Friday, February 25, 2011

The Social Network (2010)

Starring: Jesse Eisenburg, Andrew Garfield, Justin Timberlake
Director: David Fincher

When I first heard about this film, I blasted it as a stupid "white adolescent melodrama" with a plot that should have not been used for a long time. Need proof? Here you go: I stated that I never wanted to watch it. However, after all the praise it has received, both from critics and people I knew, I finally relented. Well, I have been wrong before, and I admit I was wrong this time as well. Here is why:

The film starts off with a Harvard student named Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenburg) who after a scuffle with the university, agrees to meet with two identical twin brothers named Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss (both played by Armie Hammer) about the creation of a website made exclusively for Harvard students. He ends up taking this premise into his own hands, however, and with the help of his best (and only real) friend Edwardo Saverin (Andrew Garfield) and Napster founder Sean Parker (Justin Timberlake) he creates the phenomenon what would eventually be known as Facebook. As it turns out, however, success can come with a price.

Despite the title, the film is not so much about Facebook as much as it is about the human story behind it, and there is one central theme to this story: betrayal. There are a number of back-stabbing that ensues, or at least it is perceived, and that leads the characters to fall from the heights of their success. Granted, their fall is cushioned by millions of dollars worth of corporate revenue/settlement agreements, but still, it hurts. While they may enjoy the riches that Facebook provides them, the amount of emotional bitterness that they develop never true recedes.

The characters themselves really bring the story together. Jesse Eisenburg does a great job playing Zuckerburg, an intelligent but arrogant twenty-something who strives to be successful and gives a great amount of time devoted to his craft. This comes at the expense of the people around him, with his harsh anti-social behavior and cold demeanor that makes it appear ruthless and uncaring; it is almost like he has Aspergers. But the final scene of the film, which is simple but poignant, seems to indicate that much of what he does is a cover because he feel like he has to do it rather than wanting to. This gives the character not so much a sense of sympathy, but a curtain amount of ambiguity that makes you ponder whether he is really the person that you think he is even after the movie ends.

The rest of the characters are impressive as well. Saverin sticks with Zuckerburg through thick and thin, only to be, you guessed it, stabbed in the back. The Winklevoss's are depicted as the typical Ivy League snobs who want to get their way, aided with great accents, yet there is still the feeling that even if they legally did not deserve the rights to Facebook that they were somehow double-crossed. Timberlake does well as Parker, a playboy who angered the corporate world by selling free music online, stealing revenue from popular bands at the time such as *NSYNC...oops. Well, despite the awkward casting, it still works, as he takesZuckerburg under his wings, though it appears that even he is not immune to the entrepreneur's scorn. Are you beginning to understand why this guy doesn't get much sympathy as a character? Still, that's sort of makes the story interesting: there are no real heroes or villains in this picture, only people, with flaws and all. It is all held together thanks to the partially darkened yet soothing atmosphere usually seen in David Fincher's films as well as Aaron Sorkin's rich writing abilities (I guess I owe them an apology too, don't I?).

There has been a lot of talk about the accuracy of the film. Some movies are better at depicting real-life events than others; I thought that Sorkin's screenplay for "Charlie Wilson's War" was fairly spot on. However, I think he took a few more creative liberties with this picture, because from what I have been able to find out, neither Zuckerburg nor the rest of the players involvedbelieve that the film is that realistic. As much as I hate it when films distort real-life people and events (and I can imagine that some of these people got rightfully annoyed when they saw it and said "Hey, I didn't do that; that's totally unfair!"), I have to accept it as an unfortunate compromise when it comes to bringing it to the big screen. I mean, let's face it, in the end its still about a bunch of guys creating a website; if they were going to make the film at all, they had to add a few things to spice it up! Anyway, that being said, I find that it is best to focus on the film purely from an entertainment standpoint. And from that point of view, it excels.

It is hard to believe I would be saying this a few months ago, but I recommend this film. Now if you will excuse me, I need to go check on my Facebook account...