The Facebook movie. That’s what The Social Network was called by many when it was announced that they were making a movie about the company, as – I guess – some people thought it would be an adaptation of the site. Of course, when writer Aaron Sorkin and director David Fincher came in, and it was revealed to be a movie about the creation of Facebook, not an adaptation of the site itself, it went from a “huh” to a must see, and now Academy favorite. Jesse Eisenberg stars alongside future Spider-Man Andrew Garfield, Justin Timberlake and Armie Hammer in a film about how Facebook was born of ruined friendships and relationships. The film aims to be a generationally defining film, and it mostly succeeds.
Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) begins the film arguing with his soon-to-be ex-girlfriend Erica (Rooney Mara) about final clubs and rowing. She dumps him because he’s socially awkward and heavily class conscious, he’s mean to people below him, and resents those ahead of him. He then goes home, writes nasty things about her on his blog, and then creates Facemash, a website where the reader compares two women (mostly likely women they know) and pick who is hotter. This crashes the Harvard servers and gets the attention of Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss (Armie Hammer) and Divya Narenda (Max Minghella). They want him to make a website called “Harvard Connection,” selling the exclusivity of Harvard’s email accounts to create the newest MySpace. Mark instead starts a site with his friend Eduardo (Andrew Garfield) called The Facebook. It launches and quickly spreads all over campus, which raises their profiles, and gets them groupies… but Erica still won’t talk to Mark. They keep expanding, and Eduardo wants to monetize the site, when in steps Sean Parker (Justin Timberlake). The creator of Napster, Sean is a great nerd wheeler and dealer, and gets Mark in with some of the right people. But as he grows more successful, he alienates Eduardo, and is also facing lawsuits from the Winklevosses, while Parker’s lechery and pettiness begins to shine through to Mark. At the center of the film is the question: is anything making Mark happy, or if not happy, then has he forgotten about Erica?
Mark is a kid for much of the film and a billionaire by the end of it. Like Charles Foster Kane, we are presented early with the idea of the thing that he wants that he can never have. And like so much of modern living, Zuckerberg is constantly connected to everyone, and yet spends much of the film alienating himself and alienated from those around him. His hatred of most people is prevalent, and he comes across as isolated from almost everyone but Sean Parker. But the incoherence of his distaste is tied into a sense of entitlement: The Winklevoss are everything that he fears his ex-girlfriend would want; Eduardo does well in an audition for a final club, and it seems to piss Mark off. Mark is never happy for anyone else, and even public affection from groupies only momentarily distracts him. In a lot of ways Mark is the perfect face for the internet era.
From a behind the scenes standpoint, you’ve got Fincher and Sorkin, and they know how to write and direct. It’s a great match: As it’s a talky film, Fincher finds ways to make it as cinematic as he can – though I think he goes a little too far with a crew race sequence set to “In the Hall of the Mountain King.” As a set piece it’s entertaining but it also stops the film cold and – like some elements of the film – seems to be laughing a little too hard at the Winklevosses. That the twins are both from an old world of privilege and chumps is essayed, so when it’s underlined, it’s unfortunate. Plus the music cue is so familiar. But it’s a small moment in an otherwise brilliant movie. Better is the film’s opening stomp to The White Stripes’ Ball and Biscuit, and the amazing tennis Eisenberg and Mara play as their relationship ends. But probably the best sequence in the movie is when Zuckerberg creates Facemash, shows what leads to it, and how quickly it catches on. With that, you buy that Mark has a gift.
Ultimately, there are films that are going to be remembered, films that swing for the fences and try to say something about our world, and where we are in humanity. The Social Network is one of those films, and as such, whether it wins awards or not, it’s going to be around for a very long time.
Sony’s Blu-ray presents the film in widescreen (2.35:1) and in DTS-HD 5.1 surround. This was shot digitally, so the transfer improved on my theatrical presentation. I don’t know how this material could look any better. The film is on the first disc, with two commentaries, the first with David Fincher, and the second with Aaron Sorkin, Jesse Eisenberg, Armie Hammer, Andrew Garfield and Justin Timberlake. Sadly, Timberlake does not bring sexy back, but everyone is fully engaged, and Fincher is a pro at this by now. He has a great sense of humor about his process, and digs into it, while the performers are – at times – painfully honest about their work.
Disc two offers the feature length documentary “How Did They Make a Movie out of Facebook?” (93 min.) with comments from all the commentators, along with Rooney Mara, Brenda Song, Max Minghela, Kevin Spacey and more. David Fincher has been working with DVD producer David Prior for over a decade now, and the two are great at cutting the bullshit and highlighting different aspect of the production process, with some time dedicated to how Armie Hammer and Mike Pence played the Winklevosses. Jeff Cronenweth and Fincher get a section to talk about the visuals (8 min.), shooting on the Red and shooting at Harvard, while editors Angus Wall, and Kirk Baxter and sound mixer and sound effects editor Ren Klyce get their own section to talk about the post-production process for the film (18 min.). Then there’s a piece on composers Atticus Ross and Trent Reznor (19 min.), who deservedly get a spotlight for their work on the film. This is followed by “In the Hall of the Mountain King: Music Exploration” (3 min.), and it offers a first and final mixes and music only versions of the crew race. “Swarmatron” (5 min.) highlights one of Reznor’s sound machines, and impressive machine that takes over a room. Finishing the supplements is a multi-angle featurette on the “Ruby Skye VIP Room,” (20 min.) with angles on Rehearsal, the tech scout, interviews and principal photography.