First Night Flicks: The Social Network

The Social Network (2010)

Directed By: David Fincher
Starring: Jesse Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield, Justin Timberlake
Based on the book The Accidental Billionaires: The Founding of Facebook: A Tale of Sex, Money, Genius and Betrayal by Ben Mezrich
Rated PG-13 for sexual content, drug and alcohol use and language.

Every fall, there seems to be one film that everyone who writes about film professes to love, yet somehow, I remain the lone wolf, sitting in the corner trying to restore some sanity to a suddenly insane world. These are usually films that as a critic and student, I should love for their technical merits, if not their execution. Usually, I feel these films fall so short of the mark that I simply dislike them for failing to live up to their promise.

Thankfully, The Social Network, doesn’t completely fall into that category, but I was not as impressed with it as some of my contemporaries. It’s an excellently written, well acted film chronicling the founding of Facebook, and the relative speed with which it became a cultural phenomenon and trying to make some sense out of the lawsuits that followed. For a film that cut between two court depositions and the events that transpired from three separate points of view, it’s not hard to follow along. The main problem with the film is with its pacing.

The film’s official running time is exactly two hours, but it feels infinitely longer. Had I had my phone on me at the screening I attended I might have been tempted to check the time, as it felt like I had been sitting in the theatre for three hours before Mark Zuckerberg (Eisenberg) even thought about relocating his company to California. Once the film does relocate, the pacing picks up quickly. This might be because of the presence of Justin Timberlake as Sean Parker, the founder of Napster. Mr. Timberlake has the unenviable task of portraying the one principal player whose point of view is never explored. Not that his point of view is important to the story director David Fincher and screenwriter Aaron Sorkin have chosen to tell.

Mr. Sorkin’s screenplay is, as usual, brilliant, and these young actors handle it masterfully. While it is highly stylized, particularly Mark Zuckerberg’s dialog, it still feels somewhat organic. It’s easy for the audience to believe that there is a man out there in the world who is able to jump back and forth in conversations as effortlessly as Zuckerberg seems to, especially in the opening sequence with his girlfriend (Rooney Mara), who is thankfully able to keep up with him for the most part. This is an extremely talkative film, and the characters talk so fast at times, that I would not be surprised to discover that the script itself is longer than the traditional two-hour screenplay.

Whether intentional or not, the relationship between Mark Zuckerberg, Eduardo Saverin (Garfield) and Sean Parker plays at times like a love triangle out of a nighttime drama. This is not necessarily a bad thing. There is an intensity in these three young men’s performances, a commitment to selling the jealousy, greed. admiration and hurt that is expressed at different points in the film and a chemistry between the three of them that is mesmerizing. At no point in the film did I question any of their actions or the reasons for those actions. The performances alone are worth the price of admission.

Andrew Garfield, who plays Eduardo Saverin in The Social Network, is slated to play Peter Parker in the upcoming Spider-Man reboot, so if nothing else, this film piqued my interest for that.