Director: David Fincher
Cast: Jesse Eisenberg, Justin Timberlake, Andrew Garfield, Armie Hammer Jr., Max Mingella & Josh Pence

David Fincher’s latest “Oscar-baiting” opus may actually deserve an award or two (unlike the horribly gimicky The Curious Case of Benjamin Button [2009]). For a film with a brash concept about a brash person, The Social Network is often times, fairly understated. The score (care of Nine Inch Nails’ Trent Reznor), the cinematography, and the bulk of the film’s performances are all calculated and well delivered. The movie rarely seems to be waiving it’s hands to pad it’s award tally (visuals, costumes, music, etc). Only the big guns, both lead and supporting actors, director, editor, and screenwriter appear to be calling for statues.
Jesse Eisenberg has quickly removed himself from Michael Cera’s shadow with his bill-topping turn as Facebook creator Mark Zuckerberg. He’s also cast himself as a more than able leading man–not in any classic sense, mind you–if you look at his work in The Social Network and his immensely Cera-like showing in Adventureland (2009).
The Social Network bucks the conventional chronology in favor of a double framed narrative. The controversial creation of the world’s most popular social networking site is constructed via flashbacks from five different parties in two separate lawsuits brought against Mark Zuckerberg. It’s a splendid trick that leaves the narrative center of the film off balance and questions both the accused and accusers as to the validity of their stories. With this editing device in play, The Social Network sets itself up as an unbiased observer, the court reporter maybe, in these two cases and ultimately in the creation of Facebook. This detachment is one of the real charms of The Social Network. (Though, screenwriter Aaron Sorkin does seem to have favored Zuckerberg and to a lesser extent the Napster huckster Sean Parker [Justin Timberlake] with the lion’s share of quality dialog.)
Once success and Parker step in, The Social Network enters zero-to-hero zone and starts to feel pretty rote. People get famous, get drunk, get laid, lose friends, abandon qualities they once had, change, and so forth. The creation story and original controversy are absolutely electric, but the cliches of quick acclaim and notoriety write themselves and require considerably less screen time than their given.
And the final three minutes mark one of the worst turns from a largely winning film I’ve seen since the closing seconds of last year’s An Education. The clearest and maybe single example of the film’s “editorial” stance on Mr. Zuckerberg is a weak toss-off of a line in the closing minutes. More galling is that after two hours worth of depositions given under oath, plenty of opportunities for the filmmakers to make a case, this comes unsolicited in an empty meeting room and tries to quickly explain away the complexities of the main character (whether he’s an asshole or not, he’s still complex) with some bogus arm-chair psychoanalysis. And maybe I’m too cynical, but the closing shot is also unnecessarily gimmicky and gives short shrift to Mark and attempts to “humanize” Zuckerburg.

But the triumphs of the first hour, Eisenberg (who would be right at home in Josiah Bartlet’s White House) and his delivery of Sorkin’s snappy dialog, and the fantastic, Oscar-worthy editing make it a worthwhile way to spend two hours. Plus, the closing song is so delightfully out of left-field.

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