D: David Fincher. DP: Jeff Cronenweth. W: Aaron Sorkin. Starring: Jesse Eisenberg/Andrew Garfield/Justin Timberlake/Armie Hammer/Max Minghella/Rooney Mara/Joseph Mazello/Patrick Mapel/John Getz/Rashida Jones/David Selby/Josh Pence. (NOTE: Based on the book “The Accidental Millionaires” by Ben Mezrich.)
The blurry line between fact and fiction has never been more provocative than in David Fincher’s new film The Social Network. Not only in its subject matter, but also the film’s release poses questions of validity, history, and of the burgeoning new way we all communicate (or the way in which we don’t).
The Social Network instantly drops its audience into Mark Zuckerberg’s life at Harvard. He’s a tad socially inept, brilliant, witty, yet judgmental, or is he? In the opening scene actor Jesse Eisenberg clearly demonstrates a struggle within Zuckerberg. A struggle that epitomizes the film. Does Zuckerberg care what other students think? Is he yearning for approval? Does he create this computer program to build a way in which to break down the social constructs of his own environment through voyeurism? Or is he simply brilliant and had or changed an idea? It might sound heavy, but it is all packed into Eisenberg’s opening bar monologue to BU student Erica Albright (Rooney Mara). Setting the tone for the rest of the film, this scene (and specifically Eisenberg) lay the clear groundwork of The Social Network. And lucky for audiences Eisenberg’s commitment to Zuckerberg’s vulnerability, talent, and sarcasm is able to drive the film’s performances at the same speed and agility of the rest of the film.
These other performances include that of Andrew Garfield, who was seen earlier this year in Never Let Me Go. Garfield plays best friend Eduardo to Eisenberg’s Zuckerberg. Right on par with his scene partner, Garfield is able to mesh his good looks and charm into a vulnerable and honest character that provides a complicated foil to Eisenberg. No one will be able to forget who Armie Hammer as the Winklevoss twins (yes it was played by one guy) whose prep school coated animosity about the website not only feels genuine, but actually fresh. Director David Fincher is truly in command of his army of male talent, although he falters in scenes with Sean Parker, played by Justin Timberlake. Timberlake is still so green in his acting that it is difficult to believe he is playing anyone else, but himself. Thankfully, his presence doesn’t ruin the film, but does detracts from its flow.
Blending together a novel, former Harvard student anecdotes, and other mounds of research, Aaron Sorkin created this flow by delving into the pathological and psychological questions behind status, notoriety, friendship, and mere reasoning behind action. Sorkin’s (a fellow Syracuse graduate) first success is that his script is remarkably balanced. The storyline moves through the night of the original Harvard hacking into his development of the facebook programming while also moving forward in time to depositions and out of court proceedings. In this way it is clear from the beginning of the film that all opinions are subjective and the film attempts to neither endorse or divorce any claims on the narrative. Sorkin smartly omits any parental roles in the film, fathers and parents are only referenced not seen. Their approval and opinion hovering over the campus like an omen. He also limits the female roles in the film to a genuine then betrayed young woman, a crazy possessive girlfriend, and a perceptive lawyer. Looking closer it is clear that these three represent the common limitations of female roles; the virgin, the adulterer/sexual aggressor, and the maternal figure. Although it may not be purposeful, this limitation and the casual comparison of female looks in Eisenberg’s first website in The Social Network begs new questions about the subjectivication of women in film, and now through social networks.
Lastly, above all else The Social Network is a fascinating conversational springboard. Younger audiences will place themselves within the history of the website, where they were when it first launched and how it has spawned into more places and versions over these past few years. It will generate discussions about privacy issues, modern concepts of communication, and the exploding industry of social networking. And these are all good things. Because only when people actually turn away from media and talk about what they experience can things actually change and communication truly happen.