By Dan Kaplan
Directed by David Fincher
Screenplay by Aaron Sorkin
Starring: Jesse Eisenberg, Andrew Friedman, Justin Timberlake, Armie Hammer
“The Social Network” is perhaps the most pleasant movie-going surprise of the year.
It showcases both writer, Aaron Sorkin, and director, David Fincher, at the top of their games. It pulls impressive performances out of actors, like Justin Timberlake, who have not yet proven their on-screen talents. Most importantly, it takes a potentially mundane topic – a movie about Facebook? – and manages to keep its audience glued throughout.
The film focuses on Mark Zuckerberg’s creation of Facebook, the successful social networking site, from a Harvard dorm room in 2004. As the site expands around the country and the world, he and his team move to California, attracting fame, fortune and litigation along the way.
This brief history is offered up not to give readers something they couldn’t already find online, but to highlight the few indisputable facts of the story. Sorkin’s screenplay – adapted from Ben Mezrich’s book “The Accidental Billionaires” – is a historical fiction of sorts, but one that rarely spells out which parts are historical and which are fiction.
However, it rarely matters that the accuracy is so difficult to verify; true or false, Sorkin’s story is one to relish. It often merits both held breaths and laughs simultaneously, and is darker and wittier than anything we’ve seen from him thus far – no small feat.
Most of the wit comes from Jesse Eisenberg’s portrayal of Zuckerberg. Portrayed as an entirely unsympathetic character, he remains an enjoyable presence by offering up several hysterical lines. When he refers to the Winklevoss twins (both Armie Hammer), who sued him for ripping off their original idea for Facebook, as “the Winklevi,” it’s hard not to die from laughing so hard.
While Eisenberg pulls off the role well, the success of his performance is more attributable to the script. That’s not the case with the film’s other major stars. As best friend and Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin, Andrew Garfield is both charismatic and relatable, suggesting there may actually be hope for his upcoming “Spiderman” re-boot. But the real surprise is Justin Timberlake as Napster co-founder Sean Parker. Timberlake could so easily have gotten lost in his own celebrity, but instead he put his full effort into the role and comes off perfectly as the despicable leech-type.
Behind it all is Fincher, who pulls off a true highlight of his already stellar resume. His vision for the film is consistent and intriguing. The film was expertly shot and edited, and maintained the perfect essence of drama throughout. Most impressive, though, was the sense of uneasiness the movie gives its audience about the subject matter. After seeing the film, it almost feels wrong logging into Facebook. Take a moment to think about that, and then marvel at Fincher’s achievement.
One could go into further detail about the excellence of the cinematography, the score, or almost any other aspect of the film, but it’s much more easily summed up this way: “The Social Network” is one of the strongest all-around films of 2010.