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“The Social Network” Review

So, it’s now been over a week since I saw an early screening of David Fincher and Aaron Sorkin’s “The Social Network,” and I’m still not sure that I have all of my thoughts collected. It may not be able to until after a second viewing later this week that I can firmly put together a consensus. One thing is for sure, however, that I don’t need another second to figure out: this film is a quarter of a step away from being an absolute cinematic masterpiece.

Everyone obviously knows the story by now. It tells the semi-biographic tale of Mark Zuckerberg and his rise to wealth and fame as he shepherds Facebook through its developmental phase. However, in the process, he breaks enough laws to be saddled with hundreds of millions of dollars in lawsuits and manages to alienate and betray his best friend in the world.

The real beauty of “The Social Network” is that there really isn’t much wrong with it…at all. I can go on forever about every good aspect of this film, and I’m about to, but it’s important to make that notion clear, right off the bat. This is practically as good as it gets.

It’s important to confess up front that, yes, I am a huge fan of Aaron Sorkin. In fact, I worship the very ground that he walks on. In my opinion, “The West Wing” is the greatest show in television history and will never be topped. However, for the sake of this review, all of that goes out the window. This might have well been the first thing Sorkin has ever penned in his life, and it wouldn’t matter. It’s the fact that the man has gone so far outside the parameters of his usual subject matter and still crafted such a stupendous tale that marks this film as such an event.

The script is nearly flawless. The story travels at a mile a minute or more and still manages to capture enough wit, fire and intelligence to leave the competition somewhere in the dust. It seems as though every single line of dialogue was either blisteringly funny or searingly poignant and in the moment. The structure of the screenplay never fails and is balanced perfectly between the present and past. The latter storyline is not told sloppily through flashbacks, but rather on an even keel with its storytelling platform. The best facet of the script, however, is its use of characters. Every single person in the film is completely fleshed out, from Zuckerberg himself to the bit parts of lawyers and students. Everyone has just enough screentime, and in the end, there are no questions left unanswered.

David Fincher has no doubt created his masterpiece in this film. His direction dots every “i” and crosses every “t.” He has matured in form and better solidified his craft than perhaps any mainstream director working for the last twenty years. Fincher always understands the tone of the scene set in motion by Sorkin’s writing and blends every moment of realism and theatricality into a single, concise vision. From the Harvard campus to the legal conference room to the ground floor of Facebook’s business offices, the film is alive and constantly bustling with rhythm and energy. If the Academy does not give Fincher his due and proper this year, they are going to have a lot to make up for.

The cast is stellar…the whole ensemble…and, yes, that includes Justin Timberlake. Believe it or not, Timberlake is very well cast as hotshot Sean Parker, putting up a facade of false integrity and style which really shields the weakness of his true being. The truly breakout role in the film, however, is Andrew Garfield. Garfield very recently gave a solid turn in “Never Let Me Go,” but here, he shined. He is the heart of the film, the epitome  of innocence not lost, but rather destroyed.  In a way, it’s a coming-of age performance, for his boyish qualities are slowly deteriorated into manhood as Zuckerberg’s manipulation of him begins to graduate.

However, if Garfield provides the sweet and innocent side of “The Social Network,” then Eisenberg is the yang to his ying. Jesse Eisenberg doesn’t just do a good job of embodying all of the little facets and details that make his character believable, but knocks it completely out of the park, and therefore, the movie as well. He owns the screen and the viewer’s attention in the same way that someone the caliber of Heath Ledger did, or even some of his predecessors like Tom Hanks or Daniel Day Lewis. Eisenberg is not a passenger in this film, he is driving it, full speed. I would be appalled if he is not on Oscar’s shortlist at the end of the year, and just for a nom, but the win, as well.

The film has a fantastic sense of its technical values. The camerawork, shot on the digital RED One, uses some very impressive color schemes and brilliant compositions. David Fincher has recently become a huge promoter of digital cinematography and here he truly demonstrates how good it can be. The sound design and editing are also outstanding, and are subtle enough to probably go overlooked by many. Some of the montages created by Kirk Baxter and Angus Hall help maintain a great pace for the story, and are magnificently cut to Trent Reznor’s unorthodox, yet effective score.

When the film opened the New York Film Festival over the summer, the event’s director Richard Pena compared the cinematic pairing of Fincher and Sorkin to that of Sidney Lumet and Paddy Chayefsky, the makers of the ironically titled classic “Network.” I am wholeheartedly inclined to agree. These two artists have stepped out of their ordinary circles and come together to compose not only a great film, but one that speaks for the times and addresses a much larger social issue. In certain ways, I cannot argue with the critics who would go as far as to point out the similarities to “Citizen Kane.” And before I get burned at the stake, I obviously don’t mean in regards to “Kane”‘s groundbreaking, game-changing technical achievements, but thematically, they are quite similar. Featured is a man who strives to create something bigger than life, and in the process, destroys the lives of those who love him and helped him get to the top. Many films may have this story, but not many pull it off in the same fashion and bravado as these two features.

One facet that “The Social Network” seems to achieve over “Kane” is the merging of plot and the character until they’re one of the same. Zuckerberg’s rise to power through the massive-connection machine that is Facebook is coupled with his own burning need to be accepted. And yet as the site grows bigger and faster, the more alienated from the rest of the world Mark becomes. The film is a truly masterful insight into the ironies and tragedies of interpersonal communication and relationships in a technologically advanced world. It seemingly defines the exciting, yet sad truths of the previous decade and sets the bar for filmmaking quality for the new one.

GRADES:           A           * * * * * / * * * * *           9.8 / 10.0

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  1. November 6, 2010 at 9:35 am

    Totally blown away by the fact, that a film about Facebook directed by David Fincher, can be a big-time Oscar contender. Loved it almost from start to finish, hope it gets awards come Oscar time. Nice post, check out my review when you can!

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