“The Social Network” is an intellectual property battle ripped from today’s headlines that feels like a cyber-thriller
Talk about topical. There’s a mighty good chance that while reading this review (particularly the on-line version) you have either just logged off or will log on to Facebook, the subject of the fiercely entertaining “The Social Network.” Directed with alacrity by David Fincher, the story has Shakespearean elements, a modern day “Citizen Kane” cautionary tale-feel, and a riveting relevancy given Facebook’s cultural pervasiveness (500 million worldwide users and counting).
Rarely in film does the public get such a fresh snapshot into material at the peak of its cachet, nor does a script ring often with such intelligence and perspective. Even if you are not familiar with Facebook the events leading to its creation are fascinating. The script (by Aaron Sorkin) chronicles with persuasion and energy the rise from obscurity of the world’s youngest billionaire and the website’s founder, Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg “Zombieland”).
Zuckerberg was a Harvard student, a bit of a social maladroit who, when spurned by girlfriend Erica (Rooney Mara, soon to be seen in the Stieg Larsson trilogy), relies on his technical acumen to create a university-wide network social page that is so popular it crashes the campus servers overnight.
The story (based on Ben Mazerich’s book “The Accidental Billionaires”) may take some artistic license, but the dialogue-heavy script crackles with verve and poignancy. Almost all of the action occurs indoors-in college bars and dorms to law office conference rooms-and though it bounces back and forth from when the site’s popularity goes meteoric to the legal entanglements that ensue, the audience is never lost.
Eisenberg is stellar as a quiet malcontent, capturing a brilliant savant’s drive and his nuanced, momentarily distracted ticks. The film avoids demonizing the others involved, including Zuckerberg’s best friend Eduardo (Andrew Garfield) and embittered rowing twins Cameron and Tyler (played by two unrelated actors, Armie Hammer and Josh Pence). Justin Timberlake makes a smashing appearance as the savvy, charismatic Napster founder Sean Parker. Female characters are generally throwaways or are relegated to irrelevant status, one of the film’s few weak spots.
“The Social Network” may be a morality play whose final scenes ring with pathetic irony. Some may see the film as more proof that success doesn’t buy happiness (or a personality). But at its core, “The Social Network” is an intellectual property battle ripped from today’s headlines that feels like a cyber-thriller, yet it never once turns into a heavy-handed message movie. And it is one of the year’s best films.
Rated PG-13 for sexual content drug and alcohol use and language.