There’s a lot to like about the movie. Aaron Sorkin is a delightfully gifted writer, and he does an extraordinary job of turning a business story into gripping drama. The film opens with this deceptively-simple scene–director David Fincher frames it very formally–in which Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) gets dumped by his girlfriend (Rooney Mara, next year’s Lisbeth Salander). On another level, it’s a scene about talking, and a scene about words. Zuckerberg and Rooney constantly prod (or poke, even?) at each other by talking about how the other person talks, and the words they choose. It’s as if Sorkin is saying “this is going to be a talky film, so get settled in”. The scene apparently required 99 takes to shoot.
Eisenberg plays Zuckerberg as a kind of soulless schizoid , and he’s exceptional. He does understated work. So he’ll probably get overlooked for an Oscar, but he deserves consideration. It’s always harder, I think, to do less on-screen. This is why Meryl Streep, Claire Danes and Clint Eastwood are such fine actors, and why Gwyneth Paltrow is not. Eisenberg has been great in everything I’ve ever seen him in, and now should be able to write his own ticket in terms of his choice of roles.
Conversely, I didn’t much care for Andrew Garfield’s performance as Eduardo Saverin, the moral centre of the movie. Perhaps he was overshadowed by Eisenberg’s performance, but he felt miscast.
I’m a fan of David Fincher’s movies, and he did deft work in managing The Social Network’s fractured time line and multiple lawsuits. The movie did feel over-directed in places–there’s a tilt-shifted rowing sequence which feels dreadfully out of place–as if Fincher was concerned that the talky scenes couldn’t stand on their own.
Ultimately, The Social Network was an exceptional piece of movie craftsmanship, but I’m not quite sure why it’s getting such accolades. It isn’t, as some reviews suggest, the Citizen Kane for our time. In fact, a bit like Eisenberg’s Zuckerberg, it’s a bit hollow at its core. Fincher and Sorkin are brainy artists, and while The Social Network is incredibly smart, it felt a little cold, calculated and disaffected.
What did you think?