The Social Network ★★★★★

DVD

I'm going to lead off by saying that within less than 3 minutes of revisiting this contemporary classic, I was almost stunned at its immediacy and relevance to this exact moment, RIGHT NOW. At the time of its release, it was praised for speaking for a generation that had just come of age, a monumental achievement in telling the story of the children of the internet. It is that, and it is so much more. From the moment it begins, it is shockingly clear how much Sorkin and Fincher understood this digital age, and their art strongly encapsulates this decade, even 8 years on from release.

Privilege. Gender dynamics. Misogyny. Exclusion. Cyber bullying. Countless elements are captured in the superbly paced opening scenes. The retaliatory response from Mark, and the disconnect a computer can create from viewing someone as an actual individual, is frightening in its reality. This terrifying aspect isn't lost on Fincher, a director who has made a career from examining the darkest elements of humanity, and he shoots these sequences with a similar upsetting mood. The halls of Harvard aren't inviting, but rather foreboding and cold.

Eisenberg's performance was a revelation at the time, and it still is. It's a perfect meld of artist and material, and nothing since has captured the same terrific marriage. This isn't the Zuckerberg in the public eye, the one that we witnessed testify before the Senate, but rather an embodiment of the potential achievements and harm we're all capable of reaching when we isolate ourselves from each other in pursuit of our goals. He's arrogant, insensitive, and a prick, but also a product of a world that has shown him the doorway to a specific definition of success and acceptance, then immediately slammed it in his face. It's a quality that Eisenberg effortlessly conveys in his greatest performance to date.

And the rest of the cast is simply STUNNING. Garfield broke out majorly with this and, to a lesser extent, NEVER LET ME GO, and it's a crime his work was under-appreciated. He is the Joseph Cotten/Leland in this tale, and his progressive fall is tough to watch, even with his cathartic closing tirade. Timberlake is inspired, tearing into each of his scenes with appropriate devilish charm and showmanship, while always hinting at the darker qualities lurking in the corners of his mind. The Winklevii are white male privilege to a T, and Hammer does a superb job playing both with appropriate cockiness and hurt-boy bafflement. Mara makes a massive impact in a relatively short amount of time, both as a character and performer, and it's still some of her best work. Even Dakota Johnson has a great one off scene that's ten times better than anything else I've seen her do. I mean, this cast was the FUTURE of film.

I could go on and on and on about how insanely well crafted this film is, even though we expect that from Fincher. Reznor and Ross' iconic score weaves in and out, meticulously edited and mixed with razor sharp precision, as is every single scene on screen. Sorkin's dialogue naturally crackles in its rapid fire, but the structure of his screenplay is perhaps the greatest triumph. Weaving together a narrative while intercutting between various depositions is so simple, yet gorgeously realized. Fincher moves everything along with ease, capturing the right amount of emotional weight while never losing the forward momentum, striking a perfect balance. And Cronenweth's eye is unparalleled, his use of shadows and light emoting the troubled darkness of the whole piece. His isolation of Mark in several key scenes is an effective touch as well.

Comparisons are occasionally made to CITIZEN KANE, and while this film doesn't embody the same type of daring and ingenuity in style and execution that pioneered everything about films we love today, it is not an unfair comparison. KANE is also the quintessential examination of an American man pursuing the dream of wealth and power while his true desires elude him. SOCIAL NETWORK is the same story for the digital age, and, for as fictionalized as it is, Mark does have his Rosebud. Quietly refreshing his browser as The Beatles begin to overwhelm the soundtrack, he has never appeared more alone than at this moment, where everything is in his grasp but an actual connection. It's an iconic ending, one that's indebted to classics of storytelling, and it's part of a masterpiece that will continue to win over film lovers for decades to come, I'm sure of it.

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