The Social Network
★ ★ ★
Three of Five Stars
Rated PG13/133 min.
For the average person, the year 2003 may not hold much significance. But for an awkward, nerdy Harvard student named Mark Zuckerberg, it was the year he created something that would grow bigger than anyone could have possibly imagined.
In David Fincher’s much-discussed adaptation of Ben Mezrich’s page-turner The Accidental Billionaires (a book so addicting, I devoured it in one weekend), Zuckerberg is played by Jesse Eisenberg as a brilliant, shy, cruel opportunist whose landmark creation destroys the bond he shares with his best friend (an excellent Andrew Garfield) and sends him to legal hearings where he must defend his status as the creator of “The Facebook.”
Much has been made of how the film—and Facebook itself—“defines” its generation. Both claims are exaggerated. For all its popularity and social influence, Facebook is just a high-tech bulletin board, not an x-ray of our souls. And the film, while entertaining, isn’t on the level of Fincher’s best work.
Having the legal depositions book-end the movie was a mistake: there’s no momentum and these interesting but talky interludes periodically grind the proceedings to a halt. Once Justin Timberlake enters the picture as Napster creator Sean Parker, the movie eases up on the legal scenes and finally takes off. Timberlake’s character and performance are the film’s wild card; his charismatic slime-ball is great fun to watch. The score by Trent Reznor (of Nine Inch Nails) and Atticus Ross is a triumphant mix of beautiful orchestration, techno beats and grunge rock.
Aaron Sorkin’s screenplay has dialogue both colorful and funny but he often lays on the exposition too thick (Timberlake’s introductory scene is the laziest, most obvious moment in the movie). Are Sorkin, who’s 49, and Fincher, who’s 48, too old to get into the minds and portray the lifestyles of these young, brilliant, in-over-their-heads innovators? A better question is whether it’s too early to tell this tale, which, after all, doesn’t have a real ending, since this story is still unfolding. It’s definitely too soon to declare which movie defines the current decade; it took years, and the benefit of hindsight, to realize that Fincher’s Fight Club and Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction were the two most important, influential movies of the 90s.
For now, let’s just relax and enjoy what this tale has to offer: stylish but restrained filmmaking, great performances all around, characters that are hard to like but impossible to take your eyes off of, a gotta-have-it soundtrack, Harvard depicted as a man-cave in dark brown shadows and landmark CGI so amazing, you won’t even know you’re looking at a special effect. In other words, it’s a Fincher movie. It ain’t The Game but I’m still hitting the “like” button.