On the surface, the story of a website's genesis would not seem likely to yield a dramatically compelling movie. But The Social Network has enraptured critics, earning a stellar rating at Rotten Tomatoes — only two reviewers, including the notorious contrarian Armond White, had dissented as of October 1, the film's release date. Scripted by Aaron Sorkin (A Few Good Men, NBC's "The West Wing") and directed by David Fincher (Fight Club, Zodiac), the film is essentially a biopic of Mark Zuckerberg, the brilliant, awkward founder of Facebook who employed what many consider Machiavellian tactics to emerge from Harvard as a Silicon Valley wunderkind. Why is The Social Network so good? (Watch a trailer for The Social Network)
It perfectly encapsulates today's world: "The Social Network is so of-the-moment that the White Stripes counts as a period signifier," says Eric Hynes at The Village Voice. Fincher is able to tease out truths about "the way we live now" by "[retracing], step by step, just how we arrived here." It's destined to become a cultural marker: "Just as our collective memory of Watergate includes Dustin Hoffman and Robert Redford, so will we look back on Generation Facebook with a vision of Jesse Eisenberg [who stars as Zuckerberg] in a hoodie and shower shoes."
"The medium is the message in David Fincher's present-tense Social Network"
Great filmmakers, great performances: Fincher and Sorkin "both do the best and ballsiest work of their careers," writes Peter Travers at Rolling Stone, but the acting in The Social Network is superlative too. Jesse Eisenberg "delivers a tour de force," Rooney Mara plays Zuckerberg's girlfriend "like a gathering storm," and Justin Timberlake is "phenomenal" as Napster impresario Sean Parker. Most impressively, Andrew Garfield, who plays Zuckerberg rival Eduardo Saverin, is "shatteringly good, the soul of a film that might otherwise be without one." This is "the best movie of the year."
"The Social Network"
It's reminiscent of an all-time classic: The Social Network may center around modern communication, but "half the time I sat there marveling at the similarities of the story, themes and structure to Citizen Kane," says Todd McCarthy at indieWIRE. "Stylistically and in feel, the films have nothing in common," but they explore classic kinds of characters — "difficult, unruly men whose lives fascinate because of the extraordinary things they did but also because of the callous ways they treated those closest to them."
"Review: The Social Network"
RELATED: 6 new scientific findings about Facebook users
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- Here's the schedule very successful people follow every day
- Why you should really take a nap this afternoon, according to science
- What would a U.S.-Russia war look like?
- 7 grammar rules you really should pay attention to
- A gay Mormon's complicated journey
- Why you shouldn't eat dog. Not even once.
- How to flirt, according to science
- 7 things the world's happiest people do every day
- 9 things you probably didn't know about the moon
- How social conservatives became a minority in need of protection
Subscribe to the Week