could have just as easily been about the creation of some other type of defining invention and still be able to tell the same sort of story. However, as this film is about the creation of Facebook, it certainly has the task of showing the value of social networking and giving a portrayal of what it means to be growing up in this generation as far as some are concerned. With all that being said, this film combines the talents of a great director, a great screenwriter, and a very good cast to achieve what is one of the best films of 2010.


Set at Harvard, in the fall of 2003, the film starts with a blast of dialogue, stemming from a conversation between Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg, Zombieland, Adventureland, and now - Harvardland) and his girlfriend Erica (Rooney Mara, future star of the American version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo). As the two almost battle against Mark's own habit of stepping out of turn via the over-analyzed words originating from his tongue, which describe the nature of his situation as a brilliant mind not quite equipped to necessarily be one of the Harvard "Elite," i.e. popular, Erica breaks up with him after he carelessly insults her. This results in Mark going home, getting drunk, blogging about the break up, and creating a website that rates pretty girls, which nearly crashes the Harvard servers at 4 AM due to how instantly popular it becomes.


In the wake of this, Mark is recruited by two Harvard jocks, Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss (twins played by the same actor - Armie Hammer) and their associate Divya Narendra (Max Minghella) to create a Harvard based social networking site. Mark agrees to help, but immediately rushes home to create his own version of this idea. With the help of some seed money from his best friend, Eduardo Saverin (Andrew Garfield, future Spider-Man) Mark starts work on the site. In a small amount of time, Facebook launches and becomes massively popular at Harvard, only to expand to more schools overtime. Eventually Mark heads over to the Silicon Valley area of California, where he works on continuing to expand Facebook. It is here that Mark receives help from the rock star of internet innovation, Sean Parker (Justin Timberlake), the founder of Napster. Once incorporating the site through venture capitalists, Mark and Sean essentially push Eduardo out of the picture.



This spoils little as the film is framed around the two depositions that Mark faces against both the Winklevoss twins and Eduardo. Both sue him for taking away what they believe was at least partly theirs. The Winklevoss twins claim intellectual property rights, while Eduardo was formerly the CFO of the company who was pushed away from having any shares and lost credit to being a part of Facebook's creation. The story is recounted between these characters, cutting back and forth between these different depositions and the past history of what may have occurred.
Marylin Delpy: The site got 2200 hits within 2 hours?
Mark Zuckerberg: Thousand.
Marylin Delpy: I'm sorry?
Mark Zuckerberg: Twenty-two thousand.
I stated, "What may have occurred," because I think it is important to acknowledge that as many facts as there are presented in this film, the whole thing is a fictionalized retelling. Many already know this, because they are aware that they are watching a movie, but many will also walk out of this film thinking that this is the exact story behind Facebook. Now, as with any story based on true events, what is important is how well this succeeds at being an enjoyable or interesting film. With all that being said...

The script by Aaron Sorkin (The West Wing, A Few Good Men) is fantastic. He had written a screenplay the length of what would usually end up being a 2 hour and 45 minute movie and managed to turn it into a film just under 2 hours. The reason is because of how rapid paced the dialogue is. The conversations, the arguments, the asides, the tech-talk, everything is fast but well communicated, very interesting, witty, and frequently funny. There is a wonderful sort of rhythm executed in this film that Sorkin fans will love, as can anyone else that knows strong and well written dialogue when they hear it.



Now, as Sorkin has only written a story about people for the most part talking in rooms, it is to his great benefit that his collaborator on this film was director David Fincher (Fight Club, Se7en, Zodiac). For a director known for making dark and visually challenging films, it would not seem an obvious choice, at first glance, for Fincher to be making a movie about Facebook. However, after watching the trailer, and then the entire film, it becomes immediately apparent that this film has Fincher's stamp all over it. While not a thriller, this film still has the same sort of visual polish one could expect from his style of direction. It is another strong entry into Fincher's filmography and one of his best.

The work by the crew and all involved in putting this film together deserve plenty of credit as well. The cinematography by Jeff Cronenweth and the editing work by Kirk Baxter and Angus wall are easily elements that heighten this film. Its look is really fantastic, continuing to find ways that help to make a very talky picture interesting to watch. And the film's assembly was clearly incredibly important, finding ways to construct this film, have it flow at the great pace that it does, and be able to easily move between three different time frames throughout. Add to that some great visual effects work, which I mention, because you will literally not be able to know that there are special effect in this film by looking at it, but make no mistake, there is a subtle touch all over this film (and as I've stated, the twin were portrayed by the same actor). One final note about the technical aspects - the film's score by Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails and his collaborator Atticus Ross is great and perfectly fitting with the tone of this film.
Mark Zuckerberg: As for the charges, I believe I deserve some recognition from this board.
Ad Board Chairwoman: I'm sorry?
Mark Zuckerberg: Yes.
Ad Board Chairwoman: I don't understand...
Mark Zuckerberg: Which part?
Getting to the cast, all of the principles involved do a fine job. Eisenberg, who has been unfairly credited by some as a Michael Cera clone (despite being around longer), does great work here. As Zuckerberg, he manages to portray this character's intellect balanced with his awkward social nature, and sardonic sense of humor. On the contrary, Garfield plays the most sympathetic character in the film, as his Eduardo is challenged by how much faster everything around him is moving, despite being a main collaborator in Facebook's inception. It is possibly the film's most interesting and developed role, and Garfield will easily garner the most attention of these actors. But that is not to diminish Timberlake who once again shows how much of a man of many talents he is. His Sean Parker character gets to both sell the flashy life that Zuckerberg manages to avoid, while also being able to get across his business savvy that elevates Facebook far greater than Eduardo could have ever managed. The work from the smaller players involved, such as the twins, the lawyers, and the interns who helped in the creation process are all solid as well.

An aspect about this film I want to emphasize is how interesting and enjoyable it is. While it could be defined as a drama, the film is frequently funny due to these character personalities, the dialogue, and the way some circumstances reveal themselves. But the film does also make clear the turmoil that these characters face, with the easiest example of course being Zuckerberg. The film does result in his former best friend suing him for millions of dollars, but one also does not look too highly on Mark as a character either. Many of these characters do not come off well as people in terms of their portrayals, but that cold aspect of this film is also combined with its carefully maintained tone as a precise screwball comedy blending into the realms of an exciting drama that does its job at portraying the elements of the generation we live in. This film never satirizes the way in which the world is fascinated by the idea of social networking (in fact, the few scenes that actually pertain to the use of Facebook are pretty deadly honest), but it does has a proper say in showing it as a product of its time.




I can't exactly spell out what audience this film will best serve. It's easy for me: a huge fan of director David Fincher, frequent user of various social networking sites, and lover of film, especially ones as well made as this. However, it's tricky to spell out this film's appeal. Surely anyone that has ever analyzed the use of social networks in today's society, or anyone that has much of their life dedicated to online use. This could easily be a great film for adults, perhaps ones on the outside of this sort of life, to observe as well, finding a way to see the contrast in the developments of today. Then you have audiences who just know how to appreciate a film with great, snappy dialogue or are fans of fine filmmaking and appreciate the use of classic themes of ambition and betrayal in a modern film. All that's left to say is that I found so much to enjoy in this film, as it is well made, interesting, thought out, and effective in telling its story.
Gage: Do you think I deserve your full attention?
Mark Zuckerberg: I had to swear an oath before we began this deposition, and I don't want to perjure myself, so I have a legal obligation to say no.
Gage: Okay - no. You don't think I deserve your attention.
Mark Zuckerberg: I think if your clients want to sit on my shoulders and call themselves tall, they have the right to give it a try - but there's no requirement that I enjoy sitting here listening to people lie. You have part of my attention - you have the minimum amount. The rest of my attention is back at the offices of Facebook, where my colleagues and I are doing things that no one in this room, including and especially your clients, are intellectually or creatively capable of doing.
[Pauses]
Mark Zuckerberg: Did I adequately answer your condescending question?

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