I saw "The Social Network" this weekend and I liked it a lot.
This review, sadly, will mostly poke holes in areas it got wrong. But it's still excellent and absolutely a must-see movie. Warning, some minor spoilers abound...
About 22 seconds in you can tell it's written by Aaron Sorkin. In the very first few moments of the film, the characters start engaging in a rapid, intellectual, funny mmm hmm (as opposed to funny ha-ha) joust -- and it never relents. For two hours, it never relents. Fortunately, the dialogue is sharp and really strong -- and, most importantly, this keeps Sorkin away from writing sketch comedy.
It's based on reality the way reality TV is based on reality. That is to say -- the very foundation of this movie is truth, but the entire house built upon it is made to look as flashy, sexy and grandiose as possible. It's taken a piece of land designated for a two-bedroom ranch and turned it into a 15-story castle. Everyone involved has admitted it's sensationalized, and that's fine -- the story works, and it's really compelling.
I've programmed websites. They do not make for captivating stories. Even if you're screwing over your best friends during your coding breaks, at the end of the day, launching a website is mostly about scrunching over your keyboard optimizing MySQL queries and saying things like, "Why does Internet Explorer have to exist?"
A lot of sex and drugs are added where they clearly didn't exist. It's nice to think that being a 20-year-old who starts a billion dollar company you would have gorgeous groupies mauling you in bathroom stalls or parties at sorority houses where people are doing rails (of cocaine, not Ruby on Rails) off the naked torso of a comely co-ed. At this point, fittingly enough, those scenarios are far more likely to happen to Jesse Eisenberg than Mark Zuckerberg.
Left, Jesse Eisenberg. Right, Mark Zuckerberg.
Jesse Eisenberg cements himself as the dramatic version of Michael Cera. Jesse Eisenberg has been fighting the Michael Cera comparison since they both started showing up in movies. Awkward, skinny, bumbling, goofy charming anti-leading men. And until now, Eisenberg was most commonly viewed as a poor man's Michael Cera. This movie should change his reputation to being the dramatic Michael Cera. His acting is solid, particularly this one blank stare thing he does where he makes it look like Mark is both zoning you out and simultaneously outthinking you.
Having twins played by one actor seems very unnecessary. One actor -- a guy named Armie Hammer -- played both of the anti-Mark Zuckerberg (rich, privileged, WASPy, athletic, entitled, refined, etc.) twins in the movie. Seems SO unnecessarily complicated. They couldn't find ONE set of WASPy twins for the role? This wasn't like Eddie Murphy playing the Klumps. Are twin actors outraged over this, like gingers when a girl dyes her hair red to play Annie?
This girl conveniently believes that Sean Parker, not Shawn Fanning, is the face of Napster.
This movie is NOT about women's empowerment. Does Aaron Sorkin still have beef with women? I thought he'd cleared up all of his vendettas as he drove "Studio 60" into the ground. Anyway, in "The Social Network" there's no female hero to be found in this movie. Women are props, and bad ones. Other than the (completely fictitious) girlfriend who dumps Mark at the beginning, other women come off as crazy, slutty, lemmings for Facebook, website traffic capital, or all four. In fact, the whole plot that Mark originally realized the power of putting Harvard's social life online when he created a misogynistic hot-or-not-esque site called Facemash completely leaves out the fact that men's photos were included as well. It's forcing misogyny where it (seemingly) didn't exist. Plus, Facebook wasn't founded so Mark could impress a girl who'd dumped him... he had a girlfriend (and still does) during the development process.
They nail the reason that Facebook surpassed the competitors. For all the dramatization, the film did "get" why Facebook succeeded where Friendster and MySpace ultimately failed. Two principles: Exclusive and genuine. As MySpace devolved into a free-for-all, setting HTML back 10 years and allowing anyone in the world to forgo their real name and just call themselves K~r~i~s~t~e~e~<3, Facebook slowly expanded from prestigious college to prestigious college and required real names and identities along the way. Those two things are what pushed Facebook past the competitors (the ones that arrived earlier to market) and made it a success.
You forget it's Justin Timberlake, which is a major compliment. When we saw a preview for "The Social Network" a few months back and JT came on screen, my girlfriend said, "Wait... Justin Timberlake helped start Facebook?" The implication there, of course, that he's a very recognizable face (by far the most recognizable face) in the movie. As soon as he appears on screen though, to his absolute credit, you forget he's Justin Timberlake. It's the exact opposite of William Shatner or Danny McBride.
After seeing the movie, I bet he regrets being photographed in these Adidas flip-flops.
The main theme: Someone with no social skills redefined the social experience. This is the subtext of the whole movie. Mark is portrayed as, basically, borderline autistic -- antisocial, half arrogant, half desperate to fit in but clueless how to get there. Bad with women, bad with friends. Antisocial. And yet, his creation permanently changed the social experience. That's great for storytelling. (Not for factual accuracy, but, again, this is a movie, not a deposition.)
Watching the movie makes you feel like you can become a billionaire. The way the Mark character and the creation of Facebook are portrayed, it really feels like all of us are just one good, big idea away from become billionaires. Obviously that's not the case -- the rational mind knows that becoming a billionaire usually involves inheritance and, if not, involves the mix of a genius idea, perfect epoch-tilting timing and luck. But this sure does make you feel anyone could be a billionaire. And probably pull an Angelina and Brad Pitt and adopt a couple of babies that ain't ever had shit.
This movie is fantastic. I've poked some holes in the movie here, mostly about how it plays it fast and loose with facts -- but make no mistake, it's excellent. In fact, it's one of the most entertaining movies I've seen in quite a while. It's captivating, the storytelling is great, the acting is on point, it's exciting, and it's a case where you don't want it to be over when it ends. (Unlike, say, "A.I." that had 15 different endings each of which really should've euthanize the thing.)
To put it another way, we had to wait in a line to see the movie. Because I'm an idiot, I drank a large movie theater soda in that line. Then, once we were inside waiting for the movie to start, I drank another. I went to the bathroom twice before the movie started, but 64 ounces of delicious fountain Diet Coke can't be passed in two trips. So from about 30 seconds into the movie forward, I had to go to the bathroom. But I couldn't. I couldn't miss anything. So I sat there, legs crossed, hand inappropriately grasping genitals, for the entire two hours because I couldn't skip even a minute of the movie. Afterward, I ran out, beat the crowd to the bathroom and had a Tom Hanks in "A League Of Their Own" marathon at one of the urinals.
To conclude: "The Social Network" is so intoxicating that you'd risk your kidneys to watch it.
I give it a 10 out of 11, and even considered going the full 11/11.
This post was originally published on Monday, October 4, 2010 at 11:30:00 AM under the category Movies.