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.