I admit that I am a sucker for feature films about the very recent past. I thoroughly enjoyed The Queen, Breach, United 93, and to a lesser extent Invictus. Older releases such as The Best Years of Our Lives and All the President's Men retain a relevance even now, when one considers how fresh their subject matter was when they were made. So despite my admitted indifference to the work of David Fincher and despite that clumsy title, I really looked forward to The Social Network. I was not disappointed – even though I retain a handful of reservations.
Telling the (somewhat dramatized) story of the creation of Facebook and of founder Mark Zuckerberg's legal battles with his old Harvard classmates, The Social Network's candor about the relationships and egos of these very real people is refreshing. Aaron Sorkin's script may be the true star of the show. Fast-paced and witty, it sometimes goes into a little too much expository detail, yet Sorkin is keenly aware of the nature of his characters and so his occasional logorrhea is fitting. So too is the importance these characters place upon events that, to the casual observer, seem completely insignificant: a Harvard hazing ritual, getting dumped at a bar, "Caribbean Night" at a Jewish fraternity. That these trivial moments factor so greatly into Sorkin's story is a reminder not only of how young Zuckerberg and his friends/enemies still are, but of the adolescent nature of Facebook culture itself, where fully grown adults get into heated arguments in front of all their contacts, flirt with old classmates they haven't seen in decades, or even sever old ties because of petty squabbles or obnoxious statements.
Sorkin's dialogue may take too many pains to explain just who Napster creator Sean Parker is, but he also knows when to step back and let the audience find the connections between Zuckerberg's ego and his online creation, now populated by over five hundred million users. It may sound strange, but I found The Social Network to be a sort of parallel to There Will Be Blood. Both tell the stories about cold, ambitious, often vindictive men whose flaws and obsessions formed the core of today's multi-billion dollar global industries. Jesse Eisenberg, as Zuckerberg, may not reach the heights of Daniel Day-Lewis's iconic Daniel Plainview, but he is perfect in the role, and it was truly a genius maneuver to cast pop idol Justin Timberlake as the rockstar-like Parker, whose involvement in Facebook's success was something I, for one, didn't know about.
I only had two problems with the film. First, it was wrapped up all too suddenly; I think Fincher and Sorkin could have extended their third act by a good fifteen minutes. My second problem lies with one of the main characters, Eduardo Saverin, Zuckerberg's former best friend and Facebook's initial CFO. I think Saverin is supposed to be the true protagonist of the story – after all, it was his view of events that informed The Accidental Billionaires, the book on which this film is based – yet he does so little onscreen to help the fledgling website grow that, when Zuckerberg eventually shuts him out of Facebook's success, Saverin's outrage does not feel earned. But for all I know this may have been intentional on the part of Fincher, Sorkin, and actor Andrew Garfield, who portrays Saverin as a small-thinking whiner.
Neither of these qualms kept me from being thoroughly drawn in by The Social Network, so far 2010's most relevant Hollywood feature. One final bit of praise goes out to the impressive electronic score by Nine Inch Nails buddies Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross.