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Film

Status Woes

David Fincher and Aaron Sorkin explore the alleged story of Facebook

Photo: , License: N/A, Created: 2009:11:16 15:55:49

Justin Timberlake (left) and Jesse Eisenberg hang out IRL.


The Social Network

Directed by David Fincher

Opens Oct. 1.

Let’s be honest: A movie about Facebook doesn’t exactly scream cool. The site is too new to have historic voyeuristic appeal. It’s too ubiquitous to be indie or niche. And the general public already spends way too much time using it. Director David Fincher and screenwriter Aaron Sorkin, obviously aware of said limitations, injected cool into their baby with the determination of a hobbledehoy scoring his first date, and they mostly succeed, only occasionally crossing the line into the melodramatic.

The basic story is well documented: Mark Zuckerburg (Jesse Eisenberg) creates Facebook as a Harvard undergraduate. It gains instant success on campus, spreads to others in the area, the country, and the world, and soon enough Zuckerburg is a gazillionaire. Less familiar are Facebook’s subplots: at least one lawsuit, a friend who claims to have been screwed, and some other guys claiming intellectual theft. The Social Network wants to show “what really happened.”

The problem is parsing out what’s real and what’s convenient. With Zuckerburg publicly calling the movie “fiction” and Facebook, Inc. remaining largely silent on the issue, the truth remains obscured, calling into question the movie’s credibility. Zuckerburg’s harsh and unexpected breakup motivating his work on the site, for example, is, if real, a neat little window into the origins of its creation. If made up—as Zuckerburg contends—it’s a cutesy take on a trite plot point.

And the plot is the movie’s only weakness. As a composition, it works, largely because of how Fincher (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Fight Club) and Sorkin (A Few Good Men) handle it—in lesser hands it could have been embarrassingly, mind-numbingly lame. They capture all the college stuff: girls dancing on tables, dorm-room fridges full of beer, the pressure to be in the social elite. They get all the Hollywood stuff: Zuckerburg’s too-fast launch to fame, interns doing lines off each others’ bodies. And they manage the nerd stuff, with Eisenberg spouting endless lines of code like most guys would football stats.

To complement Eisenberg’s sharp performance, the cast is a well-chosen bunch of sub-mainstream actors. Andrew Garfield plays Zuckerburg’s best friend, the scorned Eduardo Saverin, with deft and ease; Armie Hammer (with help from stand-in Josh Pence) admirably and hilariously inhabits the buff blonde powerhouses that are Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss, a pair of future Olympic-rowing twins who sue Zuckerburg for stealing their idea. Justin Timberlake is the most well-known face, and he conveys the paranoid, delusional Sean Parker, Napster creator, pretty convincingly. Timberlake is so well-known, though, that it’s impossible to forget he’s acting, and so prevents that elusive belief suspension.

Outside of his performance, the movie comes wonderfully close to an ecstatic cinematic sweet spot. The stinging dialogue is quick, consistent, and surprisingly funny. The weirdly artistic soundtrack augments some excellent camerawork, and it all pulls together to create a slickly intriguing ride that is undermined only by its artifices.

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