Oscar Movie Review – The Social Network

by brandt

Yes, I know I’m late to the party.  It seems like everyone and their brother watched this movie over the summer, and everyone and their brother lauded it’s praises.  The problem with being so vocal about praises for a movie is that you set the bar extremely high.  Some movies can reach that bar easily (“The Dark Knight,” for example).  Some movies are a disaster (“Star Wars: The Phantom Menace” tops the list of countless films).  And then there’s “The Social Network,” gives me personally more questions than answers.

It wasn’t a bad movie.  Don’t get me wrong, I would watch it again, and enjoy the ride again.  Director David Fincher adds to his list of ever-growing “see-it-again” films (including “Se7en,” “Fight Club,” and “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”) with a strong showing here.  Jesse Eisenberg gives a very good performance as a computer programmer who is social awkward and confused, but desires what we all desire: to be accepted and wanted by someone. There’s a sense of mystery, there’s some aspects of a thriller, there’s romance, there’s bromance, there are college shenanigans and there’s the foundation of one of the most influential elements of the internet….or is it? I’ll get to that question later.

The story is based on the real life experience of Mark Zuckerberg and his time at Harvard creating Facebook, and how it went from an elite circle of Harvard .edu email addresses to a worldwide phenomenon that only required the user to be above the age of 13 to access it. The story revolves around a guy wanting to create a website with information about students that college students would be interested in. Things like “Which classes they were taking,” “Political views,” “relationship status,” and the ability to add friends to get a closer look at them were all components. And while we look at it now as a form of advanced voyeurism, Zuckerberg and his “business partner,” Eduardo Saverin looked at TheFacebook as an opportunity for college kids to hook up. The story follows the humble beginnings back in 2003-4, all the way up through Zuckerberg’s college years and subsequent lawsuits from various people along the way claiming indignation and intellectual theft. All the while we see Zuckerberg, played brilliantly by Jesse Eisenberg, speaking from a computer programmer’s ideal while lacking the social skills to articulate it. Imagine those kids you knew in school who were almost too smart for their own good. Sometimes, their social skills were lacking…and sometimes severly. They knew they were smart, and they always seemed to be a step ahead, as if rules didn’t apply to them. That’s Mark Zuckerberg.

Based on the book by Ben Mezrich called “Accidental Billionaires,” the book (and the movie) has a tendency to sensationalize the dialogue and create natural villains. But the movie underwhelmed me in the fact that it seemed too soon. I don’t know what Facebook has in store for the next 10 years, much less the next 3 years. While Facebook might be on top of the world now, if anything we’ve learned that the internet can be a cruel and unforgiving place, where fads can rise to the top and seem indestructible, and fall just as quickly. Look at Netscape. Look at AOL. Look at Napster, MySpace, Yahoo, Webcrawler, and Geocities. Is it too soon to make a movie about Facebook when we can’t look through the cultural lens and see what effect it had on our culture?

And then there’s the cultural commentary on the millennial generation, which I guess falls into my own generation as well (though I’m at the older end of it). Is the concept of a “friend” something numerical where we can see our social standing based on numbers compared to someone else? Do we want to be “liked” for our little one-liners? Are we as voyeuristic as Facebook portrays us as? Or do we view Facebook as a natural evolution of our social spheres intersecting on the internet?

The performances are spot on. I’ve already sung praises for Eisenberg, but while you’re watching the movie, notice how the characters make you feel. Notice how the twins who row for crew (and claim Facebook was their idea) make you want to punch every smarmy I’m-A-Big-Deal-Because-My-Dad-Is-Rich Ivy-League kid you meet in the face. Notice how Eduardo seems to be stuck in the middle of a computer-programmer idealist and his idol, Sean Parker (played by…SURPRISE! Justin Timberlake!)

Usually, I can sleep on a movie overnight and wake up the next day knowing how I feel about it. The Social Network took all weekend for me to digest, and I’m still unsure about it. I guess that’s a good thing in my book. It’s one of those movies that needs to be watched twice, first to understand the story and second to understand the characters. Because even in the lives of billionaire computer programmers, we find shades of our own insecurities, our own shortcomings, and, probably most importantly, our own desire to be “liked” or to be added as a “friend.”

Rated: PG-13, for sexual content (moderate amount), drug and alcohol use (minor drug use, college alcohol use) and language(2 1/2 “f” words, multiple uses of other words).

Critics Ratings:
IMDB: 8.2/10
Rotten Tomatoes: 97/100%
Metacritic: 95/100
Brandt’s Score – 86/100

Academy Award Nominations
Best Picture – Dana Brunetti, Ceán Chaffin, Michael De Luca and Scott Rudin
Best Actor – Jesse Eisenberg
Best Cinematography – Jeff Cronenweth
Best Director – David Fincher
Best Film Editing – Angus Wall and Kirk Baxter
Best Original Score – Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross
Best Sound – Ren Klyce, David Parker, Michael Semanick and Mark Weingarten
Best Adapted Screenplay – Aaron Sorkin

Images via MoviePosterShop, Netkushi, and HollywoodGo.

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3 Comments to “Oscar Movie Review – The Social Network”

  1. i’m busier than life today but I do have the time to say this:

    YAWN!

  2. I loved the movie, but mostly because I am a big fan of Aaron Sorkin (the West Wing).

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