The Social Network

The Social Network is a 2010 biographical drama film directed by David Fincher and written by Aaron Sorkin. It is an adaptation of the novel The Accidental Billionaires: The Founding of Facebook, A Tale of Sex, Money, Genius, and Betrayal by Ben Mezrich. The film stars Jesse Eisenberg as Mark Zuckerberg, Armie Hammer as the Wrinklevoss Twins, Andrew Garfield as Eduardo Saverin, and Justin Timberlake as Sean Parker. The Social Network tells the story of the creation of the popular social media website Facebook and the legal trouble that later ensues.

David Fincher is one of today’s best directors. His filmography reads like a list of the top 10 thrillers of the past 25 years. He first got his start on Alien 3 in 1992. It was a box office bomb and critical failure due to the studio meddling in the film’s production. Fincher’s experience was so terrible he swore off Hollywood. Alas, a director’s cut was eventually released that was awesome by all accounts. Fincher did not swear off Hollywood and returned to direct the legendary psychological thriller Seven in 1995, the underrated The Game in 1997, the still-controversial Fight Club in 1999, Panic Room in 2002, the biographical mystery film Zodiac in 2007, the romantic drama film The Curious Case of Benjamin Button in 2008, this film in 2010, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo in 2011, and Gone Girl in 2014. He also serves as executive producer on Netflix’s critically acclaimed American remake of the House of Cards series, and served as director for the series’ first two episodes. The two thematic outliers in Fincher’s filmography are this film and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. It is obvious that Fincher idolizes Alfred Hitchcock.  He skillfully and lovingly emulates his idol to great effect, creating highly disturbing yet highly entertaining films that fill the void left by the Master of Suspense himself. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button can be explained by Fincher wanting to break out of his comfort zone (he won Best Director, so good on him), but why would he, who has been directly labeled “The Modern Day Alfred Hitchcock,” direct a movie about Facebook?

Watching this film, it is actually rather obvious to see why. This is a story about revolution in an industry, but this is definitely not Moneyball. I know House of Cards is a remake of a British show that came out long before The Social Network, but Eisenberg’s portrayal of Zuckerberg feels like Frank Underwood: The Early Years. I decided to watch this film after many people disappointed in Eisenberg’s god-awful portrayal of Lex Luthor in Batman vs. Superman (as I was) suggested that it would’ve been much better if Eisenberg played Luthor like he does here with Zuckerberg. Mark Zuckerberg, much like Frank Underwood, is a jerk from the outset, but for some reason, you can’t help but root for him.Kevin Spacey also served as the film’s executive producer, in a bizarre coincidence.

After the break up, a very upset Zuckerberg writes a very insulting post about Erica and posts it on the internet. He experiences emotional distress because Erica (played by future House of Cards player Rooney Mara) insulted his intelligence and bruised his ego. Zuckerberg, as portrayed in this film, is a anal retentive jerk with extremely narcissistic tendencies.While intoxicated, Zuckerberg hacks Harvard’s network and makes a website where you rate female Harvard students.

It gets 22,000 hits in two hours and crashes the system.

The Wrinklevoss Twins are very impressed and ask him to help create an exclusive social network for Harvard students. He strings them along and uses their idea to create Facebook, a huge success, which results in a lawsuit. Nobody in this film is very nice, I would say, with the exception being Eduardo. This is not a “nice” movie and does, in fact, have several of Fincher’s distinct trademarks. The cinematographer, Jeff Cronenweth, was the man behind the camera for Fight Club, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, and Gone Girl. His signature dimly-lit, atmospherically unsettling style is very prevalent here. Cronenweth has stated that he uses low depth of field when shooting to keep the audience focused on what they are meant to see. This style that seems more suited for a horror film than a biopic actually makes the film work on surprising levels. Fincher and Cronenweth, like Zuckerberg, demand your attention not out of beauty, but out of a strange sort of intimidation and uncomfortability, further heightened by a score composed by Nine Inch Nails frontman Trent Reznor and his friend Atticus Ross. Reznor and Fincher are actually very close friends. The heavy metal artist composed the scores for this film, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, and Gone Girl. The pounding, bassy score provides a creepy feeling throughout the film, not exactly of the “serial killer” variety, but more of a “super freakin’ sketchy” vibe. There’s a scene with former Disney starlet Brenda Song that is really sketchy, and that’s weird, mainly because London Tipton makes out with a former Spider-Man.

It is an uncomfortable movie in the vein of Gone Girl, but instead of the sociopathic blonde black widow, here we deal with a borderline autistic, abrasive nerd who makes a lot of money screwing people over.

Onto that subject, Jesse Eisenberg is amazing in this role. Mark Zuckerberg is not Peter Parker. He’s a jerk. Plain and simple. He’s got friends who treat him well and he tries to treat them well, except for the fact that he’s more socially stunted than Sheldon Cooper.  He doesn’t give a crap about anyone but himself. He wants power and he wants money; he wants to be somebody and will do whatever he has to in order get it, with no exceptions. This type of character is a fixture in Fincher’s work; John Doe in Seven, Frank Underwood in House of Cards, and Amy Dunne in Gone Girl, to name a few.

Zuckerberg is not crazy or a psycho, though. He doesn’t want to shed blood. But he is definitely a narcissist and definitely a dick. Zuckerberg is, in some ways, worse than John Doe. In Seven, John Doe is a nutcase who believes he is the right hand of God himself, committing gruesome murders in the styles of the seven deadly sins found in the Bible. When Detective Mills asks who Doe is, the response is “It doesn’t matter who I am. Who I am means absolutely nothing.” To him, he is nothing but a lowly servant of the Lord. Zuckerberg, though not in a delusional sense, believes himself to be God; he as all the power and he holds all the cards. The empire that is Facebook would not exist without him, and he never lets anyone forget that.

He is a worm and an irredeemable jerk who, unlike Frank Underwood, I can easily take. I can’t say what parts actually happened or what parts are creative liberty at work, but the whole “hack Stanford and rate girls because why not” is true, and that alone is deplorable.

I feel super bad for Andrew Garfield, both his character in the movie and Garfield in real-life. The Not-So Amazing Spider-Man is a brilliant actor who got roped into Sony’s desperate need to hold on to the rights for Spider-Man (which didn’t work out well, anyway). Both Spidey films (the first of which premiered in 2012, two years after this movie) bombed and the poor guy has yet to make a comeback. He needs to, though, because the guy is freaking great.

Poor ol’ Armie Hammer can’t catch a break, either. He gives a phenomenal performance as the Wrinklevoss Brothers. Like most of the characters, they are entitled, elite jerks with their own hyperbaric chamber apparently.

Following the box office bomb The Lone Ranger, the only thing Hammer has been in of note was last year’s disappointingly overlooked spy thriller The Man from U.N.C.L.E. Now that I think about it, this film is full of actors who got screwed over by the system, which is a really, really weird and coincidental parallel.

Justin Timberlake is a pretty good actor. His scenes as Sean Parker were very effective in showing the start of the rift between Mark and Eduardo. Sean is an arrogant bigshot with too much charisma who is… paranoid. He has a lot of money; Mark likes him, Eduardo does not.

I found that a lot of this film is fiction. That’s actually fine by me, because it’s a really freaking good movie. Aaron Sorkin actually said so. To go a bit further upon that, unlike Unbroken, which was purported to be based upon a true story, The Social Network makes no such claim. The synopsis reads:

David Fincher’s The Social Network is the stunning tale of a new breed of cultural insurgent: a punk genius who sparked a revolution and changed the face of human interaction for a generation, and perhaps forever. Shot through with emotional brutality and unexpected humor, this superbly crafted film chronicles the formation of Facebook and the battles over ownership that followed upon the website’s unfathomable success. With a complex, incisive screenplay by Aaron Sorkin and a brilliant cast including Jesse Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield and Justin Timberlake, The Social Network bears witness to the birth of an idea that rewove the fabric of society even as it unraveled the friendship of its creators.

The real Eduardo Savin is quoted as saying “[…] the movie was clearly intended to be entertainment and not a fact-based documentary.” Yes, yes it was Eduardo. If it was a fact-based documentary, it would be so. The accuracy of this film ginned up more controversy than is normal, but I guess that is to be expected when dealing with Harvard billionaires.

Mark Zuckerberg is probably not a dick (probably!), Eduardo and Mark don’t hate each other anymore, apparently. Regardless, The Social Network is a brilliantly directed, brilliantly acted, and brilliantly written drama that is both entertaining and interesting, and is definitely worth a watch.


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