The Social Network ★★★★½

The first twenty minutes of The Social Network, stopping right before the first deposition scene, contain my favorite sustained sequenced from a film in the last ten years. It highlights everything that I love about the film: the serendipitous marriage of Sorkin's fast-paced, overlapping dialogue and Fincher's weirdly appropriate, foreboding style; Trent Reznor's brooding, electronic score; and Jesse Eisenberg's detached, yet expressive performance as wunderkind and would-be billionaire Mark Zuckerberg. It speaks to the many strengths of the film that the most memorable moment from those first twenty minutes is the performance by a then mostly unknown Rooney Mara putting into words one of the best takedowns of the "Nice Guy" fallacy in recent memory.

Sorkin is well-known for his anti-Internet bent (it's everywhere in his work from The West Wing to the dreadful The Newsroom). For this reason, I remember thinking that the film was extremely biased against Zuckerberg, but this time around I started to see how the film both acknowledges his genius and his motivations without letting him off the hook for his more atrocious behavior. It's a balancing act aided immensely by Eisenberg's performance and it's truly affecting by the time the film closes with The Beatles's "Baby, You're a Rich Man" (a great musical choice in a movie filled with them). That said, trying to judge the film on accuracy of representation with respect to the real people is a futile task and I won't try: I look at The Social Network as a work of fiction first and foremost.

What makes The Social Network an essential film is the many modes it embodies throughout its runtime. At various points is a courtroom drama, an origin story about a misunderstood villain (containing its very own, "Et tu, Brute?" moment), and a critique of the privilege and entitlement exclusive to the kind of people that populate the upper echelons of American education and tech industry. It's this last element that truly resonates with me on second viewing, after five years of studying in Palo Alto surrounded by would-be Zuckerbergs. On the other hand, the theme of how the social networks have in a sense disconnected us from one another instead of opening lines for communication is present here, but it's smartly kept in the background. It's a subtle way of approaching the most obvious theme of this type of story, and it's not emphasized by individual story beats, but the final realization that Zuckerberg, the man reponsible for connecting so many people together, might be lonelier now than he ever was still hits me like few moments in recent cinema.

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