By Dirk Sonniksen | October 1, 2010
Director: David Fincher
Writer(s): Aaron Sorkin (screenplay), Ben Mezrich (book: The Accidental Billionaires: The Founding of Facebook, A Tale of Sex, Money, Genius, and Betrayal)
Starring: Jesse Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield, Rooney Mara, Justin Timberlake, Max Minghella
Did you ever want to watch a loosely based biography of Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook? Yeah, me neither, but here we are. With corporate America wasting untold work hours every week trolling the cyber hallways of Facebook, it was inevitable that Zuckerberg’s life would eventually make it to theaters. But can a guy fascinated with code and all things computer-related really make entertaining cinema fare? It’s a tough sell, but sell the studios must.
Here we have Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg), a guy that appears to be a complete asshole, but doesn’t seem to realize it. He tends to rub people the wrong way, including his girlfriend, Erica (Rooney Mara). After ruining his relationship with Erica, Mark embarks on a creative spree, resulting in the creation Facebook (or The Facebook). But this behemoth idea is not without its pitfalls, and soon the proverbial dogs are salivating at Zuckerberg’s heels, looking to cash in on his idea. Or is it his idea? The legal battle begins (and takes up a fair amount of the film), with Zuckerberg pitted against the hunky twins of Harvard who want to lay waste to Zuckerberg’s success.
The Social Network is a complicated little rascal to dissect. The acting is spot-on, the humor is smart, the cinematography sharp and slick, and the overall story should keep our attention—but it doesn’t. What drags down this film is a pretentious look at a social medium that has so permeated society, it’s difficult to take seriously. While Facebook has become the fodder of an entire planet, overall, it’s not particularly interesting when transferred onto the big screen. The laughs and character development kept me placated to an extent, but the cliché college drinking binges and references to computer code left a void that was hard to fill. For the first time, I wanted a car to blow up or someone to take someone out. It would have added some depth to a rather blank slate.
Now, back to the good. As for our actors, Jesse Eisenberg is thoroughly convincing as Zuckerberg. He covers the distance effortlessly, and regardless of what Zuckerberg may be like in his real life, Eisenberg offers up a persuasive portrayal. Andrew Garfield does an excellent job as Zuckerberg’s sidekick, a guy that oddly reminds me of Hayden Christensen, only with acting ability. To top it off we have Justin Timberlake, and I hate to say this, but he does an admirable job as the suave, smooth-talking founder of Napster. Other notables include Rooney Mara as Zuckerberg’s love interest and Max Minghella as one of Zuckerberg’s opponents. Overall, The Social Network is loaded with great actors and stellar performances, and the performances certainly help to carry the film.
The Social Network is essentially Eat Pray Love for computer fanatics, a sort of misguided self-help film to becoming wealthy. It’s a film loaded with computer lingo (see opening scenes) and college geeks who become billionaires. It will undoubtedly inspire some to take up the charge and become just like Zuckerberg. Unfortunately, if we take the film to be fact, I’m not so sure we need another Zuckerberg. Eisenberg’s Zuckerberg comes off as an overly stimulated genius that is smarter than the rest of the room, and I’m not sure that’s a good thing. For the most part, The Social Network nails it on almost all fronts, but the elitist approach to the subject matter kept gnawing at me through the film. Couple that with a slew of characters that all come off as bad guys (yes, Zuckerberg included), and The Social Network becomes a tough pill to swallow.