A camera sees the world through light. It opens its shutter, and captures that light, preserving it forever, either on film stock or transferred into digital form. But every so often, a camera captures a whole lot more. It captures a place, a time, a moment. It captures reality. It captures the soul. In no uncertain terms, the power of the medium to this day is the way it not only records, but transfers the colors, textures, and emotions of its subjects. We can relive things that we’ve never experienced, speak to people we will never meet, and enjoy the types of stories we grew up listening to right in front of our eyes. I’m honestly surprised that there aren’t more biopics coming out each year, as documenting a person or an event from years prior is one of those things that movies were made to do. Usually the people involved are dead, or at least there’s some distance to the event in question. You’re probably wondering, why Facebook? Why now? Because this is a story that very few people have actually heard. The story of how one man went from being a nerdy Harvard student to 35th on the Forbes 400 list and a net worth of over $6.9 billion. It’s a story of betrayal, heartbreak, and loss of innocence that indirectly involves the lives of millions of people, probably including you. Still think this isn’t for you?
The film is structured around a series of depositions that were given in conjunction with two major lawsuits that were leveled at Mark Zuckerberg a few years ago. Both involve people who claim to own portions of the company known as Facebook Inc. and the depositions take the viewer through the story of the company’s founding. The first thing you’ll notice is how brilliantly written the screenplay is. This is the handiwork of one Aaron Sorkin, writer of The West Wing and Studio 60 along with the films Charlie Wilson’s War and The American President. This may be Sorkin‘s best to date, showcasing his lighting fast dialogue and impressive linguistic skills as well as his craftsmanship for drama and intrigue. Nobody writes like he does, and you stop thinking of those in the film as actors. These aren’t performances, they’re just real people having incredibly witty and entertaining conversations near a camera, and you’ll have no problem forgetting that none of it is real. This might as well be a historical document; though I’m sure Zuckerberg himself won’t be too happy about the film resonating with audiences as truthful and honest. There’s some debate over the book’s source material, and though many concessions were made, Facebook still considers the movie a work of fiction. Be that as it may, it’s a great story, and who really knows the whole truth at this point?
A screenplay is only as good as its actors, and everyone is impeccable here. Jessie Eisenberg‘s performance in particular is incredibly nuanced, giving Zuckerberg a level of controlled frustration that works as a doorway into the man himself. He doesn’t care about money, never has, and it’s not the fact that he’ll have to pay settlements that angers him; it’s the fact that he feels his own livelihood being attacked. They’ve gone on the offensive, and though he may have billions at his disposal, he still has to go through all the judicial motions like an ordinary citizen, something which undermines his profound sense of accomplishment. Andrew Garfield plays Eduardo, co-founder of the company and Zuckerberg’s best friend in college. I couldn’t be more excited about this kid, having praised his work in Never Let Me Go and Lions for Lambs in the past. He’ll make a terrific Spiderman, and he’s fascinating here as both the foundation for Zuckerberg’s obsession and the man who winds up getting hurt the most. The true surprise is Justin Timberlake, who brings his persona to the party in the form of Napster founder Sean Parker. Because we know his celebrity, it allows us to see what Zuckerberg sees in him, and along with delivering a wonderful dramatic performance, he kicks the whole film up several notches.
David Fincher is one of the best in the business, and in many ways, is The Social Network‘s trump card. Not only do you get great actors and a great script, you have the man behind Fight Club and Se7en behind the camera. Sure his most recent effort, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button didn’t receive the recognition it deserved, but you can’t deny that Fincher is a director to be reckoned with, a perfectionist on top of his game. His visual storytelling is so exacting that you wonder how anyone could have ever made the movie differently. That’s how well crafted it is, every choice making a discernable and dramatic impact on your emotional state, bringing all the threads together for a wonderfully quiet conclusion. Films this good only come out every couple of years, and that’s because it takes a perfect storm of talent and passion to deliver a cinematic experience this satisfying. Trust me, this is one “Facebook movie” you’ll be hard pressed not to “like.” Do yourself a favor and check it out. If you don’t, you’ll definitely regret it.
Harvard undergraduate Mark Zuckerberg (Eisenberg) recruits some of his classmates to develop the social networking website, Facebook. The endeavor, however, leads to a messy fallout with friend and co-founder, Eduardo Saverin (Garfield).