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Ten Word or Less Review: Like

When word first circulated that someone was going to produce a movie about the inception and creation of facebook, the online world scoffed just a little.  Yes, David Fincher was directing and Aaron Sorkin was writing and there was an abundance of talent in front of and behind the camera, but all the same.  Facebook?  That initial reaction fades when you stop thinking about facebook as a collection of banal observances about everyday life that your friends drone on about and more as the defining social tool of the past century.  How often does someone launch a service that goes on to be utilized by 500,000,000 million people and growing?  The Social Network is a gripping drama which delves into a topic which like it or not, understand it or not, defines a lot about who people are today.

To cut to the chase, The Social Network plays like a 21st century grandchild of Orsen Welles undisputed heavyweight Citizen Kane.  Both movies share a similar structure involving a constant flashing forward and back which slowly exposes the life of an exceedingly powerful individual.  In the case of Social, we follow facebook’s disputed inventor Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) as he both creates the worldwide phenomena and is sued after its creation by multiple parties for stealing it.  But also like Kane, Social is interested in the emotional roots, or lack there of, of its creator.

Eisenberg’s portrayal of Zuckerberg is a tightrope walk of a performance.  Zuckerberg is played up as a wildly intelligent but emotionally prickly individual, who for all his smarts, can’t be the least bit empathetic towards others.  He steps on other peoples emotions out of a penetrating, knee-jerk intelligence which alienates himself from others.  In short, he’s an asshole.  He isn’t popular within the Harvard social circles he needs to be and is fishing for an idea to create that popularity when he’s approached by the Winklevoss twins (both played by Armie Hammer), two jocks with a simple idea that Zuckerberg runs with in his own direction.  That, coupled with a strong desire to show up his ex-girlfriend in some form, leads to Zuckerberg to initiate the website that will radically alter the entire world.  This warts and all portrayal of Zuckerberg gives the performance a credibility it might not otherwise have.  Social Network abandons the all too common philosophy that says we have to like a character in order to watch them.  We don’t, we simply have to be riveted by watching him, even if he is a jerk.

Social Network’s entire cast is made up of new talent which shines bright.  British actor and future Spiderman Andrew Garfield stands out as Zuckerberg’s over trusting friend, classmate and initial business partner in the facebook venture.  Justin Timberlake blows into the movie like a tornado with a scene stealing performance as leach-like Napster founder Sean Parker.  Timberlake’s often implied talents have finally found a role which let them come through.  Armie Hammer jumps out of nowhere, packing a run-of-the-mill TV show resume, to play both Winklevoss twins in a bit of inspired technological trickery.  He successfully embodies both twins with distinct personalities.  In all the film begs for the often discussed but never executed “Best Ensemble Oscar.”

Driving this unlikely machine of a movie is acclaimed director David Fincher.  Fincher has successfully made a movie about the launching and development of the website and for his next trick he should think about producing an epic about toilet paper production.  I have no doubt it would be the greatest thriller ever made.  Fincher crafts a story which pops and sizzles at every turn despite the seemingly mundane nature of what’s playing out.  Social Network is crafted with his impeccable eye for fetching visuals.  He’s become less showy with age and the less-is-more aesthetic suits him well.  He makes his movie zip with tight editing, solid story structure and drawing good performances from actors who would stand out less under the eye of a lesser storyteller.

The Social Network is a case where expectation and acclaim live up to the hype.  Whatever fictions have been constructed for the sake of dramatic arc shouldn’t dwelled on or overblown by those looking to take the film down a notch.  It’s an achievement which stands above most other works in the market place and should be considered essential viewing by anyone who enjoys great movies.

 

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