Anthony's Film Review
The Social Network (2010)
A fascinating business success story, brought to vivid life by engaging performances...
I shall begin this review by going straight into the movie's first scene. It features a college guy named Mark, played by Jesse Eisenberg. He is having beer with his girlfriend, a college girl named Erica Albright, played by Rooney Mara. They talk about various things, and during this sequence lasting a few minutes, several things about Mark already stand out: he talks very fast, shows off his knowledge, disregards the other person's words, never backs down, and avoids smiling altogether. Not surprisingly, the scene ends on a sour note. Erica hints to Mark that being a nerd with an attitude may lead to trouble. Then she leaves.
I highlight this part of the movie because it sets the stage for what's to come. You see, this guy named Mark is none other than Mark Zuckerberg, the twenty-something who would quickly rise to fortune and fame worth billions of dollars by launching the phenomenal social networking site called Facebook. Just based on this fact and the revelation of the character in the film's opening scene, it's clear that Mark's journey will definitely be turbulent with major ups and downs. In just five minutes, I found myself very eager to see what happens next.
The Social Network doesn't chronicle Mark's life from childhood onward. Instead, it begins in the year 2003 when he is a student at Harvard University. He comes home late one night but doesn't go to bed. It may be past midnight, but parties with alcohol and lewd conduct are going on in various dorms. Meanwhile, Mark is having his own party with some computer geeks. He posts messages on their online dorm social network called the Kirkland House Face Book, then hacks into other systems, steals pictures of girls on campus, and forms FaceMash.com, a site for people to vote which of two randomly displayed girls is hotter.
Moments like these are fascinating to watch. Finding the next brilliant money-making idea typically comes from experimentation and exploration, trial and error. There is one scene that seems minor but, to me, signals that Mark is really onto something. He comes to the realization that FaceMash was successful not because guys like seeing hot girls online. After all, pictures of hot girls are all over the Internet. No, it's because the girls are people whom the site visitors are familiar with. Therefore, the most logical endeavor should involve online linking of people who already know each other. You can sense where this is headed.
Let's go back to the character of Mark. He is no doubt an arrogant, egocentric entrepreneur who drives full speed ahead towards success without caring if he runs over other people's toes. As Mark's social networking obsession grows at Harvard, spreads to other colleges, and moves to Palo Alto, CA, just outside Stanford University, he seems to make more enemies than friends. The most notable of these foes are three Harvard guys who, in the beginning, have an idea for a social networking site and ask Mark to help out as a computer programmer. Although an agreement is made, Mark immediately breaks away and forms The Facebook, based on the trio's vision. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, Mark Zuckerberg's prized business venture is, in fact, based on intellectual theft.
As long as I'm mentioning supporting characters, I might as well talk about the other important players. Andrew Garfield delivers a solid performance as Eduardo Saverin, the business-savvy co-founder and chief financial officer of Facebook. There's also Justin Timberlake as Sean Parker, who had founded the file-sharing service Napster that shook the recording industry (an interesting casting choice considering Timberlake's music career) and now joins the Facebook team. The other characters in the movie, including lawyers, wild young girls, and Harvard faculty, have small roles, yet they still help by adding extra drama to the story.
Perhaps what is most notable about The Social Network is the pacing. The movie is two hours long, yet it really moves quickly most of the time. Much of the dialogue, whether or not it involves Mark Zuckerberg, is spoken rapidly. There are also instances where the film makes huge forward jumps in time or goes back and forth between past and present when you least expect it. All of this mirrors the lightning-fast way Mark Zuckerberg approaches every situation. Additionally, it parallels how his rise to the top of the world is so sudden, almost like a drug-induced euphoric high.
With that said, this is one hell of an engrossing movie. The script and editing are essentially top notch. I give kudos to director David Fincher and especially to Jesse Eisenberg, who has gone from playing average guys (like in the movie Zombieland) to delivering a memorable performance as a stuck-up intellectual. The Social Network works as a smart college drama, an engaging biography, a remarkable business success story, and a fascinating character study, all rolled into one. The film easily rates as a solid 9/10 on my scale, but because it gets very good in the second half, I'll go ahead and give it the top spot. Consider this a recommendation worth sending to your friends on Facebook (or whatever mode of communication you prefer).
For more information about The Social Network, visit the Internet Movie Database.