The story of Facebook isn’t remarkable in any way. The origin of the company and the background of its founder, Mark Zuckerberg, isn’t unlike countless other internet start-up companies that have sprung all over the Valley (Silicon Valley for the uninitiated). For those of you who have worked for or formed an internet start-up company, the Facebook story is probably an all-too familiar tale that’s probably not unlike your own experience. Because of this, THE SOCIAL NETWORK is Silicon Valley’s WALL STREET. Its a compelling and often funny account of how the world’s most popular website (and the voicebox of my daily un-PC sarcasm) came to take over the world. Love it or hate it, Facebook has permeated more facets of our lives than we care to admit and it has changed how people define their relations with one another. In the middle of it all is Mark Zuckerberg, who is the subject of David Fincher’s outstanding film.

I don’t think I need to give an extensive synopsis of what THE SOCIAL NETWORK is about. Simply put, it’s a biopic about Mark Zuckerberg, a nerdy, socially retarded, Harvard undergrad who came up with (or stole, depending on whose version of the story you believe) an idea for a social networking website that became Facebook. Along the way, Zuckerberg stepped on a few toes and made some enemies in the process.

I have an immense amount of respect for David Fincher, the director of THE SOCIAL NETWORK. After stumbling horribly with his debut feature film (1992’s ALIEN 3), Fincher has been a reliable source of finely crafted and highly entertaining cinematic works that have continually excelled on both a storytelling and technical level. Fincher is no lazy filmmaker. He doesn’t sit around making countless sequels to his hit films, cute romantic comedies, or brain dead bullshit that’s designed to market some toy. In the past decade and a half, Fincher has given us SEVEN, THE GAME, PANIC ROOM, FIGHT CLUB, ZODIAC, and THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON. Even with those films that didn’t impress on a story level, Fincher has earned my admiration with his technical filmmaking skills. THE SOCIAL NETWORK elevates Fincher’s game to a whole new level by showing that the filmmaker can tell a compelling story without the use of thriller elements or elaborate visual effects.

Even I had my doubts as to whether Fincher could pull off a movie about Facebook. For one, I thought it a strange choice for a follow-up to THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON. I never read Ben Mezrich’s The Accidental Billionaires or David Kirkpatrick’s The Facebook Effect so I didn’t really see how the story about a website could possibly offer anything remotely interesting, especially to someone like Fincher. A company like Apple or Microsoft surely provided a far more interesting Silicon Valley success story (yes, I know, Microsoft is based in Redmond, but considering how many Silicon Valley companies it has destroyed in its path, it has pretty much become an honorary Valley resident). As I said before, Facebook’s story is not remarkable or unique compared to other Valley start-ups, but what makes THE SOCIAL NETWORK stand out as a movie is how well it encapsulates the history of Silicon Valley as a whole, its almost Shakespearean drama, and how wonderfully Fincher presents it all through his playful and imaginative directing. His movie is an involving drama and never once does it feel confusing or dull.

So I guess the question is does THE SOCIAL NETWORK present Mark Zuckerberg in a negative light? It does in the sense that, as he is portrayed in the movie, he did steal the idea for Facebook from a couple of Harvard students who presented their idea to him so that he could help them develop it. He is jealous of those who are more popular than he is, especially when it comes to getting into exclusive Harvard clubs. Finally, he did royally fuck over his “best friend” in the end by essentially giving him a smaller share of the company and removing his credit for co-finding Facebook. If I were Zuckerberg, I would probably not be very flattered by how Fincher portrayed me in his movie. However, karma is a bitch and, assuming the movie’s account is accurate, being an asshole to others does eventually come around and bite you in the ass (even though you still end up being valued at over $1 billion before you hit 30). The film also makes you realize that people like Zuckerberg, Jeff Bezos (the founder of Amazon), and Pierre Omidyar (the founder of eBay and no, it wasn’t Meg Whitman) are not enlightened geniuses who sit around in dark rooms hatching one-of-a-kind ideas that have never been contemplated by other people. These individuals just happened to be at the right place and at the right time with their ideas and they simply got lucky. As you see in THE SOCIAL NETWORK, Zuckerberg was certainly not the first person to come up with the idea for Facebook. Someone else had that idea first and he simply took off with it and made it his own.

Every once in awhile a movie comes along that contains an ensemble cast that shines through and becomes a career launching point for its actors. Films like DAZED AND CONFUSED (Matthew McConaughey, Jason London, Ben Affleck, Milla Jovovich, Cole Hauser, Parker Posey, Adam Goldberg, Joey Lauren Adams, Nicky Katt), SCHOOL TIES (Brendan Fraser, Matt Damon, Chris O’Donnell), THE BREAKFAST CLUB (Emilio Estevez, Molly Ringwald, Judd Nelson, Anthony Michael Hall, Ally Sheedy), and THE BIG CHILL (Tom Berenger, Glenn Close, Jeff Goldblum, William Hurt, Kevin Kline) come to mind. THE SOCIAL NETWORK is certainly another one and even if we never again see anything from these actors, they will be remembered for a long time to come for the astonishing feat they pull off. I first really noticed Jesse Eisenberg in last year’s very entertaining ZOMBIELAND (FYI, my first CineWhore review EVER!) and although I enjoyed the film and I found him to be pretty funny, he came off as a total knockoff of Michael Cera and I sort of dismissed him for that. Shame on me I guess because Eisenberg throws down the fucking thespian gauntlet and completely owns this movie. Eisenberg could have easily parodied the computer nerd stereotype and in the hands of a less capable actor, that’s what we probably would have gotten. Instead, Eisenberg gives a more nuanced and layered performance that presents a complex nerdy asshole who, amazingly enough, gets the audience to root for him and see his point of view. If Eisenberg’s portrayal of Zuckerberg is accurate, then I’m convinced Zuckerberg has some sort of mental disorder.

I was never, ever expecting that one day I would say that I am a Justin Timberlake fan. After his grab-you-by-the-balls display of awesomeness as Sean Parker (the founder of Napster), there is no doubt Timberlake has a lot of talent. His role is showy so it offers him plenty of opportunity to shine, which is pretty fitting given Timberlake’s larger than life image. There are two particularly memorable moments that define Parker’s character. The first is when he first meets Zuckerberg and impresses him with his cool, popular, and outwardly impressive persona. Parker offers Zuckerberg access to a world of sex and drugs and although Zuckerberg doesn’t involve himself in those things, he wants to be around it in some way. The second moment is at the very end when Parker cruelly gives Eduardo Saverin, one of Facebook’s founders and its original CFO, his walking papers. It’s a classic dog-eat-dog display of competition and cruelty and Parker has become the biggest dog on the playground.

Speaking of Eduardo Saverin, he is played wonderfully by the soon-to-be-very-famous Andrew Garfield (he is going to be the new Spider-Man). Garfield was already receiving great buzz based off of this movie and NEVER LET ME GO and he is indeed very good here. Saverin seems to be the only character in this movie who doesn’t have unsavory qualities. He’s not the one who stole the idea for Facebook and when he finds out, he seems genuinely displeased with Zuckerberg for screwing over the Winklevoss Twins (FYI, Armie Hammer plays both twins so there is some visual effects I guess). He remains true to his word when he commits to making Facebook a success and, most importantly, he supplies the initial capital for the venture. So it’s the most unfortunate to see that of all the people in this story, he’s the one who gets the biggest shaft in the end. Garfield’s best moment is at the very end of the movie when, furious for getting screwed by Zuckerberg and Parker, he threatens Zuckerberg with a lawsuit and storms out of the Facebook offices.

THE SOCIAL NETWORK is an ambitious movie that contains great performances, stunning camera work, fantastic dialogue, and a great atmospheric film score by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross. You don’t need a Facebook account to enjoy this movie nor do you even need to have ever used the website although it does help if you have some working knowledge of what it basically is. There has been a lot of anticipation for this movie, especially with the dual-talented combo of David Fincher and Aaron Sorkin (screenwriter) and the subject matter of the film. The end result is astonishing and THE SOCIAL NETWORK easily ranks as one of this year’s best films.

P.S. I purposely refrained from commenting about the poor portrayal of Stanford University in this movie. Suffice it to say that, like the main character in this movie, the school isn’t cast in a very positive light and for that I thank you David Fincher and Aaron Sorkin!

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