For many of us these days, our routines include visiting a certain popular website to update our statuses and connect with friends and family.
We write notes and clever asides about our allergies and our pets, discuss our likes and dislikes, and reject the friend request from that douchebag who we totally hated in high school.
Then we send our own friend request to that same douchebag a couple of months later.
Apparently, we do all of this because Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg got dumped in a college bar and couldn't get into the cool clubs at Harvard.
Whether or not this is even close to the truth, it makes for an immensely entertaining premise in The Social Network, a scathing indictment of our impatient and exposed society, and another masterpiece from director David Fincher.
Aaron Sorkin's wicked screenplay suggests that Zuckerberg (played by Jesse Eisenberg in a star-making performance) was an arrogant, self-serving weasel who stabbed a few backs on his way to creating his web empire and becoming the world's youngest billionaire.
The film's primary conflict is between Zuckerberg and college friend Eduardo Saverin (Andrew Garfield), who gave Zuckerberg some money during Facebook's startup and became the first chief financial officer for the website. We see Saverin and Zuckerberg dueling with lawyers after Facebook goes through the roof, as well as flashbacks to the events that led the two former friends into a bitter and expensive legal war.
The Winklevoss twin brothers, Cameron and Tyler (both played by Armie Hammer, sort of; more on that later) also sued Zuckerberg, claiming he stole their idea for a social network after they hired him to develop a site. Sorkin's screenplay pretty much depicts this allegation as fact.
Eisenberg and Garfield are downright scary together, making one of the better screen pairings you will see this year. When things start to go bad between them—especially after Napster co-founder Sean Parker (Justin Timberlake) enters the picture—the movie goes into the stratosphere.
During one confrontation, Garfield shows why Sony is willing to bank the future of the Spider-Man franchise on him. Garfield does all of the yelling, and Garfield can yell with the best of them. It's during this confrontation that Eisenberg has one of his best moments in the movie. His Zuckerberg just stares with a look on his face that expresses fear about what he has become, acceptance that he must become evil for the good of Facebook, and sorrow about losing his friend. Yes, Eisenberg manages to get all of this across with one simple look on his face, and it's a thing of beauty.
I know some of you will want to kick me in the face for merely suggesting that Justin Timberlake deserves Oscar consideration for what he does in this film. Well, put on your Doc Martens and start kicking, because he's that good. His Parker is a party boy convinced that his Napster idea destroyed the music industry (a theory that actually has a lot of merit). His dinner scene with Mark and Eduardo, which culminates in a pivotal moment when Parker makes a simple suggestion regarding the website's name, proves that Timberlake has big-time acting chops.
This is perhaps the least-flashy of Fincher's films, but it's certainly one of his strongest regarding drama and dialogue. Every scene has a visual richness to it, though it's not as highly stylized as, say, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button or Fight Club. It does contain one of the best visual effects Fincher has ever put to film; it's so good that I didn't notice it. While both Winklevoss twins have Hammer's voice and face, an actor named Josh Pence's body was used for the portrayal of Tyler. Hammer's face was then seamlessly added to Pence's body to create the illusion of identical twins. I didn't know that one man played both parts until researching the film later.
Fincher employs Trent Reznor to do the moody soundtrack. Reznor, who contributed memorably to the opening credits of Fincher's Se7en, collaborates with Atticus Ross for a score that is as much a part of the film as Eisenberg, Garfield and Timberlake.
Somewhere in this world, there may be a young billionaire watching this film on the hugest flat-screen ever, perhaps slightly miffed that millions of people are currently seeing a movie that basically depicts him as Judas Iscariot Jackhole. I guess he'll just have to buy himself a large continent or a solid-gold space station to stop the flow of misery.