The Social Network opens with two college students sitting in a pub discussing various things that have happened during their day. Mark (Jesse Eisenberg) jumps nervously from one subject to the next, sometimes seemingly discussing three things at once. Erica (Rooney Mara), his girlfriend, trying to calm him down, decides that perhaps the safest topic of conversation would be the curriculum at their respective schools, Harvard and Boston U. This sets the stage for us to bear witness to the most awkward breakup in cinema this year, and to watch David Fincher (Fight Club) and Aaron Sorkin's (The American President) attempt to craft a Citizen Kane for the 21st century.
During the course of the film we are witness to how cruel Mark treats those around him. Ridiculing Erica online on a public blog, setting up a HotOrNot-esque site featuring Harvard females that makes him one of the most reviled students on campus, and using his friendship Eduardo Saverin (Andrew Garfield) to his advantage at every opportunity.
Then comes the first instance within the movie where we start to question exactly who came up with the idea of Facebook in the first place. When word of his exploits hits the student paper, some upperclassmen take a meeting with him. They have an idea for a dating site which would involve only Harvard alumni, and they want Mark to help them develop it. Mark takes their plan, strips it, keeps the basic layout, and creates Facebook.
The film is framed by two lawsuits being mediated at the same time. One is Mark and Eduardo defending themselves against allegations that they stole Facebook from the students in the above situation. The other is Mark defending himself against Eduardo after destroying any ownership Eduardo could claim after Facebook became a success, despite Eduardo providing the sole financing for the company's startup.
The movie casts Justin Timberlake in the role of Sean Parker, creator of Napster and paranoid genius. Despite shooting down Eduardo's earlier attempts at procuring advertising revenue for the site, Mark falls immediately under Sean's spell and begins taking meetings with investment groups. Moving to the west coast for the summer only hastens the divide in the friendship, and before long Sean has worked his way from mentor to second-in-command of the company.
Fincher continues to surprise me as a filmmaker. Moving from genre to genre, perhaps the most impressive detail about this film is the running time. Everyone that worked on this film knew that they were telling an important story about this generation, and it would have been well within their rights as artists to have let this film become bloated. I fully expected this to be full of scenes that could have been noticeably cut without hurting the film, but Fincher (working from Aaron Sorkin's script) really did a fantastic job at getting this completed at 2 hours.
Sorkin's script? A masterpiece. I don't know if he has always wanted to do an update of Kane and this was the opportunity that presented itself, but he did a masterful job scripting this film. To take a billionaire of today that from all outward appearances doesn't care much for money, and to make his own personal Rosebud a stupid mistake he can't help making. Sorkin is the first surefire Oscar nominee of the year.