“Relentless” is how a friend astutely described David Fincher’s soulless direction of The Social Network, a melodrama about the genesis of Facebook, a globally successful social-networking Website. A graduate of Madonna and Paula Abdul music videos, and the Spielbergian director of such trash as Se7en (1995), Zodiac (2007) and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008), Fincher had not made a single decent film; but this one, unlike the others neither sick nor sentimental, actually becomes more interesting, if not quite riveting, as it proceeds. This coincides with the progressive deepening of Jesse Eisenberg’s bravura performance as Mark Zuckerberg, who became a billionaire as Facebook’s young founder, but who was accused of having appropriated the idea for Facebook from fellow Harvard undergraduates. Indeed the film, which scenarist Aaron Sorkin adapted from Ben Mezrich’s book The Accidental Millionaires, is structured as flashbacks attached to two hearings both involving lawsuits against Zuckerberg that he financially settled before they went to trial. One notes that Zuckerberg, according to the film, was not driven by greed or capitalistic enterprise for whatever he did or did not do, but by arrogance, an acute sense of alienation and social frustration, and a spirit of personal vengefulness. He is initially not at all likeable, but as Eisenberg portrays him he becomes increasingly tolerable, even engaging, and borderline pathetic.
This is the way with the film as well. One knows from his previous work how distressingly troubled Fincher is, but at least he has found here a subject that allows him to come close to acknowledging this fact openly. Moreover, Sorkin has given him some cool wit with which to work—a lightening of Fincher’s signature load of loathsome creepiness. However, it remains the case that Fincher has not come up with a single good shot; every one in this film has been devised by a pedestrian eye, one with no greater interest than advancing the plot. It is television-level work none of which gets a grip on an online phenomenon that has now helped facilitate popular uprisings in Iran, Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen and elsewhere.
Numerous prizes for Fincher, Sorkin, the film, Eisenberg.
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