There are film critics who have already declared that David Fincher's The Social Network is the "film of the year."
Rest assured, they are wrong.
The Social Network is a good film. The Social Network is a very good film, almost a great film. Beautifully intertwining the written words of Aaron Sorkin with the visual mastery of Fincher, The Social Network may very well be this year's most intellectually satisfying film right alongside Christopher Nolan's Inception.
The Social Network is stimulating, energetic, entertaining and wondrously written and acted across the board.
The Social Network is still not, however, the "film of the year" and the gut tells me that audiences are going to feel exactly the same way.
In case you've been trapped in a cave over the past several months or somehow managed to avoid the seemingly endless onslaught of promos for the film, The Social Network follows, with varying degrees of historical accuracy, how a Harvard undergrad named Mark Zuckerberg created what has become, almost undeniably, the ultimate social network experience and simultaneously turned himself into the world's youngest billionaire. Ever.
It's a bit surprising how well the combo of Fincher's direction and Sorkin's writing weave themselves together, Fincher's visual presentation a storytelling kaleidoscope of spiritual and otherworldly symbolism from the most miniscule image to epic landscapes and Sorkin's verbal chess matches seemingly mismatched. Yet, for the most part, the two fit together perfectly and when the original score created by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross is tossed in, well, it's a full-on, intellectual orgy of sight and sound.
As Zuckerberg, Jesse Eisenberg (The Squid and the Whale) is so eerily spot-on with how most of us likely picture the rather elusive Mark Zuckerberg. Over the past few days, we've been seeing the Facebook founder in the news with his $100 million donation for New Jersey schools, but for the most part Zuckerberg avoids the spotlight and, if we're to believe The Social Network, mostly avoids anything resembling a crowd unless it involves fund-raising or writing code. Eisenberg has always been an actor in search of the perfect project, and The Social Network offers him the perfect chance to emphasize his acting strengths while stretching himself by playing a man who is impossible to like but equally impossible to hate. Eisenberg's facial expressions are so quietly observed you may not fully realize how brilliant the performance is until you leave the theatre and find it impossible to forget his words, his looks, his eyes and the way his body shifts from person to person and setting to setting. Eisenberg, likely at Fincher's direction, never gives us an ounce of true sympathy for the difficult to peg Zuckerberg. Instead, he's portrayed as withdrawn, observant, calculating, self-assured and, yes, vengeful with even a touch of sociopathic tendencies.
In other words, he's destined to become a billionaire.
What's amazing here is that Eisenberg doesn't really even offer the film's finest performance, instead being matched note for note by Justin Timberlake's spin on Zuckerberg's semi-faux mentor and Napster founder Sean Parker and perhaps even moreso by Andrew Garfield's Eduardo Saverin, Zuckerberg's academic peer and early financier and patsy. Garfield has the uneasy task of providing The Social Network with its emotional resonance, a not so easy task given the overwhelming aloofness of Eisenberg's Zuckerberg and the relative debauchery of Timberlake's Parker.
Based largely upon a book by Ben Mezrich, "The Accidental Billionaire," The Social Network may prove to be an interesting sell to American audiences with its largely being marketed as "The Facebook Movie" despite largely being disowned by Zuckerberg himself and the film's difficult decipher movie trailers and darker tone and camera work courtesy of D.P. Jeff Cronenweth.
The Social Network may serve to support social networking naysayers who emphasize that all sites like Facebook, Myspace and others really do is create a sense of faux community, a world that is neither based on neither reality nor any semblance of humanity. Zuckerberg's world is mostly a world of connection by code and community is primarily constructed on an "as needed" basis, a common assertion by those who argue for less social networking.
Yet, at the same time, Fincher may have captured more perfectly than we're even comfortable admitting the birthing of the redefining of human relationships and community and family to allow for the penetration of technology into the equation. The fact that such an equation allows equal time for the likes of a socially awkward yet brilliant future billionaire like Zuckerberg, a social conscience such as Saverin and a, well, a deviant such as Parker may, in fact, support the notion that it is a social network such as Facebook where any true hope of peaceful diversity truly exists.
Fact or fiction? Who knows? I don't know Mark Zuckerberg and it's doubtful he'd return my calls. The Social Network is an extraordinarily good film featuring a more disciplined Fincher, a more visual Sorkin and a cast that works together to bring it all to vibrant, electrifying and disturbing life.
Is Mark Zuckerberg an asshole? Or is he just trying so hard to be one?
The guy has 500 million friends and we still don't know the truth.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic