The Social Network Review
The Social Network is a 2010 biopic drama written by Aaron Sorkin and directed by David Fincher. The film was critically acclaimed upon its release and earned the Academy Award for Best Original Score, Best Editing and Best Original Screenplay.
The film tells a fictionalized account of the founding of Facebook, following founders Mark Zuckerberg (Jessie Eisenberg) and Eduardo Saverin (Andrew Garfield) through the entire creative process and the aftermath of the site's launch.
The story is well paced, intercutting the main plot with the lawsuits that happened in the aftermath of the launch of Facebook. This works really well for a few different reasons, the first of which is that by cutting back and forth between the past and present we see how starkly the relationship between Mark and Eduardo has changed between then and now. That way we're intrigued to find out what could've happened to shatter this relationship so badly. The second way it works is that it evens out the pacing. If you told the story in chronological order not only would it feel too long, but it would have two endings; one where Mark takes full control of the company and another when Mark deals with the lawsuits. The film resolves this by making both stories progress at the same time, making sure they both rise in intensity and finish at the same time. This way it feels like it progresses faster than it actually does.
Usually I'm not a fan of Aaron Sorkin's screenplays; they're way too stylized so I listen more to how they're saying what they say and not what they're saying. However, thanks to David Fincher working with Sorkin to edit the script, the dialogue sounds both stylized and natural. Thus, not only is it fun to listen to, but the message and intent don't get lost in the eloquent wordplay.
The Mark Zuckerberg of The Social Network is an interesting character to say the least. He's calculating and his brain runs a hundred miles a minute, making him cocky and narcissistic. However, his narcissism doesn't represent itself in an attention grabbing, extravagant personality; instead it's shown with Zuckerberg's sharp tongue, fast, detached speech and a quiet discontentment with society. However, they manage to make him relatable because we understand why he's doing what he's doing; he wants to stand out and be extraordinary just like everybody else does. He's intensely fun to watch without having to like him.
Since this is a David Fincher film it's shot beautifully, with some of the best blocking and camera placement I've ever seen in a movie. Every shot during the dialogue represents the relationships within the conversation. For example, in a scene where three people are talking the establishing shot is the three of them around a coffee table so that we know where everybody is in relation to each other. Person #2 starts talking to the person at the head of the table. We get an over the shoulder shot so that both of them are in the frame. This is a signal that this is the conversation we should be focused on. We then cut to Person #3 who buts into the conversation. We're looking at Person #3 from the perspective of Head Person, meaning that his attention has become our attention. Head Person then goes back to talking with Person #2. We get a reaction shot from Person #3 and look at Person #2 from #3's perspective before we go back to the over the should shot from behind #2 while he talks to Head Person. Then when the conversation has come to its head we get the establishing shot of the three of them at the coffee table as Head Person addresses both of them. This is really good direction; telling the audience subconsciously where the characters are focussing and therefore where we should be focussing. It also reveals how the character relationships are going in the story at large. For example, Mark and Eduardo are having an argument and as the conversation starts to die down, Mark turns his back to Eduardo, showing that he's either ignoring Eduardo's concerns or disagrees with them. Either way, Mark has cut off his best friend in the middle of a conversation.
One of the best scenes in the film happens right at the beginning and it's a testament to Fincher's talent as a director. Mark gets drunk and decides to start a sexist website where Harvard students can vote on which campus girl is hotter. All it is is a guy typing on a computer and then some other guys joining him to help make the site, but Fincher manages to make the scene seem cinematic and important. There are a lot of fast cuts used, he intercuts Mark's hacking with social activities going on around the campus, plenty of quick insert shots of Mark typing and the images that show up on his computer, the score by Trent Reznor is at a high tempo making the scene feel like it's going much faster and Eisenberg's performance and voiceover combine to help us understand what's going on inside his head and what he's feeling about what he's doing. It's an almost pitch perfect scene.
Much of the film that takes place on the college campus is shot in an orangish yellow light. However, instead of felling warm and soft like it normally does, it feels vibrant and aggressive, like something's happening even if it's just two people talking in a room. It also feels harsh, perhaps adding to the cold aggressiveness of Mark's actions. Now that I think about it a lot of the scenes shot in the conference rooms, where the lawsuits are taking place, are shot in softer, more forgiving lighting. Perhaps this symbolizes Mark's softened outlook or his regret at having betrayed his friends.
Though the acting is good all around (except for maybe Andrew Garfield who doesn't show a lot of expression range) it's Jessie Eisenberg who walks away with the film. Despite the stylized dialogue he delivers it with such effortlessness that you could swear he was actually a fast thinking super genius coming up with all of it off the top of his head. He delivers the cold and calculating sociopath, but also the regretful friend. With this kind of talent it really upsets me that he didn't make a better Lex Luthor.
Summary: The Social Network might've been a little overhyped for me, but it's still really damn good. Jessie Eisenberg proves himself an amazing actor, David Fincher reminds us why he's the best in the business right now and the characters are extremely intriguing. Even if you don't care/know anything about Facebook or how it works you should watch this movie. It's an intense story of betrayal, ego and broken friendships and one of the modern classics of today.