I've been reading and listening to a lot of hype surrounding The Social Network, so I was really excited to watch it. People have been comparing it to Pirates of Silicon Valley, which I absolutely love, and it was rated very highly by critics and viewers alike. The excitement and anticipation was quickly dampened by the first few minutes of the film.
It starts with the founder of The Facebook, as it was initially called, Mark Zuckerberg (played by Jesse Eisenberg), condescendingly talking to his girlfriend (played by Rooney Mara). This scene and the conversation that ensures is an important part of the film because it sparks much of Zuckerberg's actions later on, especially as it relates to The Facebook. Unfortunately, this significant moment fell flat as I wondered how Erica Albright could have dated such an asshole in the first place. How did she have conversations with someone who jumped from topic to topic like Zuckerberg did? Were they in a long-term relationship or was it just casual dating? I got exhausted trying to follow their dialog for the few minutes they were in the bar and instead silently asked myself questions that were never answered by the film. I also kept wondering whether Zuckerberg had ADD based on the way he acted and talked throughout the entire film.
Eisenberg's portrayal of Zuckerberg was not a stellar performance as many have claimed. His acting annoyed me during most of the film; he tried too hard to be quirky, different, antisocial, and intelligent. Is Zuckerberg really like this? I wouldn't know because I've never been interested in the creator of Facebook just like I was never interested in learning more about Tom from Myspace. These entrepreneurs have never struck me as geniuses in the computer world. Instead, I see them as opportunists who adapted ideas at the right time for maximum popularity. Since I couldn't relate to the main character or respect the acting qualities of Eisenberg, the entire experience was dampened.
Despite my disappointment with Eisenberg, there were other stellar acting performances that made the film enjoyable. Eduardo Saverin (played by Andrew Garfield) was an intriguing cast for the CEO of Facebook. I had enjoyed his performance as Anton from The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, and I expected much in this film. I wasn't disappointed. Garfield stole the show, and I was surprised that he made a CEO of a company actually look appealing and innocent for a viewing audience. I'm so used to the opposite being depicted--the CEO is the greedy bastard who steals money and eventually the company from the original creator. The best part of the film was seeing the relationship between these two loners disintegrate. Unfortunately, there were many questions about their friendship that were never answered. How did they even become friends considering they were from different majors? Perhaps they bonded in the one math class that Zuckerberg remembered that Saverin created an algorithm for. Or perhaps it's purely because they are both Jewish. It's never made clear, so it was difficult to relate to the troubles the pair were having without some background information.
The second stellar performance was by Justin Timberlake, who played Sean Parker, the founder of Napster. I've enjoyed Timberlake's performances in the past, always a bit surprised that such a musical talent could be a highly capable actor. I never realized that Parker got a piece of the Facebook action, and I found this part of the plot exciting. Parker was the stick that drove a wedge between the two college friends. Was he an asset to the creation of Facebook? I would have to agree with Zuckerberg. He had some great ideas that made sense, especially when I discussed the computer programming aspects of the film with my husband.
The other performances in the film were sub-par and unimportant. For example, did we really need the emphasis on Zuckerberg's ex-girlfriend? It made sense at the beginning, but the fact that this failed relationship was mentioned at various points during the film felt contrived. Director David Fincher wanted to depict how pathetic, angry, and hurt Zuckerberg was and how it drove much of his success (all surrounding his ineptitude with his ex). However, Zuckerberg's antisocial behavior and intelligence successfully isolated him from everyone at Harvard. Being a dick to his ex was just added fodder. I agree with broadcaster Leo Laporte who called the film "anti-geek and misogynistic." It was disappointing to see computer programmers portrayed in such a light--being "plugged in" all the time and disconnected with the world around them. Plus, there were no admirable women in the film other than the associate lawyer, whose final assessment of Zuckerberg I completely disagreed with.
The plot dragged on, mainly because of the constant flashbacks between the past and two current lawsuits. These portions were very choppy. If the story had been portrayed in a linear fashion, I would have enjoyed it more. Plus, there were too many "silent" moments where the people were just staring at each other intently or randomly out a window, like when Zuckerberg says it's raining during one of the depositions. The ending was the worst part, though, because it was too corny and predictable.
The film tried to be as exciting as Pirates of Silicon Valley, but these portions came off as overly-dramatized and fake rather than realistically depicting the history of the company and friends. Many of these scenes, like the groupies, drinking, and sex and drugs, was stated to have been dramatized by both the director and Zuckerberg. Well, sex and drugs do sell, so I understand why Fincher included them. Who wants to watch a bunch of nerds write code? Instead, let's show the programmers being hired based on how many shots they can drink while hacking. This was way more exciting! A new drinking game has been created for all those cool nerds looking for something to do during the weekend.
Adding insult to injury, the music was uneventful. It took a lot of thinking to recall one song from The Social Network, which is unusual because music drives my emotional reactions to a film. I remember there were many quiet points that were highlighted as dramatic scenes. During these times, I found myself yawning in boredom, getting annoyed that my back was hurting, and wondering when the film would end. The only songs that stood out occurred during the parties, gotta love that dance music, and at the end of the film during the credits, "Baby, You're a Rich Man" performed by The Beatles. Too bad it was saved for last. The soundtrack was very electronic and too dark for the film, which was dramatic but not depressing like the music.
The camera angles and directing were nothing to rave about either. There were some interesting close ups of the characters during intense scenes. The use of the weather to depict the emotions of the characters was clever as well. Still, nothing stood out as unique or groundbreaking. I have seen much of this done with other films and docudramas.
I really wanted to care more about The Social Network,especially since I'm such a fan of Facebook. I just couldn't. It tried too hard to be stylized and serious, and it didn't focus on the relationships of the characters enough for my tastes. There were some predictable themes like power and greed corrupting friends, everyone wanting a piece of a billion dollar idea, being a loner versus a groupie, etc. I didn't like the constant switches between the past and present, which were not as tastefully or artfully done as it was in 500 Days of Summer. Plus, the film could have been cut down with more editing. Over two hours for this story...really? Did we need to see Zuckerberg's hiring techniques? Did we need to see so much of the Winklevoss twins twiddling their thumbs in annoyance as they tried to contact Zuckerberg for updates on their own website project? Also, what was with Brenda Song's role as Eduardo's girlfriend? Just another psycho woman, (cough) groupie, following the nerds to stardom. I guess she was really desperate to breakout from her goodie-two-shoes Disney roles that have been defining most of her acting career.
Still, the film wasn't a total loss. It was an average movie. The screenplay and directing was competent but not as great as Pirates of Silicon Valley or Inception. It wasn't the film of 2010, and it didn't move me to appreciate or feel differently about Facebook. The best thing about The Social Network was the conversation it sparked about creating my own online business with my husband. We also talked about some of the technical terms and issues that were hinted at but in more depth. This exchange made the film worth seeing, not any information I gleaned about Facebook or the relationships between all these millionaires and billionaires.
My opinion and reaction to the film seems to be unusual, and I'm sure that many will enjoy it purely because they haven't seen anything about social networking before.
What did you think of this review?
The Social Network is a 2010 drama film directed by David Fincher about the founding of the social networking website Facebook. The film features an ensemble cast, which consists of Jesse Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield, Justin Timberlake, Brenda Song, Max Minghella, Rooney Mara and Armie Hammer.
The film was written by Aaron Sorkin and adapted from Ben Mezrich's 2009 nonfiction book The Accidental Billionaires. The film is distributed by Columbia Pictures and is set for an October 1, 2010 release. None of the Facebook staff, including founder Mark Zuckerberg, will be involved with the project. One of the co-founders, Eduardo Saverin, was a consultant for Mezrich's book. The film is distributed by Columbia Pictures and was released on October 1, 2010.