In 2008, I was reading film news blogs daily, and I remember we all got a chuckle when Aaron Sorkin joined Facebook, announcing he was working with producer Scott Rudin on a movie about the site. It seemed like silly at best, crass at worst. Sorkin was (and is) respected, but not immune to indulgent larks, so it was easy to make fun of.
Things got a little bit juicier when the director (David Fincher!) was announced. And everything seemed to make a little more sense when news leaked that the screenplay was (at least somewhat) adapted from a book called The Accidental Billionaires.
The first big “oh, wow” moment was when the trailer hit the internet. The movie all of the sudden looked not only respectable, but essential; if the trailer was to be trusted, this was not just a story about the founding of a web site, but the way “social networks” redirect our basic human expressions and impulses. The preview also hinted at juicy drama and conflict, and it looked like The Social Network might be a FUN movie, too.
Over the course of a year or so, a punchline about the awful state of cinema had transformed into a highly anticipated film. Every little detail seemed to make the project more fascinating (Trent Reznor is writing the score? Justin Timberlake plays the Napster guy?), and the movie seemed like one I might think about seeing in theaters.
Then the reviews came in.
“Masterpiece.” “Impeccable.” “Beautiful.” “Profound.” Words are cheap in film criticism, but the unanimity of them was a little bit different this time. The Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic scores hovered in the upper 90s.
That’s when it became a must-watch for me. I saw it within a week of it coming out, and I loved it. Absolutely loved it.
What makes The Social Network great is not a single thing, because it’s a success on virtually every level: the script, the acting, the production, the editing, the sound, the story, the thematic depth, the social commentary… It’s such an achievement.
Even moreso, this movie is compulsively watchable. It’s hard to imagine anyone more perfectly cast for any part than Jesse Eisenberg as Mark Zuckerberg. He’s neurotic and funny and drawn to an idea that makes him powerful — exemplified by Justin Timberlake’s charismatic personality. Andrew Garfield plays the honest businessman trying to keep Facebook and Zuckerberg on the tracks.
The script coherently and convincingly crafts a portrait of Zuckerberg as someone driven by a desire to fit in and “win the girl.” Garfield grounds it, gives us a character to relate to and to witness Zuckerberg’s bizarre spiral, simultaneously upward and downward.
The movie avoids the obvious, easy story of making this a gangster movie with different faces (cough, Wolf of Wall Street), and instead gives us a really original, dramatic story that provides some interesting commentary on the way human relationships might evolve in an age of illusory “connectedness.”
There are a bunch of great scenes. Here are a couple of favorites:
Bits of funny (“Seriously, what the hell’s the chicken?”) surround the tensest moments of the movie, Zuckerberg’s betrayal of Eduardo Sevarin.
“… no one in this room, including and especially your clients, are intellectually or creatively capable of doing. Did I adequately answer your condescending question?”
And, my favorite, a clip of Andrew Garfield dancing up to Jesse Eisenberg.
The Social Network is just a great movie that becomes greater the more times you watch it and the more you think about it.
A couple other notes:
- REQUIRED READING ALERT: Grant’s absolutely fantastic review of the movie. Great breakdown of why it works.
- This documentary about the making of the movie has been on my to-watch list for a couple years now, but I keep forgetting to make the time. I really should.
- A weird coincidence: Today is the tenth anniversary of the launch of Facebook.