While I was going through the endless amounts of Academy Award Nominees a few weeks ago, I decided to go and watch several of them that I hadn’t seen. I was drawn to The Social Network early on, as I love Jesse Eisenberg a lot, but also because I remembered one of my good friends going to seeing it, and disliking it. It made me wonder how I would feel about it, so naturally, I rented it and watched it four times. These are now my thoughts on the film, The Social Network.
*This may contain a couple spoilers, but mainly focuses on the general quality of the film, rather than the content. I tried.
What the Movie Does Best
One of the first two aspects of this movie that I first recognized as great, is the acting, particularly of the main characters. While yes, I admit I love Jesse Eisenberg in anything, I think he does a fantastic job at becoming Mark Zuckerbeg. If he can force me to actively not root for his character, he has done a fantastic job at being a douchebag, and that’s exactly what he does. The little aspects of his character shine through the person as a whole, and are glaring flaws that just make you want to punch the man in the face at certain times. That being said, I do think he does a good job at attempting to make Mark redeemable as well, and has a certain likability to him, even if 90% of the movie it isn’t there. Although that may be just me.
His entire performance is brilliant to me. The way he presents the already pretty outstanding dialogue definitely evokes strong emotion in the audience, from hatred, to laughter, to even pity at moments, and I think that’s exactly what an actor should do. I believe that if his performance faltered, the movie’s quality would drastically as well.
Secondly, I think Andrew Garfield also does outstanding. I kind of hated him as Spider-man but I can certainly say he redeemed himself in terms of his acting, to me personally with this movie. Strong emotion dominates a lot of his character, I would say. You can tell exactly what Eduardo (his character) is thinking/feeling if you pay any attention to him, and just how passionate about this project he is. More importantly, and interestingly, you can tell just how torn he is on his relationship with Mark. You can tell he loves him, but every instance of stupidity that comes through Mark hurts him a little. And as he perseveres, and things get worse, it’s visually clear how much it wears him down. It’s another great performance that pairs well with Jesse’s, and the dynamic duo really carry the movie together.
Outside of these two actors, I think the acting is better than most movies, but nothing to write home about. Justin Timberlake does a pretty good job at playing Sean Parker, but I don’t even think more good actors are necessary as the focus of the movie is rarely on these side characters. I might even argue that Andrew’s performance isn’t necessary to make this movie good, but it adds on another layer that’s nice to see.
The second thing I noticed about this film is the outstanding writing. The true beauty of the film lies within the character’s interactions with each other, in different contexts, and the writing is what drives that (as dialogue normally does). The first scene’s rapid-fire dialogue between Mark and Erica really is just the ultimate highlight of this. It portrays how their relationship works, how Mark’s mind works, and how exhausting it is to listen to him talk. This can also be partially given to the credit of the actors, but you can’t often make art out of bad dialogue, so I think the credit deserves to be evenly split.
For once in my life, I felt like I was watching actual humans speak to each other, and as you can tell, I find that to be a rarity. The writing and dialogue often make the character’s believable, and sometimes relatable (which is also impressive considering they’re trying to make geniuses relatable). I think this could be the best writing of dialogue I’ve seen in several years at the very least, and I don’t know what other movies come close.
Now, I want to point out that this movie is based on a book, The Accidental Billionaires, so not all of the credit may go to the writers of the screenplay itself. I haven’t actually read it, but depending on how closely it’s based on it, the writer of the original book could be the real hero here. And it also may be due to the fact it’s just based on a true story, however I don’t necessarily trust the exact memories of others, and I think either way it takes smart writing to take what those remember, and make it good again.
For those of you who don’t know, this movie is shot in three different time periods. The first, is the time at which the Facebook is being created back at Harvard. The second and third are several years later, in two different hearings for lawsuits against Mark Zuckerberg. This, however, is not linear, and constantly skips from one time to another more or less unannounced.
The fact that they can pull it off as well as they do is mind-boggling to me. Normally I would think this would make the movie more confusing, and/or worse, but instead it adds another element to the movie that makes it more interesting, intriguing, and just better to me. They constantly make callbacks to each time period, and the stories or scenes may get interrupted by indecision/arguing in the hearings, showing disputes over how it actually happened. Similarly to another movie I viewed recently, I, Tonya, it uses these different perspectives and scenes to add more depth, and I think this comes straight from the directing team. While the writers choose when to make scene changes in the script, the way the scenes are cut is incredibly key to determining whether or not the story is understandable, or just handled correctly. I think that alone illustrates the complexity and genius behind the direction of this film, and why I think it’s deserving of a lot of praise.
The last thing I noticed, yet probably the most impressive thing about the film is the amazing soundtrack. I’ve almost listened to this on a daily basis since first viewing the film, and it’s for good reason as well. It sets the mood of almost every scene change (excluding most of the cuts to the law offices) by often creating strong emotions from the start of each piece. The addition of lots of “digital” or “electronic” sounds does a good job at drawing attention to the time period that they are in at the time, and that they’re dealing with the first real “digital social empire,” and it’s just really good ambient music.
This shouldn’t be incredibly surprising, as it won Best Original Score at both the Golden Globes, and the Academy Awards, and was created by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross. They’re known for other famouns scores such as the one from The Girl With he Dragon Tattoo, so they’re known for their success. But nonetheless, it has put itself in my list of great soundtracks, and may reside at the very top at this exact moment.
There are certainly other things this film does well overall. There are small bits of cinematography that I do quite enjoy. There are a couple of clever shots that I want to bring credit to, just to bring credit to. This is slightly more spoiler-y: My favorite is one of the lawsuit scenes, and Mark states that Eduardo is still his best friend, but when it pans over to his chair, he’s no longer there. This goes to show that 1. He has no more friends, and 2. He doesn’t want to admit to Eduardo that he’s still thought of as his best friend because 3. As discussed in the very end of the film, and shown throughout it as well, he’s trying really hard to act like an asshole. I think the artistic genius of that one, 2 second pan and line is the single best part of the film, and it’s the smallest detail that no one would actually notice. Along with that, there’s another scene where the Winklevoss’s partner is going to see them in the rowing room, and on his way there, he passes over a bridge when people are rowing a boat underneath it, illustrating where he is going next.
Clever things like these are found throughout the film and probably only go noticed when you watch it four times, and take eight pages of notes on it, but I appreciate them nonetheless. Finally, although she isn’t displayed a lot during the duration of the film, I think the actress who plays Erica does a fantastic job as well, and although I said most of the side characters are not very interesting, I think hers is.
What I Think Overall
From what you can gather from the meat of this review/my thoughts, you can imagine I enjoyed the movie. I indeed did, wow! I think that as a whole, this may be one of the best films I’ve ever seen, up there with Midnight in Paris. I think all four of the things I mentioned, with added things of course, make up a great overall product that is great artistically, and just objectively. I can’t think of any glaring errors with the movie itself. Any character flaws are most likely due to the truth of the story, and I don’t feel comfortable putting it on the filmmakers themselves.
This all being said, I’m going to give this film a 10/10.