The Social Network


The Social Network

Eduardo Saverin and Mark Zuckerberg, the new Odd Couple.

(Columbia) Jesse Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield, Justin Timberlake, Joe Mazzello, Patrick Mapel, Rooney Mara, Max Minghella, Armie Hammer, Rashida Jones, David Selby, Brenda Song, Malese Jow, Dakota Johnson, Wallace Langham, Caitlin Gerard. Directed by David Fincher

With Facebook having just reached 500 Million subscribers, that adds up to almost one in every fourteen people on the planet that have a Facebook account. It has become the pre-eminent social network, replacing MySpace and America Online before it, and in a sense, replacing real life in exchange for a digital replica. It’s insanely addictive and has it’s uses, but it has the insidious side to it, eating our time and energy.

Few of us know that much about how Facebook came to be. Many of its users don’t even know the name Mark Zuckerberg unless they trouble themselves to read the masthead. This new movie, which is often referred to as “The Facebook Movie,” isn’t about giving a fact-based account of the founding of Facebook, but then again, generally those types of accounts make for poor movies.

Zuckerberg (Eisenberg), a sophomore at Harvard in 2003, is having a beer with Erica Albright (Mara), his erstwhile girlfriend, and engaging in some conversation and by conversation I mean he is engaging in a kind of strategic battle of words with her, filled with condescending remarks and sometimes biting thinly-veiled insults. She has grown weary of the battle and breaks up with him.

Angry and humiliated, Zuckerberg goes back to his dorm room and as 21st century kids tend to do, starts blogging. Caught up in the raw emotion of the moment, he does a pretty thorough character assassination of her, even going so far as to insinuate that her breasts are “barely there.” A more experienced man might have told him never to insult a woman’s breasts.

Half-drunk and fueled by his own rage, he decides to humiliate every woman at Harvard and creates over the course of the night a webpage that allows women to be rated like so much meat. He calls it Facemash and it becomes so popular it crashes the servers at Harvard. This gets Mark hauled before the board of administration for some disciplinary action.

It also gets him noticed. Twins Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss (both played by Hammer) and their programming friend Divya Narendra (Minghella) want to create a kind of Harvard-exclusive site that allows people with Harvard e-mail addresses to link up online and enlists Zuckerberg to do it. He agrees, but early on determines that their idea is more compelling than their vision and determines to create his own site which he calls The Facebook. His roommates Dustin Moskowitz (Mazzello) and Chris Hughes (Mapel) are enlisted to do the programming and his best friend Eduardo Saverin (Garfield) fronts them the seed money.

Of course, when his new creation goes online on February 4, 2004, the twins are furious, thinking they’ve been ripped off. Tyler and Narendra are all gung-ho to sue Zuckerberg but Cameron, wishing to maintain the decorum of a Harvard gentleman, wants to find some other way of redress. It is only when they discover that the once Harvard-exclusive site has gone global that Cameron changes his mind and calls out the family lawyer.

As the site begins to grow by leaps and bounds, Zuckerberg decides to summer in Palo Alto, hoping to get some Silicon Valley entrepreneurs interested in his start-up. Eduardo stays behind in New York, trying to sell advertising for the new website which makes Zuckerberg a bit uncomfortable. He begins to fall under the sway of Napster founder Sean Parker (Timberlake) who at least has the vision to see Facebook as a world-changing application, and determines to capitalize on it, interesting venture capitalist and PayPal founder Peter Thiel (Langham) to invest big bucks in Facebook. Soon Zuckerberg finds himself as one of the youngest billionaires in the world, but the cost is his friendship with Saverin, as at the urging of Parker he devalues Saverin’s shares from nearly 30% to less than 1%. Saverin, incensed, decides to sue. The simultaneous lawsuits act as a framing device for the film.

The buzz for this movie has been plenty high and after its debut at the New York film Festival last month, grew to a dull roar. It’s being touted as the year’s first serious Oscar contender and it seems likely that some nominations are going to be coming its way, quite likely for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Screenplay and maybe even to Eisenberg for Best Actor.

The real Zuckerberg is reportedly none too pleased with his portrayal here, and Aaron (The West Wing) Sorkin’s screenplay certainly isn’t very complimentary. It gives us a Zuckerberg who is arrogant, ruthless, cruel and socially awkward; he doesn’t seem to have a problem gutting his friends and certainly believes himself to be the smartest guy in any room. Is that the real Mark Zuckerberg? Chances are that elements of the character are accurate but I sincerely doubt that this is meant to be an exact capture of the essence of the Facebook founder. Rather, it’s meant more to be symbolic of digital hubris in an age of online egos gone out of control. Eisenberg becomes something of a cipher, his face often going blank when he is trying to hide what he’s feeling. He usually plays likable nerds but there’s not much likable about this guy and yet still we are drawn to him; as one of his lawyer’s (Jones) tells him near the end of the film, he’s not an asshole but he’s trying really hard to look like one.

Garfield, who was recently cast to be the next Spider-Man, does a great job as well, making the likable but ultimately out of his depth Saverin the emotional anchor for the story. Audiences will naturally root for him, and when he is eventually betrayed will feel his pain. Garfield hadn’t to this point caught my eye with any of his performances, but he certainly shows the ability to carry a franchise film like Spider-Man on his own.

Timberlake, whose acting career has blown hot and cold, delivers the best performance of his career to date as the unctuous Parker. Looking visually not unlike Quentin Tarantino, he is slick and snake-like, mesmerizing his victims with his charm and promises, then striking with lethal speed, delivering his venom in a swift, fatal blow.

Much of the movie is about courtrooms, programmers and start-up Silicon Valley businesses, as well as the rarefied air at Harvard, but despite some of the dry subjects manages to hold our interest throughout, and that’s mainly due to the interactions between the characters and Fincher’s deft hand at directing. The movie is both emotional and antiseptic, sometimes showing us heart and then slamming that door shut abruptly. It serves as a cautionary tale, not just for would-be billionaires but also to all of us. We reap what we sow and if we choose our own egos over actual human interaction, we too could wind up endlessly refreshing a computer screen, waiting for a friend request acceptance that never comes.

REASONS TO GO: Compelling story and some intense performances. Eisenberg is particularly marvelous in a role that is quite frankly unlikable.

REASONS TO STAY: The portrayal of Harvard students is so self-aggrandizing at times it makes you wonder if our species has any future.

FAMILY VALUES: There’s a surfeit of drug usage, quite a bit of sexuality and no shortage of foul language. Older teens should be able to handle this, but more impressionable teens should be steered clear.

TRIVIAL PURSUIT: Finch was unable to find suitable twin actors to portray the Winklevoss twins, so he cast Hammer and Josh Pence who have similar body types, then digitally inserted video of Hammer reading the lines over Pence’s face to create the illusion of identical twins.

HOME OR THEATER: Nothing here screams big screen, so you can be forgiven if you wait for the home video release.

FINAL RATING: 8/10

TOMORROW: The Importance of Being Earnest (2002)

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Program Notes


There are a lot of things going on here at Cinema365 and I just want to share a few things with you.

First of all, we set a new site record for views in a single day with 177 on Monday. Most of you came in to read my review of The Bounty Hunter but a lot stopped in at other pages as well. Thank you all for your continued support; I’ll admit that was a bit flukey, but overall, viewership/readership/whatever you want to call it is up. I’m not sure if I’m ready for the site to start <gulp> making money but hopefully it will start to attract some attention.

As I mentioned in a post last week, the Florida Film Festival is coming and Cinema365 will be attending six screenings at the three main venues, including the brand spankin’ new Plaza in downtown Orlando. All save one of the movies I’ll be seeing will get full reviews within a day or two of me seeing it (the films have all been released on the limited market prior to the Film Festival). The lone exception is Winter’s Bone which is not scheduled for its limited release until June. Out of respect for the filmmakers and the distributor, we will only run a mini-review for the film during the festival and will post the full review on its scheduled release date.

My wife, Da Queen and I will be taking a vacation starting May 15 – we’re going to be going to China! Quite frankly, I have no intention of lugging the laptop all over Asia with me, so the site will not be updated during the nearly three weeks we’re gone. This is smack in the middle of May, one of the most important months for major studio releases of the year. The intention is to see Robin Hood the day its released on May 14 and post the review early the next morning before we leave. That will be my last posting until we return. We will be trying to catch up with the other big studio releases of late May and the first week of June (which will include Shrek Forever After and Prince of Persia: Sands of Time) and begin playing catch-up when we get home. Hopefully this won’t inconvenience you too much.

Previews are a big part of what we do here. Along with the weekly previews of movies opening up in Orlando every Wednesday (this week’s edition will be posted later this afternoon), we also do two seasonal previews as well as an annual preview. The first seasonal preview of the year is the 2010 Summer Preview and it will be posted on Thursday, April 29 for your reading pleasure. It will cover the months of May through August and will be as complete and as accurate as I can make it as of that date. Both the 2009 Fall Preview and the 2010 Preview have received some of the largest number of view of any pages here at C-365 so hopefully you will find the 2010 Summer Preview useful and fun.

In the spirit of that Iam going to be presenting a new monthly feature that will be debuting tomorrow. It’s called “Four-warned” and will act as a kind of anticipation meter for all the films scheduled for release for the upcoming month. In the future I will try to post this around the 15th of every month for the month following. I will choose the four movies I’m most anticipating for that month (which will all generally be reviewed as a new release that month) and rate my level of anticipation on a scale of one to four. This is not meant to be a review of the quality of these films – merely a way of communicating whether or not I’m looking forward to seeing them. There won’t be a lot of prose other than one or two sentences concerning the plot and the type of release its getting (wide, limited or special run) but hopefully this will serve to help you get a handle on what’s due to come out in the next four weeks and the information should be a bit more up-to-date than the seasonal previews.

This site is a labor of love and obsession, and its gratifying to know that it is catching on with some people. We’re averaging about 175 views a week (although this week will be significantly higher than that) and hopefully that will continue to grow. If you like what you see here, feel free to talk it up with your friends or post the link on your social network page (Facebook, MySpace, Twitter etc.). Oh, and for those who are interested, yes indeed I have accounts on all of those networks; if you want to add me as a friend or follow me, leave me a comment with a link to your page or your e-mail address and I’ll add you or send you a link to mine.

Thanks again and happy movie-going!