"Dreams feel real while we're in them. It's only when we wake up that we realize something was actually strange." -Inception

Friday, November 12, 2010

Movie Review: The Social Network

I was lucky enough to win a pass to see The Social Network in previews yesterday.  Thanks again NDTV and Sony Pictures!  This was lovely bonus to my week.  So here's my very lengthy review because this movie really got me thinking.

The Social Network is more than just the story of how Facebook got started.  It is also about friendship, greed, betrayal and most importantly, the need to belong.  According to the movie, the catalyst for the beginnings of Facebook began with a breakup.  Actually, let's just call it a dumping.  It's always about a girl, you see.  Angry and embarrassed, Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) goes online to blog about his feelings and has a drunken rant about his now ex-girlfriend, Erica Albright (Rooney Mara), and women in general.  That leads him to an inspired idea, why not put up all the pictures of Harvard girls and rate them according to hotness called  Well, that inspired idea crashed the Harvard servers and it gets him thinking of expanding.  

The incident gains him a bit of notoriety and fame on the Harvard campus.  He gets noticed by he Winklevoss twins, played by Armie Hammer and Josh Pence, and Divya Narendra (Max Mingella, son of Anthony Minghella), who ask him to join their venture called Harvard Connection to make a website exclusively for Harvard students.  He says yes to them but instead works on his own venture,  Yes, that's right.  It's wasn't just Facebook back then, it was "the" Facebook.  With his close friend, Eduardo Saverin (Andrew Garfield) contributing the money and business know-how and his roommates acting as programmers and coders, he starts up  

Therein begins the murkiness.  The movie's storytelling is layered with flashbacks and depositions.  You see the same scene with different perspectives but who's telling the truth.  What is fact and what is fiction?  You decide.  You're drawn in from the first frame itself because if you miss something, you missed something important.  The movie is that tight.  One of the best films of this past year for sure.  I want to see this film again but this time with all the curses left in so it'll be more dramatic.  All curse words and objectionable content is removed from most films in India.  

It's obvious that this re-telling of the past is overly dramatic and exaggerated.  But, come on, we're now the Facebook and TMZ generation.  We want to see everything that happened.  Privacy no longer exists on the  Internet.  We want to become voyeurs into the lives of our own friends and family which is exactly what they wanted.  Everyone is clued into each other's lives.  Word of mouth, or by default, your Facebook page, becomes more popular.

But I felt this wasn't a straightforward attack on Zuckerberg.  Somehow, I understood Eisenberg's Mark.  He has a strange set of ideals and moral codes that makes sense to him.  For me, his character was defined during his first actual meeting with the Winklevoss twins and Divya, when they ask him about a program he created in high school about MP3 players and your personal interests that Microsoft had interest in buying.  He answers back no, he didn't sell, he uploaded it for free.  That says a lot right there. 

But as the movie shows, everyone is out to get Zuckerberg.  Eduardo Saverin (Andrew Garfield), his best friend and company CFO, sues him as do Cameron Winklevoss, Tyler Winklevoss and Divya, who claim he stole Facebook from them.  I don't know how much I believe in this sub-plot which takes up quite a bit of the story.  It lends to a lot of funny moments as they contemplate how to get back at Zuckerberg while maintaining the status of "Harvard gentlemen".  But their claim on Facebook is so sketchy.  Eisenberg as Zuckerberg says it best when he says, "If you guys were the inventors of Facebook, you'd have invented Facebook!".  Touche, Mark!

The reason this film works so well is also in large part due the deft direction and screenwriting by David Fincher and Aaron Sorkin, respectively.   The young cast is pitch perfect.  Jesse Eisenberg is creepily arrogant and focused as Zuckerberg.  Seeing Andrew Garfield's performance in this, I suddenly have a lot more faith in the Spiderman prequel.  He can definitely hold his own.  Justin Timberlake, who plays Napster co-founder Sean Parker, well, he's got a knack now of picking interesting roles, he's becoming a triple threat for sure.  Tracy Jordan, watch out, he might get the EGOT before you.  He's halfway there.  The lack of female talent in this all male venture is lamentable but Rooney Mara, the new Lisbeth Salander, sure holds her own.  And finally, Dustin, the programmer and roommate, played by Joseph Mazzello, the little kid from the first Jurassic Park movie all grown up.  I almost didn't recognize him.  

There are two sides to every tale, though the film does take a more sympathetic view towards Eduardo Saverin to play up the movie's themes of greed and betrayal.   The film is based, though not entirely, on the book, The Accidental Billionaires, by Ben Mezrich.  At the end, all that remains is speculation and gossip both which thrive on the Internet.  The movie ends and leaves Zuckerberg, alone, as the youngest billionaire in the world.  

Directed by David Fincher; Screenplay by Aaron Sorkin, based on the book by Ben Mezrich; Cinematography by Jeff Cronenweth; Original Music by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross; Edited by Kirk Baxter and Angus Wall

Also in the cast: Rashida Jones, Brenda Song


Quotable Quotes:

Erica Albright: The internet's not written in pencil, Mark.  It's written in ink.  

Lawyer: Your best friend is suing you for 600 million dollars.
Mark: (sarcastically) I didn't know that; tell me more!

Tyler Winklevoss: I'm 6'5", 220 pounds and there are two of me.

Eduardo Saverin: You better lawyer up, asshole, because I'm not coming back for I'm not coming back for the 30%.  I'm coming back for everything.  

Sean: You know what's cooler than a million dollars?
Eduardo: You?
Sean: A billion dollars.

Here's my previous post about a profile on The Social Network for more reading if you liked the movie.

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