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