Facebook, Official 

David Fincher crafts a great film on an allegedly unlikely subject.


The Social Network has been a minor running joke ever since the project was announced more than a year ago. A movie about Facebook? With Justin Timberlake? Ridiculous, right? But anyone rolling their eyes wasn't reading the fine print: The project, based on Ben Mezrich's book The Accidental Billionaires, was being directed by David Fincher, who has never made a dismissible film and who was coming to the project on a roll, following his best film — the obsessive procedural Zodiac — with his most celebrated — the multi-Oscar-nominated The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.

Snickers and doubts aside, The Social Network is based on a terrific story: a revolutionary (for better or worse) idea and billion-dollar business first developed in an undergrad dorm room. An all-American tale of an awkward, striving outsider who rather unhappily gets what he thinks he wants, the film's antihero protagonist, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg (Adventureland's Jesse Eisenberg in an intense, compelling performance), is presented as something of an Internet-age Gatsby or Kane — but in a Gap hoodie and ever-present "fuck you flip-flops."

The Social Network is about big topics: power, privilege, technology, communication, generational upheaval (the few over-30s onscreen watch from the sidelines, perplexed), and rapidly shifting social mores. But it tackles all this via an intimate, funny, suspenseful intellectual procedural.

But what really makes any film is not what it's about but how it's about it. And, in this case, the telling is even better than the story.

Fincher's film opens audaciously with a static pre-credit scene that pits Harvard undergrad Mark against his Boston University girlfriend, Erica (Rooney Mara, who will star in Fincher's upcoming adaptation of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo), at a college bar. Screenwriter Aaron Sorkin's trademark quick, brainy patter is in overdrive, as Mark patronizes his girlfriend ("You don't have to study. You go to BU.") until, exasperated, she delivers the coup de grâce: "Listen, you're going to be a very successful person in computers. But you're going to go through life thinking that girls don't like you because you're a nerd. And I want you to know, from the bottom of my heart, that that won't be true. It'll be because you're an asshole."

This scene establishes all of Mark's motivations: romantic resentment, jealousy of his more-privileged WASP classmates, the urge to not only prove his brilliance but rub everyone's face in it. "The ability to make money doesn't impress anyone around here," Mark tells Erica of his Harvard experience. This establishes that his goal isn't wealth, but it also reveals that it is impressing people.

When Mark retreats to his dorm room for a night of belligerent, drunken programming that becomes the seed of Facebook — hacking into various dorm photo logs to create a sexist hot-or-not program, Facemash — Fincher shifts into the style that will drive the rest of the film. Locking into rhythm with a propulsive score from Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross and rat-a-tat-tat dialogue from Sorkin, Fincher's quick but assured editing and shifting but natural camera completes a hypnotic union.

As a piece of pure filmmaking, The Social Network is like Fincher's brilliant Zodiac on speed. It lacks the grandstanding of showier work like Se7en, Fight Club, or Benjamin Button but burrows obsessively into its material, maintaining its grip for a tight two hours. And it's paced like a pop song.

Structurally, The Social Network tells the Facebook development story in straightforward fashion but encircles this narrative with two later deposition scenes that essentially form the film's present tense, bopping skillfully among all three narrative tracks. One deposition is part of a lawsuit from Zuckerberg's onetime friend and business partner, Eduardo Saverin (Andrew Garfield), who claims to have been wrongfully forced out of the company. The other is from a trio of blue-blood Harvard students who had hired Mark to program their own university-specific dating site (Harvard Connection) and now accuse him of stealing their idea. Along the way, Timberlake shows up as Napster co-founder Sean Parker, a hedonist and gambler who may be the devil on Zuckerberg's shoulder but also offers some fruitful advice before his ignominious exit.

Ultimately, The Social Network isn't much more concerned about the outcome of these lawsuits than Zuckerberg seems to be. Like Citizen Kane, it's more focused on how to explain a man's (or maybe manchild's) life — in this case, on the extent of his asshole-ness. And in this we-live-in-public world, appropriately, Rosebud is a constantly refreshing web page and a pending friend request.

Keep the Flyer Free!

Always independent, always free (never a paywall),
the Memphis Flyer is your source for the best in local news and information.

Now we want to expand and enhance our work.
That's why we're asking you to join us as a Frequent Flyer member.

You'll get membership perks (find out more about those here) and help us continue to deliver the independent journalism you've come to expect.



The Social Network
Rated PG-13 · 120 min. · 2010
Official Site: www.thesocialnetwork-movie.com
Director: David Fincher
Writer: Aaron Sorkin
Producer: Scott Rudin, Dana Brunetti, Michael De Luca and Ceán Chaffin
Cast: Jesse Eisenberg, Justin Timberlake, Brenda Song, Joseph Mazzello, Rooney Mara, Andrew Garfield, Max Minghella, Trevor Wright, Dakota Johnson and Stream


Now Playing

The Social Network is not showing in any theaters in the area.

Comments (3)

Showing 1-3 of 3

Add a comment

Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-3 of 3

Add a comment

    • Vice

      Christian Bale transforms into Dick Cheney in this blackest of political comedies.
    • 2018: The Year In Film

      Chaos, power, and love at the multiplex


Hungry Memphis

Midtown Donuts Opening February 1st

Fly On The Wall Blog

On Gannett, The Commercial Appeal, and Digital First

News Blog

Memphians Vie to be Best Pinball Player in State

Music Blog

Listen Up: Bailey Bigger

Politics Beat Blog

No Surprise: Strickland Announces for Reelection

News Blog

Midtown Store to Re-Open Under Safety Conditions

Hungry Memphis

Rizzo's Closing (temporarily) for Repairs

Intermission Impossible

Addicted to Capote? Cloud9 and Mark Chambers tell Tru Stories


More by Chris Herrington

  • Last Words

    In "Enough Said," James Gandolfini makes his last lead film role his best.
    • Sep 26, 2013
  • Masters of Sound

    New albums from two of Memphis’ most distinctive stylists.
    • Sep 19, 2013
  • Hayes Carll at the Hi-Tone

    • Sep 19, 2013
  • More »

Readers also liked…

  • Death Grip

    Memphis filmmaker Sam Bahre talks about his 11-year struggle to create I Filmed Your Death.
    • Apr 19, 2018
  • Fifty Shades Freed

    Feature length commercial for luxury goods or chilling glimpse into the post-human future?
    • Feb 16, 2018
  • Wonder Woman

    Gal Gadot stars as the Amazing Amzon in this long overdue triumph
    • Jun 9, 2017
© 1996-2019

Contemporary Media
460 Tennessee Street, 2nd Floor | Memphis, TN 38103
Visit our other sites: Memphis Magazine | Memphis Parent | Inside Memphis Business
Powered by Foundation