When reviews first started leaking for David Fincher's seventh film, initially intrigued movie fans were now practically salivating at the gob. Comparisons were made to the likes of The Godfather and Citizen Kane, but not by fanboy-type reviewers (or that quote machine from The News of the World) but well respected, seasoned critics like Todd McCarthy and Peter Travers - those dudes don’t hand out hyperbolic quotes easily. A lot of the time that can hurt a film, especially one so ostensibly understated as The Social Network. It was as enigmatic a release as they come.
Firstly the fact that Fincher signed on was surprising. He'd just been nominated for an Oscar for his work on the decidedly more epic The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, and was circling serial killer flick, Torso, as well as a couple of other projects. Evidently West Wing creator Aaron Sorkin's script, adapted from Ben Mezrich bestseller The Accidental Billionaires, was too good to turn down. A relatively mild budget of $40 million was set, and an inexplicably perfect marriage of director and material came together. Next Fincher cast a hot-off Zombieland Jessie Eisenberg as Mark Zuckerberg, with future Spider-Man Andrew Garfield as the films (arguably) sole sympatric character, Eduardo Saverin and Justin Timberlake as cocky Napster founder, Sean Parker. The casting of the latter in particular was unusual, but this was David Fincher for Christ sake, the man knows what he's doing.
It's fair to say that to fully take in The Social Network you need to see it more than once. Generally speaking I won't give a five star review to a film unless I've seen it at least twice, but the dialogue was is so rapid fire, it became more of a requirement than a luxury. For all the wordiness of the script it still moves wonderfully with seemingly not a word spewed in waste. It's that rare beast where every single main character has a purpose to serve, but feels real. Now how real they actually are may be anyone's guess - Zuckerberg has gone on the record to say the only thing they got right was his sweaters - but Fincher is a known stickler for the authentic; check out the behinds the scenes stuff on Zodiac for further proof of that. It's based largely on the testimony of those involved in the two lawsuits targeting Facebook founder, Zuckerberg - one challenging his claim to have created the site, the other from best pal, Saverin who was suing after having his shares in the company diluted. When you look at the story in more detail it sounds like it would make a good, if unspectacular film.
My reasons for having The Social Network as my second favourite film of the year are simple - I couldn't find anything wrong with it. There was a solid story there, but a brilliant script of said story was elevated even further by, probably, the best director of his generation. It's funny, tragic, stylish, witty and generally seamless. It zips along, leaving your head spinning come the end, but you still somehow have a whole feeling of all the main players. Your opinions on Zuckerberg as likeable or not don't really matter - the man is clearly a genius. Every film based on real people should make you want to go home and google all the folk involved - I'm still doing that 3 odd months after seeing it. A staggeringly pertinent triumph of filmmaking on innumerable levels, it will be studied at film schools for years to come.