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Justin Timberlake and Jesse Eisenberg
Jesse Eisenberg and Justin Timberlake create...

"The Social Network" | a film review by Gary Chew

GARY CHEW/Sacramento

"If war comes, who'll mix the martinis?" That’s a line F. Scott Fitzgerald could have written (but didn't) as conversation for "The Great Gatsby." A question quite similar could’ve been asked (but wasn't) by screenwriter Aaron Sorkin in the new film, "The Social Network," "If war comes, who'll score the blow?"

Well, that may be a stretch, even though every hare-brained genius back in 2003 portrayed in "Fight Club" director David Fincher's new movie couldn't care less about what's going on with their nation (America) in Iraq and Afghanistan. So, it's only cocaine they're worried about, but more so, how to promulgate the really hot chicks at Harvard on a freshly-devised social cyber network dubbed "Facemash." The guys are logging on and loving it while the gals are enraged, especially the ones who come in second in the visual heat races the women are put up for comparison online.

Meet a real person: Mark Zuckerberg, the brilliant young dude who breathed life into your very own Facebook page. Jesse Eisenberg ("Zombieland") plays Zuckerberg. To say that: how Eisenberg plays Zuckerberg in "The Social Network" approaches his being the world's smartest, young asshole would come close to an accurate impression. Zuckerberg is also identified at the close of the film as the youngest billionaire in the world, today.

Zuckerberg's conversation runs at the speed of an IQ of, at least, two-hundred-fifty, with wry, acidic retorts to the many people on his case shown in two parallel deposition scenes strung across a well-structured arc that are exquisitely edited among the "actual" progress and perpetration that was the genesis of the super fad: Facebook.

Sorkin takes his script, mostly, from a novel by Ben Mezrich with a very neat title, The Accidental Billionaires: The Founding of Facebook – A tale of sex, money, genius and betrayal. It's a good script: tight, succinct, always on-the-move, somewhat talky, but with dialogue so good that no one could ever think it up, ad lib, even young people who are this smart... uh... in the ways they are smart.

Wisdom runs in short supply among these loopy brains who are so technically savvy and quick with numbers and facts that, if you're over 26, you might be intimidated, old-timer.

But hey, this is entrepreneurial America in the computer age, right? A relatively small piece of the U.S. population pie has been able to technologically rake it in, even though a majority of America now hovers over or is already up to its mouse pad in soft poverty and foreclosure.

Andrew Garfield and Jesse Eisenberg
Andrew Garfield and Jesse Eisenberg

Zuckerberg and his Facebook co-founder/opponent, Eduardo Saverin (played by Andrew Garfield, soon to also be seen in "Never Let Me Go") collaborate on the cool, social networking idea, then become at odds (surprise!) as the project moves forward. Seems Zuckerberg gets too hooked-up with Sean Parker (played by Justin Timberlake), the guy who founded Napster and was, for a time, president of Facebook until blow blew his way just as cops enter the premises checking-out a disturbance complaint. Sorkin's "Network," which could also be a subtle celebration of sycophancy and elitism, depicts the Parker bust.

"The Facebook" was the original name used for the Zuckerberg creation. Parker advises Zuckerberg and his colleagues to lose the "The"...and just call it Facebook.

Two other characters in the film need a mention: the first is the role of Cameron Winklevoss, another Harvard student, who, with his brother, takes great issue with Zuckerberg's fast movements developing Facebook. Cameron is played by a striking and well-voiced actor named, Armie Hammer. You'll never guess who young Hammer's great-grandfather* was. Really.

President Obama's recently announced outgoing Director of the Economic Council, Lawrence Summers (as played by Dennis Urbanski) appears when he was president of Harvard. It's a bitingly humorous scene when the Winklevoss brothers lobby Harvard's headman about Zuckerberg's cyber slight of hand.

Female characters in "Social Network" are marginal, although they, as a gender, certainly put motivation into the skulls of the Harvard smartasses who are so adept at finding the right algorithm. Rooney Mara ("Youth in Revolt"), as Erica, is seen seldom as Mark's love interest. She's well fed-up with his bad bloggings of her. "Social Network" would have you believe that all women on the Harvard campus are beautiful and know how to party with only some showing smartz. Hmmmm.

Rooney Mara and Jesse Eisenberg
Rooney Mara and Jesse Eisenberg

Direction is fine. The acting, across the board, is, as well. Just remember: in this post MTV Age, you'll have to listen fast. All characters speak plain English---but very rapidly.

"The Social Network" is so well-done, and, let me say: slick, that it could slip by some in attendance that this "taken-from-real-life" story is proffered as a criticism; sort of a put down, as it were. Since Kevin Spacey is one of the executive producers and known for a keen social perspective, "Social Network" is surely meant to be critical  of these young attitudes even though they lie within a totally in-vogue technological phenomenon considered cool and awesome.

This past weekend "The Social Network" lambasted "Let Me In" at the box office. Golly, a creepy vampire movie following in the snowy footprints of the original Swedish version (from 2007) titled, "Let the Right One In." Both vampire movies are stunning. "The Social Network" is a good film, but it's not stunning. I don't know if the Oscar buzz now surfacing about "Social Network" is for real or PR-inspired, but give me a break... it's not that good. Although, its popularity, due to subject matter, might give the film a ticket-sales boost Academy people like to see in their nominated films.

"The Social Network" is already herding them into the cineplex, but I wonder if it would've been better titled without the "The."

* Once at Tulsa's Philbrook Art Center, I met Armand Hammer when part of his legendary art collection was on exhibition. Both awesome.

"The Social Network" official site.

Now playing. See Yahoo Movies-Tulsa for theaters and times.

Gary Chew can be reached at garychew@comcast.net,
Facebook.com/justin.playfair and Twitter.com/orwellingly.

Copyright © 2010, Gary Chew. All rights reserved.

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