As the story goes according to the movie (partially based on true events, partially fabricated), young Harvard student Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg), in the wake of his girlfriend Erica (Rooney Mara) breaking up with him, creates the first draft of what would become Facebook. Called Facemash, the site gave Harvard students the option to rate undergraduate girls based on basic headshot photographs. Mark gets in big trouble for this not only because it is a breach of privacy and a degrading thought altogether, but because the site gets so many hits that it crashes all servers at Harvard. That’s frat boys for ya.
But Mark’s ambitions are much larger than this primitive rough draft. He wants to provide students access to not only a website, but a social experience. This seems like an unsavory mix, as Mark is not too social to begin with. He is not into partying, he doesn’t do drugs, and has few friends. The guy is tremendously intelligent and computer savvy, but is radically inept when it comes to social interaction of any kind. It is as if he uses his knowledge to a fault. The whole reason why he was dumped was because he was so inadvertently arrogant and megalomaniacal. The worst part is that he does not mean to be that way, it is just the way he comes off.
Backing him up on his ideas is his loyal roommate and best friend Eduardo Saverin (Andrew Garfield). He helps to finance the creation of the facebook and occasionally gives his two cents on issues such as monetizing and advertising. All he really asks for in return is thirty percent of profits and the title of CFO. Meanwhile, Mark does some behind-the-back negotiating early on with Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss (both Armie Hammer), two athletic and scholarly twins. They want to expand upon the original Facemash idea and put their own spin on it, calling it the Harvard Connection. Mark agrees to hold up his end of the deal.
Beyond that point, I do not wish to disclose any further information. I’ll let you find out for yourself. What I will say is that the outcomes aren’t too pretty. Lots of anger is had. Lots of trust is lost. Legal action is taken. In fact, spliced throughout the movie are scenes from two hearings regarding lawsuits against Zuckerberg. The tension is agitated even further once Justin Timberlake enters as the bankrupt Napster founder Sean Parker, who sees potential in the Facebook idea and takes Mark under his wing.
Notice in the last paragraph, I state that I do not want to give away any of the juicy information and that you should find it out for yourself. Yes, you should definitely see this movie. Not only is the questionable concept well-executed, it is near perfect as is. Big thanks goes in part to Aaron Sorkin’s screenplay, which is written with cleverness, extreme care and plenty of quick wit to go around. Nine Inch Nails frontman Trent Reznor contributes a haunting and charming soundtrack and David Fincher ("Fight Club," "Se7en") brings his full directorial capabilities to the table.
One must understand that this is not a Facebook movie. Sure, the events may revolve around how the global phenomenon came to be, but a standard biopic is not necessarily the style Fincher was going for. It is a study of the double-edged-sword consequences of business. It is about greed and deception. It is about how one person’s modest idea can blossom into something colossal. It is a character study of a reserved individual who yearns for outsider attention. The film can be construed as many things, but a ‘based on true events’ tale does not come to mind.
Every actor in the film does a great job at making these characters believable. As I said above, Mark Zuckerberg appears to be a smart character with few hints on how to socialize with the people around him. I do know people exactly like him, who are so pompous about their intellectual superiority that they treat all others with condescension and inferiority. Eisenberg, someone known for playing awkward outcasts, really shines as this character, delivering line after line with a deadpan sensibility and a snarky attitude. Andrew Garfield, who previously gave an alright performance in the alright "Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus," is also allowed opportunity to spread his wings in a performance that will hopefully earn him more acting gigs. And Justin Timberlake...don’t even get me started. He basically steals the show for how little time he is in it. I knew he had acting talent and great timing, and this realization is brought fully to light in this film as he plays a sleazy yet streetwise businessman who changed the nature of the music industry forever.
The screenplay is just plain fantastic in every sense of the word. Aaron Sorkin, writer of "The West Wing" and titan of quick dialogue, does everything right in this script. He makes the characters smart, fast on their feet, facetious, emotive, believable and very, very real. In this day and age, it is becoming increasingly arduous to find a film that doesn’t talk down to its audience. It is always refreshing to see films like this, which clearly have artistic ambitions. Not only does the film level itself intellectually with the audience, but it also takes the audience along for the ride as if THEY are Harvard students. It doesn’t blatantly explain things, it hopes that you are bright enough to interpret things for yourself.
As much as I loved the movie, I believe that the ending wrapped up a tiny bit too neatly and I could have used an extra ten minutes. But there is the key. For a solid two hours, I did not become disinterested in the slightest and I WANTED more. God knows I complain about movies padding themselves out all the time. "The Social Network" is a tight, near-masterpiece that will go on to be a likely Oscar contender as well as a topical classic. It is simply one of the great treasures of 2010.