© 2010 Ray Wong
How much of The Social Network, a movie about how Facebook came to be, is true and how much is fiction? That alone is enough for us to want to see it. It helps if it's a really good movie, too.
Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) is a Harvard freshman who majors in Computer Science. He's also a super nerd and he seems to have a problem relating to other people. After his girlfriend Erica (Rooney Mara) breaks up with him, he gets really drunk and spends the night blogging about her and hacking into Harvard's system to create a site called Facemash.com which allows Harvard students to rate the hotness of fellow female students. The stunt costs him a six-month academic suspension and infamy on campus, but he also gets the attention of the Winklevoss twins (Armie Hammer), who want Mark to work on a networking site for them.
What they don't know is Mark takes their seed of idea and turns it into his own venture called The Facebook, with the help of his best friend Eduardo Saverin (Andrew Garfield). Eduardo reluctantly becomes Mark's business partner by funding the work, while he's concerned about Mark's deceiving the twins. The Facebook is a huge hit and soon Eduardo wants to make it into a profit-making company, but Mark believes they are not ready yet, and they need investors. He meets entrepreneur and former Napsters boy-genius Sean Parker (Justin Timberlake), who advises him to move to relocate to Silicon Valley.
When the Windlevoss twins realize they've been duped, they want to take action against Mark, but nobody wants to help them. Finally they decided to file a federal lawsuit against Mark for intellectual property theft. Meanwhile, Eduardo is not pleased with party boy Sean Parker's involvement and he feels he's been slowly pushed out of the company he helps founded.
Jesse Eisenberg (Zombieland) is perfectly cast as the genius behind the social network site who, ironically, lacks social skills. Eisenberg has played lovable nerds many times, but here he's displayed something more brutal, aggressive and ruthless. Regardless of who the real Mark Zuckerberg (the youngest billionaire in history) is, Eisenberg's portrayal of a socially inept but intellectually brilliant man is itself brilliant.
As his business partner, Andrew Garfield (Never Let Me Go) is equally interesting. Eduardo is more of an average guy who happens to be Zuckerberg's best friend at Harvard. He's not that great of a businessman -- he's more into getting into and exclusive organization than seeing Zuckerberg's vision through. Garfield nicely plays Eduardo's naiveté and genuineness. Justin Timberlake (The Love Guru) is also excellently smarmy and player-like as Sean Parker, an unlikable character.
Armie Hammer (Reaper) plays dual roles as Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss (with Josh Pence as his stand-in when both twins are on screen). Hammer has great presence and fits the roles nicely as the preppy brothers who come from money, but as an actor he's a little slight compared to the others. Rooney Mara (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) is in fine form in a minor but pivotal role as Mark's girlfriend who, in a way, started Facebook. Max Minghella (Art School Confidential), is making his famous father proud with is performance as the Winklevosses' friend and confidant.
Aaron Sorkin (Charlie Wilson's War) brings his trademarked fast-paced, rapid-tongue style to adapt Ben Mezrich's novel. Sorkin's screenplay is tight, intricate, multilayered and at times a bit too advanced for the average audience to absorb. Sometimes he throws out the legal and technical jargons too readily, it's somewhat hard to follow. However, Sorkin's deft writing and the way he weaves character development with plot movement are commendable. He shows us great drama and conflict and tension do not necessarily involve violence, murder, car chases or explosions. It's evident in the very first scene, where a verbal exchange between Mark Zuckerberg and Erica in a crowded bar, showcases what a great dramatist Sorkin is.
Paring Sorkin with director David Fincher (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button) is an intellectual's wet dream come true. Fincher has made a name for himself for giving us some of the most intellectually stimulating thriller and crime dramas. The construct of The Social Network, which is part "how they all started" and a courtroom drama, lends itself to a fast-paced, gripping thrill ride, and Fincher doesn't disappoint. His direction is crisp, a wonderful complement to Sorkin's sharp script. The cinematography is fantastic (the most impressive shots were seen at a rowing match). The music is hauntingly appropriate. The production is top-notch in every way.
The Social Network is one of the first likely Oscar contenders and will probably earn nods in screenplay, direction, supporting actors, cinematography and picture. It's a first-class production with an intense and intelligent script and all-around great performances. It's definitely something to talk about with your friends on the social networks.
Stars: Jesse Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield, Armie Hammer, Justin Timberlake, Rooney Mara, Max Minghella
Director: David Fincher
Writers: Aaron Sorkin (based on Ben Mezrich's novel)
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sexual content, drug and alcohol, language
Running Time: 120 minutes
Script – 8
Performance – 8
Direction – 9
Cinematography – 9
Editing – 8
Production – 8
Total – 8.2 out of 10