The Social Network is one of the best films I've seen this year. It simply and surely reinstates the power of writing. It illustrates that when it comes to compelling cinema, the biggest and most expensive special effects can't match human drama and emotions. This film is a pleasure to both watch and listen to. And when it's over, you just want to go back in again, to catch all that you may have missed the first time.
The film, based on a non-fictional book named The Accidental Billionaires: The Founding of Facebook, A Tale of Money, Genius and Betrayal, is the origins story of Facebook, the social networking site, which at last count, had 500 million members.
If Facebook were a country, it would be third largest in the world, after China and India.
The Social Network tells us how this came to be. The film begins in Harvard, where the 20-year-old Mark Zuckerberg, played by Jesse Eisenberg, creates the site after being dumped by a girlfriend. The opening sequence, which reportedly required 99 retakes, tells us all that we need to know about Mark.
He's the quintessential nerdy, prickly, acidic computer genius who has no idea how to behave in social situations. So he tells his girlfriend that she doesn't need to study because she goes to Boston University, clearly not an institution that matches Harvard for academic rigor. Not surprisingly, she leaves.
The rejection prompts the creation of Facebook, which turns Mark into the world's youngest billionaire but also lands him in several lawsuits, including one filed by his best friend Eduardo Saverin, played by Andrew Garfield.
How much of this is true? The real Mark Zuckerberg has declared the film fiction but frankly it doesn't matter.
Because The Social Network is an epic portrait of power, politics and the pain that human beings so carelessly and ceaselessly inflict on one another.
Director David Fincher and writer Aaron Sorkin aren't interested in telling us what really happened. Cutting between the creation of Facebook and the subsequent lawsuits, they create instead a Rashomon-like film, which reveals many shades of truths.
So Zuckerberg is both the hero and the villain of the piece. The writing is razor sharp and the performances, excellent. Eisenberg with dead-cold eyes and shuffling walk is both frightening and desperately sad.
Garfield and Justin Timberlake, playing the seductive Sean Parker, are equally good. And special mention here for Armie Hammer who plays both the Winklevoss twins, blond, wealthy, physically perfect masters of the universe who sue Zuckerberg for stealing their idea and refashioning it into Facebook.
The Social Network isn't really a film about Facebook. You will savor its brilliance even if you know nothing about social networking. This is a story about basic human frailty and emotion. Don't miss it.