At the Movies with Alan Gekko: The Social Network “2010”

At the Movies with Alan Gekko: The Social Network “2010”

MPAA Rating: PG-13/Genre: Biographical Drama/Stars: Jesse Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield, Justin Timberlake, Armie Hammer, Max Minghella, Brenda Song, Rashida Jones, John Getz, David Selby, Denise Grayson, Douglas Urbanski, Rooney Mara, Joseph Mazzello, Dustin Fitzsimons, Wallace Langham, Patrick Mapel, Dakota Johnson, Malese Jow, Trevor Wright, Shelby Young, Aaron Sorkin, Steve Sires, Caleb Landry Jones/Runtime: 120 minutes

I think it’s fairly safe to start this review off by saying that, if you really stop to think about it, there are some distinct film helmers out there, with perhaps the best one coming to my mind immediately being Christopher Nolan, who possess a very distinct gift. That gift being the singular talent to, instead of giving us one brilliant film and then just operate off that distinct cinematic playbook for the remainder of their careers, grab hold of any topic possible and then proceed to transform said topic into nothing less than a riveting cinematic outing that is able to speak to every viewer on some level whilst also taking the time to attracting each of our 6 (or is it 5?) senses through a distinct blend of thought-provoking thematic concepts, heartfelt emotion, an incredibly well-written story, and jaw-droppingly gorgeous visual work to name but a few examples. The reason I bring this up dear reader is because prior to the long-ago year of 2010, iconic film helmer David Fincher may have been on the edge of attaining this particular glory, but with the release of the slice of cinema I am reviewing for you today, 2010’s The Social Network, he too found himself being brought into the fold of this distinct group of helmers who just manage to have any slice of cinema they choose to direct turn out to be absolutely golden. Perhaps one big motivating factor for this group to extend Fincher an invite is because, in case you hadn’t already guessed it dear reader, The Social Network truly is one heck of a cinematic accomplishment. Equal parts creative, relevant, daring, and filled with intriguing statements on both the world around us to say nothing how we interact with one another, this film is a phenomenal effort that manages to attain a degree of value and eloquence that a lot of other movies are simply unable to acquire. To be sure, this slice of cinema does focus on a topic that in the wrong hands easily could have been delivered to audiences as a movie of the week on CBS or even NBC back in the day. Fortunately, we see that, much as the other members of that aforementioned Cinematic Midas Touch Society are prone to, Fincher is able to take the tale of a brilliant yet more than slightly arrogant whiz kid, the website he helped to create, and the personal/legal fallout that ensued into a present-day fable to say nothing of a look at society at large that is equal parts riveting yet also ominously disconcerting in equal measure. Suffice it to say that when you also factor into the mix truly wonderful work behind the camera and a collection of performances in front of the camera that, no matter how big or small their amount of screentime may be, are all fairly spot-on this is more than an example of movie magic at its finest. Rather, it is also a timely and on-point look at a moment in time when an invention changed not just the history of the world, but also how we as a species viewed and interacted with the world and each other as well.

The plot is as follows: An adaptation of a 2009 book called The Accidental Billionaires by Ben Mezrich and presented to us via that time honored cinematic device known as flashbacks during a collection of legal depositions by parties I shan’t reveal to you here, The Social Network gets its intriguing story underway in the time and place known as the Fall 2003 semester at Harvard University. It is here where we meet our hero who takes the shape and form of a sophomore by the name of (get this) Mark Zuckerberg. A young man who, when our story begins, is easily going through one of the worst moments in the life and times of a college student (and no I am not referring to the Freshman 15, finals anxiety, or for that matter the local bar running out of brewskis just as half-off happy hour was getting underway on a Friday night). Rather, it is the event known as his girlfriend getting frustrated with him on a date to such an extent that she just decides to straight up simply dump him rather than put up with him for one more second of her life. Now normally whenever a college guy in a movie gets dumped, he usually winds up doing one of 3 things. Those being either mopes until he eventually moves on, moves on minus the moping, or eats a bunch of ice cream while crying….and then eventually moving on. Fortunately for this movie (and unfortunately for the girl) Zuckerberg is not your typical guy in this scenario. A fact he soon makes quite clear when, in his anger over being dumped, he not only writes an insult post about her online, but then hacks into the college database to take photos of their female student population and put them on a website he has created known as Facemash where people who visit the site can then rate them based on their looks. Yet even though this little stunt of his results in both sections of Harvard’s internet system going down to say nothing of our hero getting slapped with half a year in academic probation, we see that it also presents him with quite an intriguing opportunity. One that arrives courtesy of a pair of twins named Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss as well as their business partner Divya Narendra respectively. It seems that this dynamic trio has heard of Mark’s skill with a computer and would like him to aid them in the creation of a social network solely for students attending Harvard known as Harvard Connection. We soon see though that Mark sees there is more that can be done with this idea and presents his sole friend Eduardo Saverin with an expansion of this same idea with a few adjustments with the main one being a name change to (get this) Thefacebook. We soon see that the website, surprise surprise, actually becomes more than a tad bit popular. A degree of popularity that not only sees the site expanded onto other campuses, but also gets the duo an audience with Napster co-founder Sean Parker who decides to join the adventure. Of course, it isn’t long before this new-found partnership, to say nothing of a few other complications, start to really cause more than a tad bit of friction to develop. As to what eventually occurs to say nothing of the effect this has on our hero and the other people involved that I shall leave for you to see for yourself….

Now right off, it should be noted that the work done behind the camera on this slice of cinema is nothing short of majestic in nearly every sense of the word. This starts with the work done by David Fincher at the helm and I must admit that, at first, him being named as director for this did make me raise a bit of an eyebrow. Not because he’s a bad director dear reader; far from it actually. Rather, it’s just that Fincher is known more for working on films, like Se7en and Panic Room, that are more ominous in terms of content and more stylized than a story about the creation of the most famous social media website on the planet might warrant. Yet, lo and behold, dear reader imagine my happiness to tell you that Fincher’s work in the directorial chair is just as amazing as it is in any of the other entries in his filmography. However, if there is one element that complements Fincher’s directorial style to such an extent that it makes this a genuinely great movie it would have to be the fact that the script for this was done by none other than Aaron “West Wing” Sorkin. Indeed whilst Sorkin has his witty way with dialogue, Fincher is able to keep the film a visual treat via intriguing angles and stylish camera work. Likewise, whilst Sorkin makes this story equal parts informative and engaging, Fincher bathes the whole affair in a moody lighting that helps to kick the material up a notch. Suffice it to say that separately these are two men who have shown tremendous skill in their respective worlds, but have them join forces Avengers-style and together these two have given us a film that is a near-spotless balance between stylish camera work and quippy humor/intellect. Alongside the incredible work done by Fincher and Sorkin, this slice of cinema also gives us terrific work from Jeff Cronenweth in the cinematography department. Indeed here is a man whose style is one that has managed to become quite recognizable with the work done by this film’s helmer. Even so however, there is no denying that the degree of preciseness present in the make-up of every single frame definitely aids the nuances of the overall film brilliantly. This can also be said incidentally for the Oscar-winning work done by Angus Wall and Kirk Baxter in the film’s editing department as together this duo is able to equal the lively vibe present in both the dialogue and tempo in a manner that is truly thrilling. Finally, I would be completely in the wrong if I didn’t take some time to mention the truly mesmerizing musical accompaniment done for this film by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross. To be sure, it is a score that on first blush might give off the vibe of being fairly peculiar. As the movie goes on however, we see that the score does a masterful job at being able to guide you by the hand into every important moment be it through blaring techno beats or via a wistful and fairly solemn mix of piano and stringed instruments that by the end of the film you are ultimately left quite mesmerized by its level of effectiveness overall. Suffice it to say that, a few miniscule hiccups aside, the work done behind the camera on this particular cinematic outing is nothing short of downright stellar in every sense of the word.

Of course, the other big element that helps make this slice of cinema as phenomenal as it turns out to be most assuredly comes in the form of the top-tier performances given by the cast of players in front of the camera as well. This, without question, starts with Jesse Eisenberg who as Mark Zuckerberg is nothing short of a revelation. Indeed Eisenberg, I must admit, has long been an actor who I have enjoyed in some things (the Zombieland and Now You See Me films) and definitely caused me to scratch my head in wonder as to what exactly he was doing there other times (Batman v. Superman easily). With that said though, the lead performance he gives in this film is one that fits into neither one of those categories. Instead, it actually manages to fit into a rare third category known as “I honestly cannot see anyone but him playing this role). I say this because, as the iconic (or infamous dependent on one’s point of view) Zuckerberg, Eisenberg does a phenomenal job at taking the character’s arrogance, cynicism, and derogatory manner and showing them as characteristics of a wounded genius who is consistently stricken by doubt and insecurity that is still without question a jerk. Yet even with that in mind, we see that Eisenberg is able to ensure the audience is still willing to follow him throughout. Not just because of the comedy present in the script, but because of the fact that Eisenberg is a fairly likable actor. Suffice it to say that it is very much a tour de force performance from a highly underrated talent. Besides the phenomenal work done by Eisenberg, we are also treated to a remarkable turn here from Andrew Garfield in the pivotal role of Eduardo Saverin. Indeed not only does he immerse himself in the role, but Garfield does a fantastic job at presenting us with the one main character out of the trio of co-leads who is perhaps the most likable. Sure he makes some bad choices like thinking that Mark interacting with Sean was a good idea, but Garfield brings such an innocence and decency to the part that you can’t help but root for him all the same. Of course, I would be completely amiss if I didn’t take some time in this section to talk about the one performance that genuinely surprised me more than any of the others in this undeniably gifted collection of performances. That performance would be none other than the one given by Justin Timberlake (as in *NSYNC 90s boy band Justin Timberlake) in the role of Sean Parker. I say that because, in the role of the Napster co-founder, Timberlake does a phenomenal job at playing someone who is a wonderfully sleazy mix of arrogant, anxious, and downright detestable all whilst also personifying the worst parts of who Zuckerberg is as an individual courtesy of engaging in outlandish and amateur antics. Indeed it is a wonderful hiss-worthy performance from a guy who, for all intents and purposes, has made a career out of appearing to be fairly likable (even if recent revelations might have put a bit of a dent in that image). Suffice it to say that when you also factor in wonderful support efforts from terrific talent such as Max Minghella, a double dose of Armie Hammer who (personal life controversies aside) actually does an incredible job here at playing both Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss in such a way that I can see the twins that Jeremy Irons played in David Cronenberg’s underrated 1988 Dead Ringers smiling and giving their approval, Caleb Landry Jones, Dakota Johnson, Wallace Langham (Hodges from CSI!), Joseph Mazzello (Tim from Jurassic Park), Rooney Mara, Rashida Jones, Brenda Song, the always enjoyable John Getz among others it’s clear that this slice of cinema might have a few detriments here and there, but the work done by this undeniably skilled cast most assuredly is not one of them.

All in all and at the end of the day, is The Social Network “2010” a perfect slice of cinema by any stretch of the imagination? Sadly no, but darn it all if it actually doesn’t come a lot closer than a lot of other slices of cinema I have had the privilege of seeing either to review or just for casual watching purposes. With that in mind though, does that make this the worst slice of cinema since co-star Justin Timberlake saw the script for an animated movie called Trolls and said “well this looks like it could be good”. Thankfully, for both my, as well as my fellow adult movie goers’, collective sense of peace of mind let alone sanity, I can also confirm that is definitely not the case here. Indeed the work done at the helm, as to be expected from a film that is blessed to have David Fincher as its director, is nothing short of magnetic, the script from the eternally gifted Aaron Sorkin is electric and witty in the best way possible, and the rest of the work done behind the camera especially when it comes to the work done by the editing department as well as the absolutely kinetic musical accompaniment from Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross all manages to come together in a cinematic harmony that is truly melodious to the eyes as much as it is to the mind and the soul respectively. Meanwhile we also see that the work done in front of the camera by this slice of cinema’s truly impeccable cast of players is nothing short of remarkable no matter how big or small their role may be though the work done by Jesse Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield, and (especially) Justin Timberlake respectively is nothing short of revelatory in every sense of the word. Suffice it to say that it might have a few miniscule issues here and there, but truthfully dear The Social Network is more than just a jaw-droppingly great film about the creation of one of the (even if a lot of people in my generation might say the most) most important technological developments in modern history. Rather, it is also a story involving inner drive and externally displayed pride, of warm-hearted comradery and toxic envy, and of acquiring a degree of success you felt was yours for the taking only to learn a very important lesson in the process. That being that when you manage to achieve that aforementioned success by maybe stepping on the backs of others or backstabbing a friend or 5 then don’t be surprised when a few of them maybe decide to come and seek a slice of the pie that they feel maybe ought to be theirs be it justified or not. Make of that what thou will dear reader. On a scale of 1-5 I give The Social Network “2010” a solid 4.5 out of 5.