I was sitting in the theater with my friends Brodie and Caroline, about to see The Kids Are All Right, when the trailer for The Social Network came on the screen. It was ridiculous, showing Facebook posts with a terribly dramatic version of “Creep” sung by a children’s choir. I started laughing: the movie was taking itself entirely too seriously: it’s about a website, for heaven’s sake. I turned to Brodie and Caroline and said, “This looks absolutely awful.” Then Caroline said, “Aaron Sorkin wrote the screenplay,” and my internal debate began.
See, I think Aaron Sorkin is a brilliant writer; I love The West Wing. If he wrote the screenplay, the movie was probably going to be good. But a movie about Facebook? I couldn’t quite believe that would be worth watching. When Justin Timberlake came on the Daily Show to promote it, which meant that I had to see the movie, I still wasn’t willing to put down the money and go to the theater. Even when everyone and her best friend started saying, “Oh my gosh, it’s so good,” I stayed away. But last week it arrived for me at the library. And last night—just before it won Oscars for Best Film Editing, Best Original Score, and Best Adapted Screenplay—I sat down to watch The Social Network. And, yes, it was pretty darn good.
For those of you who have managed to avoid the hype, I’ll give a brief synopsis. Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) creates a website that crashes Harvard’s servers and brings him to the attention of the Winklevoss twins (Armie Hammer) who are looking for a programmer for a Harvard-exclusive dating-site they’ve designed. At the same time, Zuckerberg turns to his friend Eduardo (Andrew Garfield) to help him fund and create The Facebook, an idea that may or may not have been influenced by the Winklevoss’s website. Eventually, when The Facebook takes off, Zuckerberg gains the attention of Napster creator Sean Parker (Timberlake) whose influence causes a rift between Zuckerberg and Eduardo. This plot is interspersed with flash-forwards to the two trials regarding Facebook that Zuckerberg faces from the Winklevoss twins and Eduardo respectively.
Sounds complicated? It kind of is, but somehow it is entirely followable. Even though the movie is terribly dramatic (though not quite as much as the trailer might lead you to believe), it didn’t bother me. A lot of that is due to Sorkin. Throughout the movie I often felt like I was watching an episode of The West Wing—even though the subject matter was entirely different. Though Sorkin’s fast-paced, witty dialogue is not how people speak in real-life, I find it so entertaining, I wish it were. Despite the fact that none of the characters were particularly likeable (so there was no one to cheer for), I was invested for the entire movie.
Eisenberg, who won me over when he hosted SNL a few weeks ago, portrayed Zuckerberg with a robotic simplicity, which somehow made his jerkish actions more explainable. This was the first movie I’ve seen Eisenberg in where I didn’t think of him as a poor man’s Michael Cera. Hammer made the Winklevoss twins a great enemy and managed to show each twin’s distinct personality so they weren’t always grouped as one person. And Garfield’s Eduardo was the only character who I felt any sympathy for—he did great. (Who’s excited to see him as the new Spiderman? I am!)
There’s been a lot of drama over how much of The Social Network is true and how much was creative license. It was based on The Accidental Billionaires by Ben Mezrich, who claims his book is entirely true. The librarian in me wants to sit down and research the veracity of the entire movie, but then I remember that library school has left me with no time to do that (ironic, no?).
In the end, despite entirely enjoying the movie, I’m giving it a 4/5. It’s certainly worth watching, but it also isn’t as life-changing and wonderful as some people may claim.
Watch Jon Stewart’s interview with Justin Timberlake
Buy the DVD