MovieMantz Review: ‘The Social Network’

“…And the Geek Shall Inherit the Earth”

“The Social Network”
Jesse Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield, Justin Timberlake
Directed by David Finche

As excited as I get about great movies, I simply cannot remember the last time I loved a movie so much (and on so many levels) that it made my head spin.

But such was the case with “The Social Network,” and it’s not just because I’m addicted to Facebook (like 550 million other people around the world). Superbly directed by David Fincher (“Seven,” “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”) and brilliantly written by Aaron Sorkin (“A Few Good Men,” TV’s “The West Wing”), “The Social Network” soars as a riveting cinematic triumph that can be fairly described as the “Citizen Kane” of the 21st Century.

It all started back in the fall of 2003, when a heartbroken college student named Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) hacked into the Harvard database to create a popular interactive website. From there, the framework for Facebook was born, which attracted a number of collaborators and opportunists who may (or may not) have been responsible for transforming the overnight sensation into a $25 billion dollar company.

With that much money and power at stake, who can blame so many people for wanting to take credit for its inception? Among them were Divya Narendra (Max Minghella) and the Winklevoss twins (both, thanks to great visual effects, played by Armie Hammer), the scholars who first approached Zuckerberg with the idea to form a student networking website. Then there’s suave Napster creator Sean Parker (Justin Timberlake), who helped bring Zuckerberg into the big leagues.

But through it all was Eduardo Saverin (Andrew Garfield), Zuckerberg’s loyal and trusted confidant, business partner, financier and – perhaps most importantly – his only friend. It’s a friendship that was put through the ultimate test, as levels of greed, ambition, and betrayal of Shakespearean proportions led to Saverin being ousted from the revolutionary Internet phenomenon that he helped create.

It all adds up to an exhilarating and ultimately tragic character study that shares a variety of themes with “Citizen Kane.” Like that film’s Charles Foster Kane, Mark Zuckerberg is depicted as an ambitious genius whose quest for power led to the corruption of his soul. And where Kane presided over one medium that provided information (newspapers), Zuckerberg presides over another (the Internet).

But if Zuckerberg is Kane, then Eduardo Saverin is undoubtedly Jedediah Leland – the right-hand man who stood by his friend through the growth of his empire, only to see his relationship crumble as the quest for more power took its ugly toll. Zuckerberg even has a “Rosebud” to drive his motives, though without giving too much away, it’s safe to say that it isn’t a sled.

Jesse Eisenberg has made a career out of playing socially awkward nerd-types in films like “Roger Dodger,” “The Squid and the Whale” and “Adventureland,” but he takes it to a more complex level in “The Social Network.” Besides being a genius, Zuckerberg has no redeeming qualities whatsoever, and yet Eisenberg succeeds in making him a compelling and fascinating character to behold.

But if Zuckerberg is the brains behind “The Social Network,” then Saverin is the heart, and Andrew Garfield – currently earning rave reviews for his heartbreaking turn in “Never Let Me Go,” and soon to be seen donning the red-and-blue tights in the “Spider-Man” reboot – gives a terrific breakthrough performance. Just as strong in a supporting role is Justin Timberlake as Sean Parker, the charismatic Napster founder whom Zuckerberg idolizes like a rock star.

The actors have plenty to work with, since Aaron Sorkin’s screenplay – which is largely adapted from the book “The Accidental Billionaires” by Ben Mezrich – is so smart and well written. And though director David Fincher has amassed an incredible body of work, “The Social Network” is his best film yet, and it’s a true Oscar-contender in every sense of the word – regardless of whether its subject matter is here to stay or is just a fleeting moment in pop culture.

It should be noted that when it comes to factual accuracy, “The Social Network” has been called into question for taking a few too many creative liberties. But it’s still the stuff that great movies are made of, and Facebook will never be the same again. No wonder my head is still spinning.

Verdict: SEE IT!

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