"This is our time!” Napster-creator Sean Parker shouts to Facebook-creator Mark Zuckerberg over the blaring sounds of an up-scale techno party. At its core, this statement is what The Social Network is all about. David Fincher (Zodiac, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button) delivers a film that not only portrays the rise of Facebook but also documents the fall of business of old.
Mark Zuckerberg, chillingly portrayed by Jesse Eisenberg (Adventureland,) represents everything that old business, which once relied heavily on having a wealthy, privileged arbitrator, fears. He is a self-obsessed 20-something with an axe to grind and the brains to pull it off.
Unfortunately, many of the good-intentioned characters in The Social Network happen to be on the other end of Zuckerberg’s uncaring agenda, executed via Facebook.
Zuckerberg isn’t your typical movie character. Written by Aaron Sorkin (West Wing,) Zuckerberg doesn’t change or grow by the end of the film. In fact it would be completely safe to say he learns nothing. However, in the world The Social Network portrays, he doesn’t have to.
The film follows Zuckerberg, who after getting broken-up with, in an amazingly crafted opening scene, decides to create a website where users vote on the hottest Harvard women. After the site crashes Harvard’s servers, Zuckerberg gets noticed by the Winklevoss twins, both played by Armie Hammer, who recruit him to create a social networking site.
Zuckerberg instead begins work with his roommate Eduardo (Andrew Garfield) to make their own site. Eduardo puts down the money to get the operation started with Zuckerberg designing the code and content. The site’s launch is huge, with thousands signing up in days.
This attracts the attention of the charismatic Sean Parker (Justin Timberlake), the founder of Napster. Sean is everything Zuckerberg wishes he was: good with women, rich, carefree, and unapologetic. Eduardo and Sean quickly become the angel and devil hovering over Zuckerberg’s shoulder, tempting him in many different directions.
Soon, the Winklevoss twins decide to sue Zuckerberg in federal court for stealing their idea for Facebook. The rest of the movie plays out as flashbacks interspersed between hearings between the young men. Even Eduardo decides to sue his best friend for deception and theft.
There is a great irony present in a film about the founder of the world’s largest social network site who has no social skills whatsoever. The one lesson that Zuckerberg almost learns comes at the cost of losing his best friend. However, for Zuckerberg, business is business and Eduardo, fruitlessly chasing down an outdated business model, is left stranded in Zuckerberg’s wake.
The script is like Sean Parker, blazingly quick, smart, colorful, and full of wit. This is what Aaron Sorkin does best, and Fincher takes what could have been a dialogue heavy script and injects an incredible amount of life in the film. Even scenes of characters typing into computers are exciting and electric under his guidance. The pace accelerates with an electrifying score by Trent Reznor (Nine Inch Nails) and Atticus Ross that creates a haunting and almost horrific combination of electronic sounds and somber piano melodies.
However, the film does falter in the last act as it begins to become more of Eduardo’s story than Zuckerberg’s. Andrew Garfield’s performance as Eduardo is career defining and more than helps the film live on through its third act.
Fincher is able to redirect the script in the last few scenes and The Social Network delivers an ending that portrays a haunting portrait of a man who has come to represent our new digital age, for better or worse.