Every once in a while a movie comes along that captures the current cultural zeitgeist in a way that is perhaps beyond description until history has had proper time to settle. All the President’s Men, Boyz N the Hood, Do the Right Thing, Wall Street. All these films captured some essential essence of the time that they were made in a way that makes them a living, breathing look back into our past that works just as well as any history book. There had never been a film about some great accomplishment of my generation. There had never been a film that really defined what it was like to be young, intellectual, and part of the millennial and digital generation. That all changed when The Social Network came out. Despite being the first major film to chronicle the millennial generation finding its voice, it also serves as an essential commentary on what social relations are like in the digital age and was easily one of the best films of 2010.
The Social Network is the true story (though certain parts have been dramatized and fictionalized for the screen) of the founding of social networking giant, Facebook. It also serves as a character study of its founder, Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg), who founds the company not out of any desire to be rich and famous but out of a sense of intellectual superiority and bitterness about his lack of real friends. The film also chronicles two law suits that have been brought against Mark Zuckerberg. One of the lawsuits is by his best friend, Eduardo Saverin (Andrew Garfield), who put up the initial investments for Facebook but is later screwed out of his share of the company when Facebook explodes. The other lawsuit is from Cameron and Tyler Winkelvoss (Armie Hammer), twins who believe that Mark stole the idea for Facebook from them. The movie deftly juxtaposes scenes from the depositions of these two cases against the events as they happened in the past.
The Social Network was directed by David Fincher, of Fight Club and Zodiac fame. It was scripted by Aaron Sorkin, most famous for The West Wing. Between the two of them, this was probably the most sharply scripted and expertly directed film of 2010. Aaron Sorkin manages to turn so much technobabble and computer jargon into something that is digestible and followable by the audience while simultaneously not insulting the audience’s intelligence by dumbing things down. David Fincher makes a movie that is primarily nerds sitting around their computers talking about code and programming into something that is very tense and actually quite exciting. He keeps the sense of timing and pace nearly perfect throughout the whole film. The scene that cuts back and forth between drunk frat boys partying and Mark and Eduardo setting the stage for the birth of Facebook is just a brilliant bit of editing and direction.
When I first became familiar with Jesse Eisenberg, I always thought of him as a poor man’s Michael Cera. That changed a little bit when I saw The Squid and the Whale a couple years ago which is one of the best family dramas of the 2000’s, but he didn’t really do anything after that to really impress me. Having now re-watched this movie and having seen The King’s Speech just a couple weeks ago, I stand behind the assertion that I believe Jesse Eisenberg gave the best male performance of 2010. Mark was an incredibly complex character and Jesse filled his performance with the kind of nuance that you expect from an old pro not a kid in his 20’s. He’s going to be someone to watch if he continues to choose choice roles like this. Andrew Garfield was also fantastic as Eduardo Saverin, a character that is perhaps the most sympathetic in the entire film. I’m not sure how I feel about him being cast as the newest Spiderman, but at least I know that he’ll be able to give a great performance.
If you were born after the year 1980, you will watch this film and devour it. It was a movie made for our time and it is made with our voice (even if the actual people that made it are much, much older). I’m not sure if older audiences would be able to appreciate just how important of an event The Social Network is, but I hope to god they at least respect the artistry that went into creating it. This film was so much better than The King’s Speech, and while I still believe that Winter’s Bone was probably the best movie of 2010, I would have much rather seen The Social Network win Best Picture at the last Oscar’s because it would have been an incredibly symbolic event, a passing of the torch to the work of my generation.
Final Score: A+