Sunday, October 10, 2010

The Social Network

THE SOCIAL NETWORK: This film was written by one of my favorites (Aaron Sorkin) and directed by one of my favorites (David Fincher) and it delivers on so many levels.

It stars Jesse Eisenberg as Mark Zuckerberg, one of the co-founders of Facebook.  It is loaded with stars, but of particular note was this blockbuster release featuring the next Amazing Spider-Man, Andrew Garfield.  Garfield plays Eduardo Saverin, the primary co-founder and original CFO of the organization.

This is a movie of the moment.  If not for the excellent writing and direction, I would say that this movie would be destined to quickly become a relic of our ever-advancing technological society.  The fact that Sorkin and Fincher were at the helm and their end product was so excellent, I think it will linger in the social conscious for a bit longer than it otherwise would have.  It is the start of a wave of biopics that feature things, rather than people.  Due out in the next year or so, is a Google movie.  It is not surprising to see these dramatizations are becoming big-Hollywood movies.  The things which we interact with on a daily basis compel us while we sit at our computers and of course we will also be compelled to go and watch them at the movies.

This particular story is based on the book THE ACCIDENTAL BILLIONAIRES by BEN MIZRICH.  I haven't read it (YET), but I know that it tells the origin tale of Facebook, having roots back in 2003 on the campus of Harvard University.  It follows the legal woes that Zuckerberg underwent along the way from its original formation up through its current incantation.  This story is criticized by some for taking liberties with some of the facts, but unless you are reviewing a documentary, there will always be some creative wiggling that is bound to take place in the dramatization of any events.  

Another of Mizrich's books, Bringing Down the House, also looked at a group of college students (also from the Boston area, in M.I.T.) as they attempted to use card counting to take millions from Vegas casinos.  That book is excellent, but its film counterpart, 21, fell a little flat.  Kevin Spacey starred in 21 and was also the Executive Producer.  He acted in the same capacity for SOCIAL NETWORK so perhaps he and Mizrich have some connection.  According to an older article (Moviefone Blog), Spacey also picked up the rights to RIGGED, a story of a Harvard student who changed the face of the oil industry. 

Regardless of how or why, I am glad this film was made.

Jesse Eisenberg has been referred to as the poor man's Michael Cera.  I offer to you that Eisenberg is the senior and more well-rounded thespian.  Regardless of how great Arrested Development or Superbad were, Eisenberg has made a much more steep rise to well-respected roles and he has cleared well out of the shadows of Cera.  (That said, I also love Michael Cera's awkward way of being and especially loved his pseudo-superhero turn in SCOTT PILGRIM, but Eisenberg is impressive in his own right and the comparison is no longer valid.)

Certainly that argument stemmed from Cera's Evan in Superbad vs. Eisenberg's James in Adventureland.  Both were helmed by Greg Mottola and both were different roles, except that people certainly had mixed expectations when it came to Adventureland, thinking it would be Superbad, Part II.  It was not.  Both of those films made my top-3 for each respective year and I look forward to Mottola's 2011 work, Paul, a sci-fi story set around a Comic-Con like event.

Lest I digress.  Eisenberg is excellent in this role and Zuckerberg is pportrayed as neither a villain or a hero.  He is portrayed as a kid who was clearly at the outset of social grops and this film documents his efforts to be cool.  Certainly, he is quite successful in his efforts.

The story is told in three parts, all interwoven with one and other.  It includes the flashback sequences that are the events that are being discussed in two separate legal hearings, which are the other two parts.  One of the legal hearings is Zuckerberg versus Eduardo Saverin, who was basically run out of his shares of Facebook through share-dilution for company expansion.  The other hearing focuses on claims that the idea for Facebook came from a two brothers, Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss, who were members of an elite society at Harvard who wanted to create an elite site for Harvard students to connect.

The three segments are seamlessly interwoven and information from each is related along the way with what you are learning in the other two.  It is a fascinating look at tech-creation and some of the scenes where people are "wired" and have been for very long stretches of time, are probably accurate with the kind of commitment it would take to generate these kind of sites. 

Make no mistake, Zuckerberg is a genius and many of the people behind Facebook were geniuses.  I sometimes wonder where I get the "tech-savvy" to build this blog, and then I remember it is only because there are programmers who have dumbed it down so I can edit using buttons rather than code.  Seeing a peek into this world was fascinating if nothing else, even for a biopic where you know liberties have been taken for the sake of cinematic value.  I for one would get in line to watch a documentary on the same topic.

Justin Timberlake plays Shawn Parker...yes, that Shawn Parker: the founder of Napster and the bane of Lars Ulrich's existence.  I did not know before I saw the first preview about his role in the proliferation of Facebook.  Timberlake plays this role well and even having grown up with an open disdain for all things boy band, I give him kudos for his part in this film.  Parker is portrayed as a wild card and JT pulls it off.

See this movie.  See it soon.  The longer you wait, the colder this topic will seem and digesting this material while Facebook is in the zeitgeist will enhance your enjoyment of it.

Read Mizrich's book when you can and check out his other works.  I am sure in part, they chose to adapt his book because he has a knack for writing in the manner of a crime-thriller/drama, even when if laid out on the table, the facts themselves wouldn't be nearly exciting.

The Reel Rhino says 5 of 5 horns and I tell you this is a must see for 2010.  Being that it is somewhat of a procedural piece, it isn't required viewing for the theater and this will probably play as good at home as it will at the cinema.  That said, this may be the best of what is playing right now, so if you need to pick a flick, keep this near the top of the list.

I think this was rated PG-13, but other than an F-bomb, some drug use, and some implied sexual activity, the movie was quite tame for this rating.

As a final word, I wanted to mention Trent Reznor's score.  It is a haunting backdrop that wholly adds to the ambiance of this film.  Reznor of course is the front man and creator of the band, Nine Inch Nails.  I will freely admit that NIN played a part in getting me pumped up to play some football (back in the day).  Reznor does have a history of what some would call, hard core techno-metal rock.  His tones are more subdued here and if you look through his back catalog, you actually will find some haunting melodies that are not-unlike what we have here.  The score adds well to the suspense and eerie mood that plays throughout the film.

That is all for now...I think R.E.D. opens this coming week and while I had hoped to see Let Me In or The Girl Who Played with Fire sometime soon, I think that R.E.D. will be my movie of choice for next weekend.  Brice Willis, Morgan Freeman, John Malkovich, Helen Mirren, and Mary Louise Parker, to name a few in that gem, it is based on a graphic novel about a group of retired CIA assassins.  It looks funny and action-packed.  If you have seen the trailer, Bruce Willis's move exiting the car into a gun fight is unrealistic, but exhilarating choreography.

The Reel Rhino 

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