In my review of Catfish I discussed how Facebook and other social networking sites had the potential to provide inspiration for numerous fascinating film projects. I had problems with Catfish, although few others seem to share my reservations. Only one week later though, we get another movie centered on Facebook that's not only the best film ever made regarding social networking, but also the most culturally relevant movie of this young century. The name of the film is The Social Network, an absorbingly entertaining depiction of one of the most influential individuals of the past 10 years.
It feels like only six years ago when Facebook was referred to as "The Facebook," it was restricted to college students only and the pixilated face of a young man with a Jewfro sat across the header. That man was Mark Zuckerberg, who began work on the site in his Harvard dorm room in 2003. According to the movie, Zuckerberg's motivations for creating the site had nothing to do with making money. The project simply arose because Zuckerberg was spiteful after a breakup with his girlfriend and decided to make a site to rank the hotness of current Harvard students.
A majority of the movie is told in flashbacks, exposing the evolution of Facebook and Zuckerberg's road to fortune. In the film's present, Zuckerberg is facing two lawsuits. One of which is from the Winklevoss brothers, both of whom are played by Armie Hammer. The twin brothers, who would go onto row in the 2008 Beijing Olympics, accuse Zuckerberg of stealing their idea for Facebook, which was originally to be an exclusive dating site known as "The Harvard Connection." The other lawsuit comes from Eduardo Saverin, Zuckerberg's former best friend and CEO of Facebook, played by Andrew Garfield, who was cheated out of billions.
Jesse Eisenberg plays Zuckerberg and he's in every way perfect for the role. He supplies Zuckerberg with the same arrogance of a young Charles Foster Kane. He's a fast talking genius who thinks and knows that he's the smartest man in the room. Most of the time he doesn't even seem to care about his surroundings, wearing casual sweaters and socks with sandals to crucial meetings and trials. For the longest time people have pegged Eisenberg as the poor man's Michael Cera. In The Social Network he establishes more than ever that he is a unique actor who can bring more to a performance than a socially awkward quality. Eisenberg is so strong here that I wouldn't just call him a good actor, but a great one.
Another career altering performance comes from Justin Timberlake as Sean Parker, the wiz behind Napster who lost all his money due to lawsuits. Timberlake is a talented performer who up until now has merely been a victim of poor material. In most cases he's the only amusing aspect of the movies he's appeared in. Here Timberlake delivers his best performance as Parker, who gives Zuckerberg some fundamental guidance in getting Facebook off the ground.
The real star of The Social Network though is the screenplay, which Aaron Sorkin adapted from the novel, The Accidental Billionaires. Despite Sorkin's rich work on The West Wing and screenplays for A Few Good Men and The American President, he has never been nominated for an Oscar. He'll undoubtedly receive his first nomination for The Social Network though, which zips by without one false note in it. It's unlikely that every event and every conversation in the film took place as Sorkin portrays it. But so what? It was hard not to be completely enticed by the film from its opening scene to the final image.
Over the years David Fincher has shown one of the greatest ranges of any filmmaker working today. In Fight Club he delved into a ludicrous world of underground street fighting. In The Curious Case of Benjamin Button he gave us a fantasy epic for the ages. Now with The Social Network Fincher has constructed nothing less than one of the most mesmerizing pictures of the year. Whether or not The Social Network is the best film of the year is a topic that'll be argued about until the Academy Awards, where it will undoubtedly receive multiple nominations. For now, all we can be sure of is that this is a relevant and, above all, entertaining film that's imperative for everyone to see, principally this generation's youth.