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'The Social Network' Review

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Jesse Eisenberg and Joseph Mazzello photo from The Social Network

Jesse Eisenberg and Joseph Mazzello in 'The Social Network.'

© Columbia Pictures
The Social Network is the perfect meshing of screenwriter, director, actors and subject matter. David Fincher's visual genius combined with Aaron Sorkin's brilliant script combined with the best performances from a group of 20-something actors this year, and backed by Trent Reznor's remarkable score, meld together to create an unforgettable, conversation-provoking, ballsy film.

Is The Social Network the 100% true story of the creation of Facebook? Not likely, as none of the principal players agree on what exactly is the truth. What The Social Network does is lay out one interpretation of the events as they went down, without actually coming right out and saying who did what to whom. And what Sorkin and Fincher do with this tale told Rashomon style is make the audience alternate between feeling sympathy for and contempt toward the film's version of Facebook creator Mark Zuckerberg as well as toward his ex-best friend and the first CFO of Facebook, Eduardo Saverin, and the Winklevoss twins who claimed Zuckerberg stole their idea and ran with it. By the end of the film, each player has had a chance to explain their side of the story and it's left up to the audience as to who is telling the version of the story closest to the truth.

The Social Network doesn't pussyfoot around. Sorkin and Fincher are fearless in showing the good, the bad, and the ugly of each of the film's - and Facebook's - central players while never coming right out and saying, 'Here's your bad guy. It's okay to hate him because that's what he deserves.' They approach that line with Zuckerberg, who's obviously missing the gene that allows him to interact with people in a normal manner, but then edge away.

The story kicks off in 2003 with Mark (Jesse Eisenberg) having drinks with his girlfriend, Erica (Rooney Mara who just nabbed the coveted lead in Fincher's The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo). He doesn't so much engage her in conversation as he does hit her with a rapid-fire barrage of different topics (he's obsessed with getting into Harvard's elite "final clubs") mixed with scathing insults. And in those first few minutes of The Social Network, Erica delivers an assessment of Mark's character that remains true throughout the film. As she's breaking up with him, Erica tells him that while he might think girls don't like him because he's a nerd, it's actually the fact that he's an asshole that makes women hate him.

Jesse Eisenberg, Brenda Song and Andrew Garfield photo from The Social Network

Jesse Eisenberg as Mark Zuckerberg, Brenda Song as Christy and Andrew Garfield as Eduardo Saverin in 'The Social Network.'

© Columbia Pictures
And so Mark heads back to his Harvard dorm, pouting and plotting revenge. He posts blog entries attacking Erica for, among other things, her small chest. Chugging beer, Mark decides on the spur of the moment to create a website called Facemash. Hacking into the school's computer system, Mark uploads photos of Harvard's female undergrads, creating hundreds of pages that allow viewers to rank who's hotter of the two photos on that specific page. Within hours Facemash becomes so popular it crashes Harvard's servers, and Zuckerberg's called before a disciplinary committee. He escapes serious punishment, and his actions catch the attention of fellow Harvard students the Winklevoss twins, Cameron and Tyler (played by Armie Hammer with body double assistance from Josh Pence), and Divya Narendra (Max Minghella). The Winklevi (as Mark refers to them) and Divya are interested in setting up a Harvard-only dating site and Mark agrees to create the site for them.

Flash-forward a bit further and Mark keeps delaying the Winklevoss twins, ignoring repeated attempts by Cameron, Tyler and Divya to get him to start work on their website. This, according to the film, is because Mark's now busy setting up his own social networking site - The Facebook. Or, as Napster creator Sean Parker (Justin Timberlake) suggests, just Facebook. Sean knows the ins and outs of Silicon Valley, knows the big fish investors, and more than anyone else Mark's age, knows what it's like to create something that changes what people do with their time on the internet. And once Sean becomes part of the Facebook team, Mark's best friend, Eduardo Saverin (Andrew Garfield) - the guy who put up the money in the first place to get the site up and running - is pushed aside.

Just who actually came up with the idea for the site is one of the questions put forth in The Social Network, and the film shows that the Winklevoss twins and Divya Narenda were left with basically no other option than to sue Mark over what they believed was their idea. Saverin was also forced into turning to the legal system to get justice, recognition, and a share of the profits. But the film digs deeper than just who wants money for the creation of the now billion dollar company, asking questions that go unanswered because the filmmakers aren't privy to the inner workings of Mark Zuckerberg's brain. Did he borrow the idea from the wealthy, good-looking, Olympic rowing twins who had all-access passes to clubs Mark couldn't get into? And was part of the reason Mark left Eduardo behind because he felt resentment over Eduardo's admission to parties and clubs he was denied access to? The Social Network gives audiences a lot to think about packed into a surprisingly short, fast-paced two hours.

Sorkin did an impressive amount of research in getting to the heart of the story. He read the court depositions and incorporated Ben Mezrich's research for his book The Accidental Billionaires into the script. The court documents were the best source material possible, and then by using the Rashomon style of storytelling, he gave each character a voice when in turned allowed the audience the opportunity to feel as though we're actively participating in the hunt for the truth.

The Social Network movie review

Justin Timberlake and Jesse Eisenberg in 'The Social Network.'

© Columbia Pictures
In addition to Sorkin's near-perfect script and Fincher's spot-on direction, what makes The Social Network a must-see is the acting. Jesse Eisenberg is a revelation as the fast-talking, socially inept, computer genius who goes from obscurity and longing to get into elite clubs to being a self-made billionaire. Setting popstar-turned-actor Justin Timberlake to play Sean Parker is a bit of inspired casting as Timberlake pulls off worldliness, sleaziness, and paranoia all wrapped up in one party-going playboy perfectly. Armie Hammer pulls double duty playing both the twins (courtesy of the most seamless CGI ever incorporated into a film) and the fact you aren't immediately put off by these privildged twins is thanks in large part to Hammer's sincere and riveting performance. And Andrew Garfield's performance as Eduardo Saverin proves that A) he will be able to pull off playing Spider-Man and B) he's got the potential to be one of the top actors of his generation (check him out in Never Let Me Go and you'll see more of his range).

The Social Network is one of the best films of 2010 and one of the first films to effectively capture the impact the internet has had on our everyday lives. Trust me, it's one of the few films of 2010 you'll actually still be talking about a week after seeing it.

GRADE: A

The Social Network was directed by David Fincher and is rated PG-13 for sexual content, drug and alcohol use and language.

Theatrical Release: October 1, 2010

Disclosure: This review is based on a screening provided by the studio. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.
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