By Brian Lafferty
October 5, 2010 (San Diego)--The Social Network is one of the year’s best films. That is not a label I apply to just any good film. What makes this movie special is how everything in it took me in. Very few movies this year engaged me as much as The Social Network. The writing, directing, acting, and every other aspect left me feeling genuinely spellbound. Every person involved gave one-hundred percent effort and it shows.
The story is very simple. Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) is a social outcast at Harvard but if you put him in front of a computer, he can do all sorts of amazing things. He hacks into Harvard’s database, pulls as many pictures of female students as he can, and invites the men to vote which women are the prettiest.
Later, two brothers want him to create a web site for them. Zuckerberg reneges, steals their idea, and creates Facebook. The movie is told in flashbacks (probably the reason why some critics have compared it to Citizen Kane) as Zuckerberg is being sued for millions by the outraged brothers.
The script is one of the year’s best-written. Every line of dialogue is full of meat and intelligence without sounding pretentious. Writer Aaron Sorkin puts every effort into the dialogue without trying too hard. This is very crucial because the movie is dialogue-based. Thanks to Sorkin’s smart writing, the movie is never boring.
The story may be simple but the characters could not be any more complex, particularly Zuckerberg. At first glance he is an unlikeable character but Sorkin gives us a good reason why we should care about him. Like Rodney Dangerfield, he gets no respect. He has very few friends. He steals the idea for Facebook not for the money but because he wants respect. This is something a lot of people (myself included) identify with. He doesn’t care if he hurts anybody and at times maybe isn’t even aware that he is.
The movie contains what I like to call the “David Fincher Look.” Prevalent in his movies, it features his trademark “dark” cinematography which suits the film well. There are a lot of shadows, especially on the characters‘ faces. The low-key lighting creates strong contrasts and a noir look. This is fitting for several reasons. The first is that it visually symbolizes Zuckerberg’s sinister nature and inner torment. Second, it is suitable for a college environment, particularly the feeling of walking across campus at night. Third, like all film noir movies with the same visual style typical of Fincher, there are no heroes in The Social Network.
When I go to a screening, I’m armed with a pen and a notepad. The Social Network made it hard for me to take notes because it required my utmost attention. Every line of dialogue is important. It was hard to look away, even if only for a moment. If I wasn’t listening to the rapid-fire, intelligent dialogue I was admiring the gorgeous, dark cinematography. All of these qualities are invisibly woven into the movie. They did not overpower me but took me in. There have been a number of good movies this year but very, very few of them have been as good as The Social Network.