Overview: During his time as a student at Harvard, Mark Zuckerberg creates the social networking website that would become known as Facebook. Columbia Pictures; 2010; Rated PG-13; 120 Minutes.
The Opening Scenes: The Social Network opens with a brilliant five minute scene of dialogue at a bar between Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) and his girlfriend Erica Albright (Rooney Mara). The two engage in a quick, back and forth conversation that illuminates everything the viewer needs to know about Zuckerberg. He is socially awkward with a genius intellect, woefully unaware of Albright’s feelings, and dismissive of her status and education. As Albright ends their relationship and exits, Zuckerberg is left to travel back across campus alone. A grating, isolating score kicks in and heightens the loneliness that surrounds Zuckerberg. This is the loneliness that he will be running away from for the rest of the film.
Strengths: The film succeeds in virtually all areas of filmmaking. Writer Aaron Sorkin’s script is sharp, witty, and the star of the film. Jesse Eisenberg delivers a calculated, nuanced performance and Andrew Garfield is impressive in a breakout role as Eduardo Saverin, Zuckerberg’s founding partner. Garfield particularly shines in a scene where he learns his share of the company has been diluted to almost nothing, and he storms across the room to confront Zuckerberg. Trent Reznor (of Nine Inch Nails) and Atticus Ross compose an immersive, discordant score with industrial influences. The editing manages to make sense of several interweaving storylines told in two separate legal depositions and flashbacks to the originating events. That description sounds confusing in writing, but on screen it flows together seamlessly, which is a credit to the Oscar-winning editing. All of these exceptional contributions are brought together expertly by director David Fincher. Fincher’s dark visual style is present in this film and the end product has all the marks of a skilled craftsman.
Weaknesses: The film’s third act is a step back from the first two, which stems from the increased screen time of Justin Timberlake’s character (Napster founder Sean Parker). As the setting shifts from Harvard to Southern California, Saverin is left behind and Parker steps in as Zuckerberg’s partner. Timberlake’s performance is acceptable given what he has to work with, but isn’t on par with Eisenberg and Garfield’s work. Some blame could also be assigned to the way that Parker is written, as he is a one-dimensional and uninteresting character.
Final Thoughts: The Social Network succeeds in bringing a complex story to the screen, while excelling in all facets of the medium, and placing itself in the top tier of contemporary American films.