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Review: The Social Network

There was a time when the response to the word Facebook was only, "huh?" Now we live in an age where many cannot go without it. Social networking has been primed for a lampooning for a considerable while and who better to deliver that than Fight Club helmer David Fincher and writer Aaron Sorkin?

If there a difference between dedication and obsession Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) doesn't know it. He created Facemash to spite an ex-girlfriend (Rooney Mara). Said site later grows to become so popular he crashes the network at Harvard. The Winklevoss twins want him to create the most exclusive site for Harvard students, but Zuckerberg is beyond that. He wants a billion dollar entity. Zuckerberg then spends the rest of the time defending it from the man he thought was a good friend in Eduardo Saverin (Andrew Garfield). And a lurid lifestyle never before experienced offered by Napster founder Sean Parker sends Zuckerberg to unparalleled heights right before the fall.

It's ironic that Zuckerberg created Facebook. A man that alienated from society, why create a social network? Because then he creates the rules, and you have to play by them. Eisenberg, for some time, has lamentably been labeled Michael Cera-lite, but he comes into his own in The Social Network. There is a lingering trace of malice behind Zuckerberg's cold eyes in the light of the reflection of his monitor and he has proven to moviegoers everywhere that he is his own man. Michael Cera couldn't dream of pulling off this performance.

The book struggled to get past the conventions of most rock n' roll biopics. The source material from which the film is based never elevates past debauchery and courtroom drama. Sure, the story lends itself to sex and drugs, but more was expected - whether it was a reflection of this generation, or a condonement of greed and excess in the aughts - and I can't help but feel it wasn't delivered. The film, however, exceeds everything expected of it. It's been compared to Citizen Kane as the film of its generation: a story of a young man who obtained everything he ever wanted and found out the taxing toll of getting what he wish for. I wouldn't hail The Social Network as a masterpiece yet, but after a few more viewings it could grow on me.

I had always been a fan of Sorkin's work on The West Wing and his script pops here with every barb hoisted between Zuckerberg and Saverin. Everything uttered onscreen feels alive and is delivered handily by Eisenberg, Garfield and Timberlake as the main triumvirate of Social Network. Garfield - recently casted as the new Spiderman - is superb here and in a different world where the Academy didn't vote for acting categories by who has paid their dues Garfield, and Eisenberg would get nominations.

By the way could they have cast a more perfect personification of everything that is celebrated in this country than Armie Hammer? He has it all: strength, wealth, and rugged good looks. As one man playing two of the most self-entitled people on Earth he does his job admiringly, even if I dislike the characters he plays.

The editing is superb. I don't want to spoil anything, but the way Fincher splices three ongoing stories at once simultaneously takes it to Memento-like levels of storytelling. This isn't his best work, but it is certainly his most polished. Trent Reznor's score infuses the film with a dance beat that continues long after Zuckerberg feels like leaving the floor.

I'd like to think we live in a world where Reznor's works and Daft Punk's Tron Legacy score could compete come awards season, but I don't think we're at that point yet. As with all of David Fincher's recent films, Jeff Cronenweth's cinematography is so distinctive you know it right away. Keep on the lookout for when Zuckerberg tosses a beer to one of Sean's friends, it's why filming in digital allows for new opportunities.

What needs to be asked at the end of The Social Network is this: are new technologies such as Facebook and Twitter bringing us together? Or merely putting up another wall?

***1/2 out of ****

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