November 12, 2010
Cast: Jesse Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield, Justin Timberlake, Armie Hammer, Rooney Mara
Director: David Fincher
The Social Network, written by Aaron Sorkin and directed by David Fincher, is my favourite film this year. It’s also one of the smartest films I’ve seen recently, and it’s packed with rapid-fire dialogue that’s so rich, so clever, you’ll want to see the film a second time to enjoy it all over again.
A story about the founding of Facebook may not sound like an exciting premise for a thrilling movie. But Sorkin seeks out the human drama behind the birth of one of this century’s biggest pop-cultural breakthroughs, and uses that as the centerpiece for his terrific script.
Jesse Eisenberg stars as Mark Zuckerberg, the geeky Harvard student who in 2004 started Facebook in his dorm room, launching a social media revolution, and becoming the world’s youngest billionaire at 26. Zuckerberg’s rise to fame also spawned two lawsuits, the first from fellow Harvard students, the Winklevoss twins who accused him of stealing their idea and turning it into Facebook. Zuckerberg was also sued by the site’s initial financial backer and his only friend, Eduardo Saverin (played by Andrew Garfield), for denying him fair credit and his promised share of profits.
The real Zuckerberg, incidentally, has dismissed the film as pure fiction. It’s not hard to see why. Based on Ben Mezrich’s book, The Accidental Billionaires – although Sorkin famously did his own research – the film portrays Zuckerberg as a neurotic nerd who has terrible social skills; who came up with the idea of Facebook after he was dumped by his girlfriend; and who sold out the only friend who stood by him.
Zuckerberg may not be shown in a flattering light, but he makes for a compelling character. The great irony, and the film’s key observation, is that the man who connected as many as 500 million people through a common platform, might himself be the loneliest guy in the world.
Fincher and Sorkin dramatize the story by employing a non-linear narrative, jumping forward and backward through time to cut between the creation of Facebook and the subsequent lawsuits against Zuckerberg. The dialogue is so sharp and the soundtrack so haunting, they give the film an edge-of-the-seat quality that’s hard to describe.
As Zuckerberg, Jesse Eisenberg is excellent, creating a paradoxical figure who’s ruthless and arrogant one moment, nervous and innocent the other. In the end, you never quite feel like you’ve figured out Zuckerberg and that’s appropriate in this kind of film, which asks of you to decide if he’s hero or villain.
Andrew Garfield offers a solid performance as Eduardo Saverin, CFO of the fledgling Facebook, and Justin Timberlake brings suitable rock-star flair to the part of Napster founder Sean Parker, who befriends Zuckerberg.
Ultimately The Social Network is a riveting tale of friendship, trust and betrayal. While the film’s biggest strength is unquestionably its genius writing, Fincher directs with a confident hand, delivering a visually crisp palette to match Sorkin’s biting lines.
I’m going with five out of five for The Social Network. It’s the best film I’ve seen this year — a smart film for a smart audience. I recommend you catch it at the cinema right away!
(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)