If there’s a fine line between genius and insanity, there’s apparently a similar fine line between being driven and being a completely asocial jerk willing to screw over everyone and everything in a single-minded pursuit of success. Walking these various fine lines is Mark Zuckerberg (or the fictional one played by Jesse Eisenberg) in The Social Network.
The Social Network is a pretty interesting experiment in making a movie about current events. Zuckerberg, Dustin Moskovitz, Eduardo Savarin, and the brothers Winklevoss are all real people, and the events depicted in the film are all, within reason, real events that actually happened.
Facebook’s past is littered with lawsuits, conflicts, and all the infighting that comes along with the founding of any multibillion dollar business, yet there’s space enough in the events for all the dramatic license.
The most difficult task of The Social Network is figuring out a way to make thousands of hours of tinkering with code into something that the average audience can both a) understand and b) not be bored stiff by. The crucial element of this is Aaron Sorkin’s ability behind the keyboard. Sorkin’s brilliant script is absolutely crackling with energy and life.
There’s a certain amount of interplay between the characters, in the various depositions, and between Zuckerberg and everyone in his life that just keeps the audience enthralled. It’s almost like one of those fast-talking Marx Brothers comedies, except more absurd because the events in this movie are based in reality.
The film’s ensemble cast is a huge boon to the film. If it were the robotic/sarcastic Zuckerberg by himself, the film would be harder to relate to. Eisenberg’s take on Facebook’s founder is equal parts genius and monster, both the wittiest guy in the room and the one least able to conduct a conversation with others (which is a nice change from his general clueless, awkward kid. Zuckerberg’s awkwardness is due to his drive to get revenge on all the girls who may or may not have wronged him at Harvard).
Meanwhile, Sean Parker (Justin Timberlake) is the consumate conman, displaying the perfect amount of brains and flash to impress both Zuckerberg and those all-important venture capitalists, while still showing a weakness for partying and drugs. Eduardo Savarin (Andrew Garfield) is both intelligent, yet also in over his head. He’s the movie’s most relatable person, a good, honest friend, but not the kind of guy you want as your CFO.
David Fincher’s direction is probably the element that keeps this movie all together. The idea of framing the founding of Facebook within the narrative of multiple lawsuits against Zuckerberg is a wise one, and while Fincher’s unable to resort to his bag of visual tricks, he’s still able to put the movie together in such a way that it never slows or lags.
There’s always something propelling the film forward, from Zuckerberg’s rapid-fire date dialogue while out with Erica Albright (Rooney Mara), the pulsing thud of music and lights at a Los Angeles nightspot, million dollar business deals, or the rapid-fire back and forth between various lawyers, with a bored-looking Zuckerberg doodling away in his notebook and providing glib answers.
I’m not sure if The Social Network is for everyone, but it’s a fascinating look at what may or may not be the genesis of one of the 21st century’s most divisive men and most important events. It also just happens to be one of the most interesting, well-written, and well-acted ensemble dramas of the year. It’s kind of rare for a movie to be funny, intelligent, entertaining, and dramatic, yet The Social Network (like the social network it is ostensibly depicting) is all of those things at once. If a movie could have a ‘like’ button, I’d check this one.