There isn't much more to be said about David Fincher's The Social Network, but I've now seen it twice and both times I've come away endlessly entertained, intellectually massaged and a little touched at its subtle outbursts of human sympathy and its scope of a species trending towards social inadequacy.
It's a talky, snappy, back-stabbing tale about the genesis and growth of Facebook at Harvard around late '03 and '04, a delicate, never demonstrative encapsulation of the internet generation, and finally a tragicomic character study about a man so socially awkward, he invents his own form of communication, only to wilt and crawl into his own wealth and creation.
It's not quite as grand or opulent as David Fincher's Zodiac, but The Social Network is certainly cut from the same cloth, like a lunch-sized portion of the real deal - the same stuff, smaller portions, just filling enough.
The way the film bounces back-and-forth (Kirk Baxter and Angus Wall's editing is remarkable) between the here and now, from deposition room to dorm room, from black comedy to obsessive tragedy, the film bears Fincher's fingerprints from start to finish and would make for one hell of a double-feature coming on the tail end of that epic, sprawling serial-killer saga.
Justin Timberlake plays Napster founder Sean Parker, a showy master spokesman and entrepreneur who becomes linked together with the expansion of Facebook shortly after a blurry meeting with the co-founders in sunny California. His performance is getting buzz, but honestly, it's an empty role - flashy but thin, airy - and he's upstaged by his boys from Harvard.
As Eduardo Saverin, Andrew Garfield (the future Peter Parker) is the heart and soul of the film, a good-hearted friend whose betrayal at the hands of his best friend anchors the emotional impact of the film's final ten minutes and his confrontation scene is a stunner.
But it's Jesse Eisenberg as the mysteriously chilly Mark Zuckerberg who gives the master performance and certainly his best to date as the young whiz driven by his social downturns to both make it big and enhance or conceal his deficiencies.
He's not an easy character to like - he's witty yet ruthless and greedy, but Eisenberg brings so many layers to him that there's a palpable feeling of guilt and aloofness in the final scenes, allowing us to peak past the asshole facade that so troubles him.
The Social Network may not be the "defining film of our generation" or deserving of any other lofty, ambitious taglines as such, but as a modern-age depiction of greedy, generation-next human nature, it's ravishing, splashy and the scariest kind of true story. [A-]