Country: United States
Starring: Jesse Eisenberg, Justin Timberlake, Andrew Garfield, Max Minghella, Josh Pence, Armie Hammer Jr, Brenda Song, Rashida Jones, Joseph Mazzello, Rooney Mara, Wallace Langham
Director: David Fincher
Run time: 120 minutes
I must admit that I had some misgivings going into The Social Network, despite all the Oscar buzz that surrounds the movie. I just had absolutely zero interest in a movie about the founding of Facebook, no matter how much drama surrounded the event, or how big a douchebag Mark Zuckerberg really was. Of course, I’m on facebook. Everyone is on facebook. But I don’t care about facebook. I use it occasionally, check it once a week maybe, and it hasn’t really changed my life in any significant way.
That being said, I don’t imagine this movie was made for the people who play Farmville and engage in Mafia Wars and poke others constantly. There are, of course, people who live on facebook. To such an extent, I imagine, that they would be less likely to leave their house and rent this movie, much less see it in the theatre.
As it turns out, the movie is terrific. It’s a college movie that pits the social outcasts against the babe-magnet jocks – but not in the manner of Revenge Of The Nerds or Animal House. The Social Network is far more subtle than that. After all – this takes place at Harvard, not at some invented frat-boy college. When I saw the orgy-esque scenes of debauchery at the exclusive, elite Phoenix club on campus, I wasn’t sure whether that really was the party, or if it was Mark Zuckerberg’s imagination thinking that’s how an exclusive Phoenix party would look.
The movie starts out with an incredible, fast-paced and wonderfully written break-up scene between Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) and his girlfriend (Rooney Mara). Zuckerberg is one of those geniuses who just can’t understand why other people don’t just kneel before his obvious intellectual superiority. He is so smart, yet so clueless in almost every line in the scene that it is obvious why Erica was attracted to him, and why she no longer likes him.
After he gets dumped, Zuckerberg returns to his dorm room, writes some incredibly mean-spirited things about Erica (still believing she must be crazy to have dumped him), and then he gets drunk and creates a website where students at Harvard can rate the relative hotness of the women of Harvard. The site is so popular that it crashes the servers, and Zuckerberg becomes an overnight celebrity on campus. More infamous than famous though, as women all around the school (understandably) hate his guts.
As the movie goes on, it flashes back and forth between a hearing dealing with two lawsuits against him and the building of the facebook empire. Throughout, Zuckerberg is a smug genius who sees himself above everyone else, including his only friend Eduardo Saverin (Andrew Garfield). The underlying tone is one of class warfare. Zuckerberg is desperate to be considered one of the elites, to be asked to join the exclusive campus clubs, but he expects that respect to be handed to him. When Eduardo gets tapped to join the Phoenix club, Zuckerberg reacts with passive-aggressive backhanded putdowns to mask his own jealousy.
I won’t go into detail about the rest of the movie. Justin Timberlake shows up as Sean Parker, the creator of Napster, who manages to worm his way into the Facebook inner circle thanks to Zuckerberg’s adulation. Timberlake is great, portraying a flashy, smooth talking charmer with nothing underneath. Garfield is terrific too – as he is slowly forced out of the company by Parker and Zuckerberg, he seems more miffed at the loss of his friend than he is at the loss of his involvement in the company.
But the heart of the movie is Eisenberg. I have always liked Jesse Eisenberg, but he seems to always play the same character. Much like Michael Cera, who is very good as well, but rarely deviates from his awkward teenager persona. In this case, Eisenberg doesn’t change his screen personality all that much – it’s the same socially awkward outcast he usually plays, just with more underlying hostility and rage. As it turns out, he is just the perfect actor for the part.
As we’ve seen in previous years, when a part seems too perfect for an actor, that actor rarely gets the Oscar (see: Tom Cruise – Jerry Maguire). But Eisenberg deserves serious consideration, as his performance is every bit as good and as convincing as say, Colin Firth in The King’s Speech. I don’t think The Social Network deserves the Best Picture. But it certainly deserves the screenplay award, and should get a long look for Fincher as Best Director.