I just want to get this out there right away and put the cards on the table so to speak: When I first heard about it, I had very little faith in this project. I was stupefied, confused by the thought of what attracted all this talent to this seemingly trivial story to begin with? Why would David Fincher and Aaron Sorkin possibly be interested in the story of the founding of Facebook? Surely they could have found something more important, more meaningful to apply their efforts to. After seeing the film, though, I realized that, of course, Fincher and Sorkin knew what they were doing all along. And furthermore that labeling this as "The Facebook movie" is really an insult to what Sorkin and Fincher were trying to and have succeeded in achieving with this film.
First and foremost, I have to take a step back and admire this film as a technical achievement. Despite seeming to be a departure for Fincher in terms of content and subject matter – which it is and then again isn't – the film is very clearly and undeniably a Fincher film. Re-teaming with his Fight Club director of photography Jeff Cronenweth, Fincher manages to create and capture that really unique look all of his films have. The cinematography is absolutely gorgeous – once again, Fincher proves that he is probably getting the best results in digital photography out of any other director working in that medium, and this film, shot on the RED One camera, looks absolutely beautiful, from the framing to the camera movement to the lighting and on to the look and the feel of the depth of field the RED captures.
Sorkin's script is also an impeccable achievement and showcases, once again just what a genius this man really is. From a structural standpoint it employs a very effective use of a framing device – the Zuckerberg lawsuit depositions, which introduce the various characters and lead into "flashbacks" of the events being discussed. It really lends the film a Rashomon air and intensifies the mystery behind the Zuckerberg character and what exactly transpired in the creation of this phenomenon, Facebook. Sorkin also demonstrates an acute awareness of character construction, and manages to create a loathsome protagonist we hate and are frustrated by but yet we still end up sympathizing with. Most of all, though, it's a showcase of Sorkin's impeccable writing style and knack for writing dialogue with a very unique sound and rhythm. I saw Fincher refer to it as "Sorkinese" in an interview, and this is a really good description – it is certainly very unique to Sorkin and the scripts he has written, and it is also certainly a completely unique language – one which normal people in our real world do not speak, but that just sounds great on screen. The rapid-fire, overlapping dialogue remains one of the highlights of the film for me, and the script is certainly a shoo-in for Oscar consideration.
The film is also a rare showcase of pure acting prowess, and features a very interesting and eclectic cast of young actors stepping out of their comfort zones and delivering some truly phenomenal work. The casting of the film is quite a departure for Fincher, who has enough clout to gather the biggest names working in the business. Instead, he opted to go for a cast of relative unknowns or up-and-comers, and really make stars out of them. First and foremost to be mentioned is Jesse Eisenberg, an actor I have personally been a fan of since The Squid and the Whale in 2005 and one whose work I have continued to enjoy since then. However, no matter how good he was in those previous films, none of his previous performances compare to his amazing achievement on this film. Stripping away his signature goofiness and neurosis, Eisenberg plays Zuckerberg as a cold, calculated and determined genius who knows what he wants, is very confident and forward-looking and will stop at nothing to get it. His counter in the film is Saverin, played brilliantly by Andrew Garfield, a name we will be hearing a lot more of of in the next few years: Saverin is a far more sympathetic character, more warm and inviting – these traits only increase the impact of the tragedy of Zuckerberg's betrayal of their friendship.
Many pundits and commentators have designated this to be the "film that defines our generation", and truly a "product of its time" in the most literal sense of the word. However, I'm not sure I like this designation, especially since once you watch the film, you very quickly realize that this isn't a story about the founding of Facebook; it's really a story of friendship, ambition and betrayal, a character study of this fascinating individual whose actions in the film happen to depict the invention of an online social networking site that gets out of hand and puts all of his relationships, especially that with his best friend and business partner, in jeopardy. All of the themes mentioned above are universal and can be applied to a number of fantastic films and works of fiction over the centuries, and that, I think, is the greatest achievement of the film.
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