INTERN’S VIEW: “The Social Network” Is One Of The Best Films Of The Year

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by Philip Benais

The Social Network: Directed by David Fincher. Starring Jesse Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield, Justin Timberlake, Brenda Song, Rooney Mara, Armie Hammer and Max Minghella.

When I saw the first previews for The Social Network, I expected to hate it. Even with the fact that it’s directed by David Fincher, who made one of my favorite films of all time, (Benjamin Button) I said to myself “How can a movie about FACEBOOK be any good?” Even when the initial reviews came out and it had a perfect 100 on Metacritic, I was still skeptical; but needless to say, I was dead wrong. From the moment we hear Mark Zuckerberg’s first dialogue with his disillusioned girlfriend, I knew that I had completely misjudged the premise, the actors and Fincher. What I originally thought was going to be dull and unimaginative Oscar bait (like those Victorian pieces you see every year) turned out to be a fresh combination of John Hughes, Citizen Kane and an early 2000’s party vibe that managed to broach the top five films of the year. Yes, it is that good.

The story follows the exploits of Mark Zuckerberg, a social recluse and computer genius who at the beginning of the film obsesses over getting into exclusive clubs at Harvard University, instead of paying attention to his obviously neglected girlfriend. Through a series of wrong moves and mockery, Mark manages to make Erica (Rooney Mara) disgusted and leave. She tells him before she goes ‘You know Mark, you are gonna be rejected by a lot of women and you’re gonna think it’s because you’re a nerd. But that isn’t the truth. They’ll reject you because you’re an asshole.” Later that night after drinking heavily, Mark launches a website called Facemash that compares the looks of every girl on the Harvard campus and manages to crash the network. This attracts the attention of Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss, (Josh Pence and a body double) two cream of the crop high society rowers that want to launch a website called Harvard Connection, so they seek the assistance of Zuckerberg. Mark realizes that the idea isn’t worth his time however and with the help of his computer buddies and his best friend Eduardo launches the prototype of ‘The Facebook’, which he describes as ‘the entire social experience of college on the Internet.’ Through a series of disastrous events such as losing friends and getting sued, we see the tumultuous journey that Mark Zuckerberg and everyone involved went through to launch the next biggest thing.

The most immediate thing I noticed about The Social Network is it’s reliance on dialogue and story telling as opposed to action set pieces or 3D. In a world dominated by the next biggest effect, it’s nice to see mainstream films like The Social Network just wanting to tell a compelling story, with fine performances to match; not that there’s anything wrong with action, (indeed my favorite film of the year is still Inception) but most films these days are unable to simply grip us with a story, so they just use whatever technology and effects available to them to do that in lieu of making us care about the characters, or at least be fascinated by them. Mark Zuckerberg, as written by Aaron Sorkin of West Wing fame and portrayed by Jesse Eisenberg is a complete asshole. He’s selfish, narcissistic and completely socially clueless. The best part of it though is that Eisenberg was able to take a character like that and make him a compelling lead, so we actually cared about Zuckerberg and his struggles. Not an easy task for any actor, let alone one that was facing accusations of being just another Michael Cera. Honestly, it’s one of the best performances I’ve seen all year from any actor and if Eisenberg is gypped of a Best Actor nod like Sharlto Copley for District 9 last year, it would be very tragic.

The story is told from multiple angles and perspectives so it does jump around quite a bit but throughout it maintains a very witty and intelligent edge primarily through the interactions of the characters. Even without extending the running time to anything beyond two hours, by the time the film was over I felt like I knew everyone that was onscreen, some of them I liked and some of them I detested but still cared enough to ponder on what they did and why they did it. Fincher as a director has a knack for transporting us into whatever story he’s telling, whether it be the nihilism of Fight Club, the murder mysteries of Seven and Zodiac or the modern fairytale of Benjamin Button and here is no exception; in fact the only real complaint I had with the movie is that I wanted it to be longer. I was enjoying the writing, acting, cinematography and music so much that I didn’t want to believe it was over. It may seem like a strange complaint but between the paranoid metrosexual founder of Napster played to perfection by Justin Timberlake, (you didn’t read that wrong) Mark’s good natured friend Eduardo and a whole slue of  supporting characters when the film came to an end I was left saying ‘That’s it? I wanted so much MORE of this!”

In the end though if that’s my only complaint, this must be quite a wonderful film. Combining the wit of John Hughes with a modern day Citizen Kane style story, The Social Network is one of a kind. It deserves every bit of positive press its received and even if I wanted more of the wonderful writing and acting at the end, that doesn’t change the fact that this is a movie everyone should see. I always felt that Fincher deserved to win Best Director and Picture with Benjamin Button but now he has another chance and this time, I’ve got a good feeling about it.

****1/2 / *****


[EDITOR’S NOTE: Philip Benais is our newest Intern, a 16-year old student at Big Picture High School in SeaTac.

Read more of his work here.]

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3 Responses to “INTERN’S VIEW: “The Social Network” Is One Of The Best Films Of The Year”
  1. jan says:

    Philip–my husband and I could be classified as ‘old folks’. He’s on facebook, I’m not. We found this a compelling movie, and agree that Jesse Eisenberger is oscar-worthy. And he also plays a perfect ass-hole. Has anyone among your peer group opined that he may have Asbergers Syndrome? Jesse’s portrayal of Mark sure made us think of a fellow we know that is a computer genius, with a montone voice, no eye contact, blurts out non-related facts/stories in the middle of conversations w/ others to name a few.

    Thanks for the review. I hope you start a movement “jesse for best actor”–that is until the next Victorian Drama comes along…perhaps that one will win best costumes!

  2. Philip Benais says:

    Hey Jan,

    I actually did notice that Eisenberg showed signs of Asperger’s in his performance, but I was a little tentative to put it in in fear of misrepresenting the condition; someone very close to me actually has Asperger’s. She’s a bit different than the typical case but I still care about her a lot and didn’t want to say something wrong.

    I think I WILL be clamoring for Jesse for Best Actor; originally I was thinking Leonardo DiCaprio for Shutter Island, but that film got panned so there’s no chance. Maybe the next Victorian Drama I see will actually be a cut above. ;P

  3. Dale says:

    Opinion piece in today’s WSJ:

    Screenwriter Aaron Sorkin admits he was more interested in a great yarn than an accurate one, telling New York magazine, “What is the big deal about accuracy purely for accuracy’s sake, and can we not have the true be the enemy of the good?” But to understand how innovation actually happens on the Web, Mr. Zuckerberg’s alleged emotional motivations are much less interesting than how he attracted more than 500 million people—one in 14 people in the world—to use this six-year-old service.

    Critics have identified numerous factual errors in the movie, as well as things that are surprisingly true. David Kirkpatrick, author of “The Facebook Effect,” says “it’s a really good movie—however, it’s not a true story.” Mr. Kirkpatrick separated fact from fiction in a report for the Daily Beast.

    The opening scene portrays Mr. Zuckerberg as a college sophomore breaking up with a girlfriend. In the movie, his motivation for building Facebook is revenge for the breakup and his frustration in not getting into an elite Harvard club. In fact he met the woman who is now his fiancée when he was a college sophomore and by all accounts had no interest in Harvard clubs.

    Contrary to the message of the movie, ideas alone can’t be patented. Otherwise, innovation would be frozen. Instead, our system promotes innovation, leaving the next college coders free to improve on what came before, just as Mr. Zuckerberg did.

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