Though I had heard nothing but good things about The Social Network, I hadn’t really expected it to be as good as it was. It really is a good film. I didn’t realize the founding of Facebook would be this exciting! Fincher finds a way to pull it off. Each advancement they make feels like another step on the way to the top, and I got really caught up in it. I really ended up liking the characters as well, so I wanted them to succeed. In my opinion, this is definitely one of Fincher’s best films.
The film opens with Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg), a student at Harvard and future founder of Facebook, on a date with his girlfriend Erica (Rooney Mara). She breaks up with him because he’s so weird. She never quite knows what he’s talking about, and eventually he ends up insulting her, though it’s a little difficult to tell if he’s actually trying to or not. Later though, it’s more obvious. In revenge, he insults her all over the internet and creates a website called Facesmash. This website gives people photos of two girls and has them compare their attractiveness. Offensive? Yeah, a bit. Needless to say, this Mark guy is kind of a jerk. Nevertheless, the site catches on and that gets people thinking.
These guys in some secret elitist Harvard club, the Winklevoss’s (twins both played by Armie Hammer), want to enlist Mark’s help in making a website to connect the students at Harvard. It’s the genesis of the idea that eventually leads to Facebook. The whole idea is that it’s exclusive; you have to have a Harvard email address to get in. Mark takes this idea to his friend Eduardo (Andrew Garfield) and expands it to a couple more Ivy League schools and allows people to be exclusive. Exclusivity is the whole point. Eventually they expand to more and more schools, Facebook gets bigger and bigger, and there is a rift in Eduardo’s and Mark’s relationship.
The rift mostly arrives in the person of Sean Parker (Justin Timberlake), the founder of Napster who wants to capitalize the growing popularity of Facebook. Mark buys into what Sean suggests for the company, but Eduardo isn’t. I really liked how the conflict over what Facebook is and should be was represented in these two characters. Sean wants to keep it exclusive and “cool,” while Eduardo just wants to run it like a regular business to make money with ads. It’s pretty ironic that now Facebook seems to be more like what Eduardo was going for while in the film he seems to be the loser in terms having a share in the company’s direction. It’s also ironic how Eduardo originally though Sean was crazy and paranoid, and ends up a bit crazy and paranoid himself.
Before I saw this movie, I assumed Mark was going to go the way of most rich people and go to crazy parties all the time and amass wealth etc etc… I was happy to see that these things are not really what he is after. It’s the intangible “coolness” that Mark is after; the parties and the drinking and the women are just a sign of it. They are not what makes you “cool;” they are just what you get once you are. Mark doesn’t care so much about the byproducts as the status itself, which made him much more likable in my opinion. It also gives his character as well as the entire film a certain depth that I really appreciated and did not expect to find.
Mark’s rise is intoxicating. I would compare it to something like Goodfellas in that every time Mark has a new idea, you know he’s going places and you get wrapped up in it. Because the film is structured in flashbacks, you know he’s going to fall but the rise is so strong it doesn’t matter. Whenever he comes up with an improvement for Facebook it seems like a moment of divine inspiration, and it seems that he has everything figured out. He knows how society works, even though he can’t necessarily get along in it too well. Though I think he is still chasing the “cool” idea for the entire film, he gets that everyone else is too, and that what he puts into Facebook.
There’s one scene I absolutely cannot go without mentioning, and that is the crew race. The scene doesn’t really need to be in the film, but it’s so intense and fits the competitive nature of the film that I’m glad it’s there. It’s scored with “In The Hall of the Mountain King,” but modernized a bit to fit the movie. (The films’ entire score by Atticus Ross and Trent Reznor is fantastic.) The editing also fits with the music, with both building in dramatic intensity until the very end.
The only real complaint I have with this film is that there are some characters that seems to only exist to give Mark some information about himself. Erica is one, and even though I liked her a lot and Mark needed to know what she said, I felt like that was her only purpose in the film. The same goes for one of the lawyers that seems to relate to Mark during his lawsuits, and also some of the questions he gets asked. They are all important in the movie for finding out more about Mark’s character, but I feel like in real life, especially in the case of the lawyers, nobody would really care. It is a very minor complaint though and I appreciated the information they gave, it just took me out of the film a bit.
I believe The Social Network is one of Fincher’s best films. Great performances, great story, great characters, great soundtrack, and just overall great film. It’s exciting through Mark’s rise and makes you sympathize with him during his fall. Its flaws are few and far between, and it turned out to be much better than I could have ever imagined. The Social Network is about a lot more than just Facebook; it’s greatest strength is being able to capture the mystery of social interactions on film as brilliantly as it does.
“You’re asking me to believe that the CFO of Facebook doesn’t know how to change his relationship status on Facebook?”
Long story short: 4/4 stars
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