On Dec. 2, the National Board of Review named The Social Network the best film of 2010. The film was released theatrically on Oct. 1. It's made more than $90 million in the domestic box office. Since September, there has been a rousing chorus of praise for it. The film will undoubtedly receive several Oscar nominations. Undoubtedly, The Social Network is a well-written, well-acted, well-produced and well-directed piece of cinema.
Despite the invoking of the name "Facebook" and its invoking of the name "Mark Zuckerberg," this film is not about either of those things. The film basically frames its story of greed and betrayal around the lawsuit, which challenged the founding of Facebook, but, in actuality, Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook are merely superficial placeholders for this movie's overwhelming theme.
2009's New York City Serenade was remarkable to me in that it was about two male friends breaking up and deciding or at least recognizing that their friendship was over. It was unique because it wasn't like one person did something underhanded or even over-handed to the other. The two just naturally grew apart. Regardless, you don't see many films about a friendship ending like that.
I was reminded of that film as I watched The Social Network because at its heart, The Social Network is a film about a friendship that ends. The plot, which is propelled with gusto thanks to Aaron Sorkin's dialogue, details the dissolution or divorce of the two friends via a legal deposition. The two men in question are Mark Zuckerberg and Eduardo Saverin. The two were roommates at Harvard University in 2003. Zuckerberg asked Saverin for help in starting the website and company that is now known as Facebook.
In a matter of only a couple of years, Zuckerberg would have to fend off two lawsuits. One was by three fellow college students who contended that Zuckerberg stole their ideas. The other was by Saverin himself. We don't really get too much of a sense of what this friendship was like prior to the instrumental night when Zuckerberg hacked into Harvard's computers and crashed its network. Yet, Andrew Garfield who plays Saverin does a good job in every scene he's in of conveying that they were indeed friends and that at a rudimentary level he did care for Zuckerberg.
Aside from Armie Hammer who played the Winklevoss twins, Garfield is the standout actor. His performance here was superb. It felt layered and nuanced unlike Justin Timberlake who played Sean Parker, the founder of Napster. Timberlake was very much one note. His character was clearly the "villain," Zuckerberg's Palpatine wooing him to the dark side of excess and arrogance. Timberlake does provide a great foil for Garfield who coincidentally looks and sounds at times like Hayden Christiansen.
Though brief, Rooney Mara who plays Zuckerberg's ex-girlfriend, Erica whom he bashes and insults on his blog, is terrific in the three scenes that she has. It's her comments and conversations with Zuckerberg that go to the heart of what this film is trying to analyze. What is friendship and who are really your friends? Throughout the script, you hear references to social status and life being about who you know. Zuckerberg makes these references as well as the Winklevoss twins.
The references are all in the vein of elitism and some people thinking that they're better than others because they're in a certain club or group or because they know certain people or have access to them. They think that if they belong to these elitist clubs that it will get them something, possibly a better life, but if it means backstabbing and stepping over the people who care about you to get there, then what does it truly mean?
Minor squabbles that I had about this film include the unneeded special effect of seeing the breaths of the actors when they were outside under the cold New England air. If it was real, then I apologize, but everytime you saw a breath coming out of an actor's mouth like a puff of smoke, it looked totally and completely fake, like absolute CGI. If cameras didn't naturally capture it, it wasn't needed. It took me out of the movie everytime I saw it. Making one actor appear as two in the same frame was enough of a special effect for the movie.
Another squabble was for the various moments when Zuckerberg came up with a new idea for Facebook. Yes, I understand that this movie purports itself as being about the creation of Facebook, but any critical analyst of the movie will see that it's not about that at all. The creation of Facebook is merely a McGuffin. This movie is really about Zuckerberg's friendship with Saverin and its demise.
So, I rolled my eyes at these so-called lightbulb moments when Zuckerberg would come up with ideas for Facebook, like the "relationship status" and supposedly what it meant. I suppose for older audiences who aren't really into Facebook, it serves some minuscle purpose, but it just seemed ridiculous in the grand scheme of things.
But, those were just minor squabbles. Besides the acting though, the real star of this show is the writing. There are so many great lines here that are sharp and filled with so much razor wit. It's snappy from beginning to end and has some wonderful comedic moments that are so subtle yet brilliant.
Five Stars out of Five.
Rated PG-13 for sexual content, drug use and language.
Running Time: 2 hrs. and 1 min.