The Social Network is a movie that opened up to a lot of critical praise. I typically worry when a movie is this well liked upon its initial release because the cynical part of me starts to question the validity of the hype. Is it simply good marketing that results in convincing people they loved the movie (fearing they would seem like a crabby contrarian for taking the opposite opinion) or is it the real deal? I'm not saying that audiences are easily duped but it's surprising how often it ends up being just good marketing. Fortunately, The Social Network belongs in the category of "the real deal" because after you strip away the hype you are left with a truly incredible movie.
Now I understand the strangeness of discussing the dangers of over-hyping while at the same time hyping it myself, but it really is just a great film. The one thing that struck me most about this film is that it doesn't feel like a movie David Fincher directed or Aaron Sorkin wrote because it doesn't fall victim to their usual weaknesses. Fincher's movies always have a sort of "bloated" feeling to them for me and Sorkin is known to have his characters be a bit long-winded. Don't get me wrong, just because I think they have weaknesses is not meant to say I am not a fan. It's just important to realize that neither of these things describes The Social Network and so instead of having the movie seem like a generic entry into either of their catalogs, the movie feels fresh and dynamic in the sense that it doesn't come with the baggage of the people who created it. Instead the movie becomes a greatest hits mixtape of both creative forces where it's just the hits and none of the misses.
The Social Network starts off with a bang by opening up with Mark Zuckerberg (played perfectly by Jesse Eisenberg) getting dumped by his current girlfriend at a local bar. Everything you need to know about Mark as a character is exposed in this opening scene that to me was easily the best of the movie. It's always hard when a movie opens so strongly because you sit and wonder just how they could possibly keep this up. While I don't think The Social Network reached the same dizzying heights seen in the opening scene (seriously, it features some of my favorite back-and-forth dialog that I've seen in a long time), I don't consider it a major fault to the film because it would be impossible (and exhausting for the viewer) if the film kept the lightening quick pace of that opening exchange. I simply consider it a fantastic prologue to help you get into the mind of Zuckerberg before we begin the real journey of the film.
The movie is framed around Zuckerberg being questioned for two lawsuits he is currently involved in, both having to do with Facebook. One on side, he is being sued by 3 classmates from Harvard who are claiming he stole their idea for Facebook. The other is a more personal issue because he is being sued by his former best friend and co-founder of Facebook, Eduardo Saverin (played by Andrew Garfield, who to me was the best part of an amazing cast) for being pushed out of the company without proper compensation. Both these lawsuits boil down to one person's word over another, and as someone in the movie even points out, when that is the case, most of what is said is exaggeration and the rest is simply lies.
I've noted above that Eisenberg and Garfield do excellent work but really the whole cast deserves credit. Eisenberg and Garfield may do most of the heavy lifting in the movie but it would all fall apart without the strong supporting cast. Chief amount them is Justin Timberlake, who plays Napster co-founder Sean Parker. I'll admit to being surprised how Timberlake disappeared into a role that could have easily been distracting. It ended up being an example of perfect casting because the role called for someone who is so charismatic that it would be easy to see how an outsider like Mark Zuckerberg could fall under his spell and not see how imbalanced he really was. To me this movie is the beginning of a new era of his career and I really look forward to his next move.
I have already heard some complaints that the movie is not true to life but anyone who uses this as a negative towards the film has completely missed the point. The makers of this movie realized that the story to tell regarding the creation of Facebook wasn't found in the facts, but in the emotions of those involved. That is the real purpose of the movie. It's not being billed as based on a true story, but people will easily confuse it as such simply because it deals with characters based on people that really exist. Fincher and Sorkin have taken the conflicting words from all parties involved and made a semi-fictional take on real life events. It doesn't matter that the end result may be all exaggerations and lies because it's an amazing story that has become one of the best movies of 2010.