A movie about computer programming starring a curly-haired anti-socialite and a Disney pop star. Would you believe this is a Greek play?
Not in point of fact, of course, but The Social Network manages to give this contemporary plot the same evocative, disquieting and altogether empathetic human portrayal that you’d find in Euripides, Plato or Aristophanes. A slew of conscientious quandaries sets the edge-of-the-seat pace; when the lights finally come up, the audience blinks, breathless, like an ex seeing a change in Relationship Status.
With David Fincher behind the scenes, who can claim to be surprised? The director of Fight Club, Se7en and mid-production, world-renowned The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Fincher uses his immaculate timing in The Social Network not to cover up a hidden ending, but to highlight each character’s principles and resulting decisions. Fincher’s musical background makes itself known through the soundtrack’s intimate relationship with the plot, manipulating the audience’s emotions even further (you’ll understand when you fall headfirst into the canoe race scene).
This emotional entanglement is the film’s Ace in the pocket. Don’t expect to leave the theater with any sense of justice. You probably won’t even know which character you’re rooting for, if you command enough willpower to objectively analyze yourself in the middle of this cranium carnival ride. If Inception didn’t give you enough post-film digestion, make this your next movie-then-dinner evening.
A startlingly good cast plays puppet-master to the morality questions, letting ethical dilemmas jump and dance across their faces. Jesse Eisenberg (playing Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg) vividly brings apathy to life. He resembles a robotic dog, with his head half-cocked in that “I don’t understand you” way while all the information from throughout the ages stays tightly sealed inside his head. Without social skills, his genius has no outlet; he’s a contemporary Alice with a slew of 500 million imaginary Wonderland friends.
Andrew Garfield plays Eduardo Saverin, the original Facebook CFO and the Zuckerberg character’s only friend. He guides the audience through the film’s emotional stages, showing us in our most fragile, vulnerable role: loyal best friend. We’ve all put that level of trust in someone at some point – a sibling, a partner, a peer – and the choice inevitably arises: to take care of ourselves, or to take care of each other?
Justin Timberlake unexpectedly shines as Sean Parker, the defamed creator of Napster. You know that friend who’s successful, arrogant and absolutely happy with their life, until you get them behind a closed door and their eyes start to twitch? It’s worth watching The Social Network on the big screen just to get the full effect Timberlake’s slowly deepening crow’s feet.
The Social Network isn’t historically factual, but it is currently accurate; it’s a documentary of a state of mind, not a documentary of Facebook’s real-life origins. It spotlights the personal repercussions any one online action can cause, from social adjustments to legal claims. It illustrates the statements people contemplate, discard and eventually publish when they divine a new Status update in the middle of a normal day. It displays the social relevance of the “Relationship Status” feature.
Just like the classic Greek productions, The Social Network shows us our own humanity. Even if you can’t dictate Helen of Troy’s lineage, you still share in her betrayal. The personalization isn’t in the details; it’s in the commonality.
Facebook may crumble some day, just like Napster, MySpace and Rome, but its cultural effect on society has been forever captured by The Social Network. And that makes this film an instant, timeless classic.