Rated PG-13 for sexual content, drug and alcohol use and language, 120 minutes
Compelling, entertaining, relevant "Social Network"
"The Social Network" has quickly become known as "the Facebook movie" as it tells the early, tumultuous days of the social networking website. In reality, it's just one version of the story, but what an entertaining, absorbing and provocative story it is, and given how Facebook has significantly impacted society, "The Social Network" is perhaps the most socially-relevant movie to be released this yeear.
Based on Ben Mezrich's 2009 nonfiction novel "The Accidental Billionares," the story begins at Harvard, Fall 2003, where Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) and Eduardo Saverin (Andrew Garfield) are schoolmates. Dumped by his girlfriend, Zuckerberg creates a "Hot or Not" site that nearly brings down Harvard's network. Zuckerberg is placed on probation but attracts the attention of handsome, athletic twins Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss (both played by Armie Hammer) who have an idea for a social networking website to keep in touch with their friends. Zuckeberg is inspired to create a similar site expounding on their original ideas, and with Saverin's financial help, gets the site going. As the new site grows, Zuckerberg attracts the attention of Napster's Sean Parker (Justin Timberlake), who advises him to continue to expand.
"The Social Network" is a slick but fascinating drama of one version of the events, much of which has been idealized, altered and even fictionalized (these are geeks, after all), but it's an absolutely relevant story given how much Facebook has changed our society. The film has a sublime pedigree, directed by David Fincher ("The Curious Case of Benjamin Button"), adapted for the screen by Aaron Sorkin ("The West Wing") and executive-produced by actor Kevin Spacey. Fincher in particular handles the film with skill and the script is fairly even-handed in its portraits, showing unflattering sides of everyone involved, though it's the impressive performances from its young cast that'll leave most talking.
Indie character actor Eisenberg (best known for "Zombieland") especially anchors the film well in his first lead performance that should garner him acclaim. It's not an impression of Zuckerberg but a nuanced, even unsympathetic portrait of a very sharp technical mind, and it shows that Eisenberg continues to mature as an actor. British actor Garfield, recently cast as the new Spider-Man, is also superb as the CFO who's eventually forced out as the site grows. Timberlake, the best known of all the cast, is charming as the showboat Parker, portrayed as a great businessman who likes to party (but whose role is largely overstated by the film). Unknown Hammer (part of the wealthy Armand Hammer family) is also memorable as the angry Winklevoss twins, who want credit for their ideas.
"The Social Network" isn't perfect. The story doesn't always flow evenly as it jumps back and forth too much; it's also baffling how some details were included (a chicken, for example) while others were considerably enhanced for cinematic effect (sex, drugs and rock-n-roll). Understandably Zuckerberg and his Facebook staff didn't cooperate with the filmmakers, which isn't surprising after you see the movie.
"The Social Network" doesn't have to make an important statement; the website itself has already done that. The film is an absolutely absorbing, relevant look at how a website not only changed our relationships but also the relationships of its founders. A must-see and one of the year's most memorable films.