The Social Network | Our First Look

October 23, 2010

I was absolutely fascinated by The Social Network on several different levels.

The screenplay for the film was written by Aaron Sorkin. In Bringing Back The Hollywood, I discuss the stark contrast between how screenwriters have been devalued in The New Hollywood and how lionized writers were in The Old Hollywood.

In The New Hollywood, writers are considered to be as expendable as yesterday’s coffee grounds. Writers are hired and fired so many times that the script loses any cohesion it ever may have had in the first place and whatever point of view may have existed is sometimes altered forever. It’s not unusual for six, eight, even ten writers to have a hand in the literary Swiss cheese that usually passes for a screenplay in The New Hollywood.

Aaron Sorkin is one of the few writers today who is given the respect and leeway to cut through all that clutter. From the very first scene of The Social Network, an extended and brilliant dialogue at a bar, we know that we are in the sure hands of a writer who knows and reveres both dialogue and character development. We may eventually be horrified at the actions of some of the characters but we see them as real, living, breathing human beings with whom we can identify.

Mr. Sorkin seems to me to be a lock to receive an Academy Award nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay (the film is based on a book).

On another level, the film is brilliantly cast with promising young actors. Jesse Eisenberg’s portrayal of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg is nuanced, deep, and sensational. As are Andrew Garfield as Zuckerberg’s best friend and partner Eduardo Saverin and Rooney Mara as Erica Albright.

If Helen of Troy was the “face that launched a thousand ships”, Ms. Albright seems to have been the friend that launched 500 million users of Facebook.

Perhaps most surprising is the terrific performance given by Justin Timberlake as Sean Carter, the founder of Napster. Anyone who thought that Timberlake was just a pop star is in for a revelatory surprise. Timberlake is a very, very good actor.

Most fascinating is the portrait the film paints of brilliant, driven, ambitious, and often ethically challenged young people in the first decade of this new century. Facebook is one of the most breathtaking successes of the computer age, going from a late-night revenge prank in 2003 to a 25 billion dollar enterprise with 500 million subscribers just a few years later. When something explodes with that kind of velocity, choices are presented along the way that confront people with varying versions of what’s “right” and what’s expedient. In the hands of a brilliant screenwriter like Aaron Sorkin, and the subtle direction of David Fincher, we may recoil at some of those choices, but we recognize the people who make them as real, three-dimensional, fascinating-albeit-flawed human beings.

Too bad The New Hollywood only distributes these kinds of films in the last 3 months of the year. And they wonder why so many people have abandoned movie theaters?

The Social Network will, I believe, stand the test of time as a searing portrayal of life choices and genius in modern day life. Altogether, it is a brilliant, engrossing, and fascinating film.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Andrea Goeglein December 14, 2010 at 11:12 am

I agree on every point. I walked out of the movie feeling that Jesse E may never find another acting gig since he portrayed the character so fawlessly that I could not separate the actor from the script. And Justin Timberlake was so outstanding I was into the movie very deeply before I realized it was him. I don’t care about how accurately the movie portrayed the real story, what I know is that the story that was on the screen was perfect from script to acting and back again. Want to see several more times.

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Stephen Simon December 14, 2010 at 1:28 pm

I watched the “real’ Mark Zuckerberg on 60 MINUTES 10 days ago…and it really seemed like Jesse Eisenberg did nail the character…
Zuckerberg talked a bit about the movie, saying for instance that the whole jilted boyfriend thing never happened and that he has had the same girlfriend since before Facebook was created…but….I know film company lawyers and that film never would have been made if there was any chance at all of a lawsuit…and Zuckerberg never sued or threatened to sue…so I have to believe that there is more truth in the film than Zuckerberg would have us believe….still,as you noted, it is an amazing movie and an amazing success story….

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Carl Darchuk December 14, 2010 at 4:13 pm

Funny the power of movies. People thing Zuckerberg is doing an impression of Eisenberg.

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Stephen Simon December 15, 2010 at 12:16 pm

Hey Carl—so great to see you that you have joined us here….it’s been a long time since we last connected—welcome!…Stephen

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