'The Social Network': Tale clicks as it follows drama behind Facebook's creation
"The Social Network," which focuses on Mark Zuckerberg (played by Jesse Eisenberg) and the founding of Facebook, zips along like Internet lightning.
Seattle Times movie critic
'The Social Network,' with Jesse Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield, Justin Timberlake, Armie Hamer, Josh Pence, Rooney Mara. Directed by David Fincher, from a screenplay by Aaron Sorkin, based on the book "The Accidental Billionaires" by Ben Mezrich. 120 minutes. Rated PG-13 for sexual content, drug and alcohol use and language. Several theaters.
One of the many remarkable things about David Fincher's movie "The Social Network" is the constant realization, as you watch, that this movie should by all rights have been exceedingly dull. Based on true events, it's about the creation of a website — not the sort of thing that generally provides gripping visuals — and about the subsequent legal squabbles among a handful of Harvard undergraduates. And yet "The Social Network," scripted by Aaron Sorkin, is anything but boring: It zips along like Internet lightning, jumping back and forth from chilly Cambridge party nights to bright-lit lawyers' offices and generic rental houses filled with rumpled young people obsessed with, in the site's founder's words, "taking the entire social experience of college, and putting it online."
At the beginning, we meet Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg), an intense young man who's in the process of getting dumped by his girlfriend (Rooney Mara) at a bar. "Dating you is like dating a StairMaster," she says, tired of his obsessive behavior. Fast-talking and nervous yet entirely sure of himself, he tries to dissuade her, then storms off and blogs about the experience while creating a rather nasty piece of software that compares the attractiveness of undergraduate women. (One of many messages in this movie: Hell hath no fury like a techie scorned.)
Now famous at Harvard, Mark is soon approached by three fellow students to help them create a new social-networking site. He initially agrees but then creates a not-dissimilar site without them. It's called thefacebook, eventually shortened to Facebook, and it quickly becomes legendary — to the dismay, both emotional and litigious, of the trio left behind, and of Mark's friend Eduardo (Andrew Garfield), who cofounds the site yet eventually believes himself deliberately frozen out of its success.
Fincher gives this dialogue-heavy story the snappy pace of a screwball comedy, with the Harvard students talking as if they're being graded by the word. And Sorkin's perpetually time-shifting screenplay lets everyone take a turn as the movie's villain. This Zuckerberg's arrogant, to be sure, played with a bored, eye- rolling petulance that lets you see how easily this guy could make enemies. But as events are depicted, it's not at all clear whether he stole someone else's idea or whether the other students are self-delusional, trying to reap the benefits of his creativity. Likewise, Eduardo can be read two ways. Is he the supportive friend left behind, or the business partner who neglected the company? (In one charmingly sheepish if not entirely believable scene with his girlfriend, Eduardo admits he doesn't know how to change his relationship status on his Facebook page.)
Throughout all this, we're constantly reminded that these people are very, very young. Note the way Mark's face lights up when girls first start coming on to him because of Facebook. (That is, within the limited range of facial expression Eisenberg utilizes: His Mark is held very, very tight.) It's as if he's just discovered the algorithm of his dreams. "The Social Network" is a fable of success and loss, born in a college dorm room and told in drunken conversations and legal depositions; both cautionary tale and crackling entertainment.
Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725 or firstname.lastname@example.org