‘The Social Network’: The Reviews Are In!

Critics rave about the 'sizzling ethical-dramatic question' that drives David Fincher's latest.

Facebook was recently valued at $33 billion. The movie about its founding should do about .09 percent of that total during its opening weekend at the box office, and Sony will be damn happy about it.

The studio is currently low-balling box-office estimates — all the better to manage expectations and post-opening buzz for a flick getting near-universal rave reviews — but experts suggest “The Social Network” could potentially flirt with the $30 million mark. David Fincher’s film is currently standing at 98 percent approval on the Rotten Tomatoes review aggregator, making it one of the year’s critical darlings, just a notch below “Toy Story 3.” Will positive word-of-mouth carry the movie past the mid-$20 million range and into the glorious $30 million realm?

Here’s what the critics are saying. What will you be saying after the weekend?

The Story
“The creators of ‘The Social Network’ — screenwriter Aaron Sorkin (‘The West Wing’), whose dialogue here is so sharp it could slice ribbons, and director David Fincher (‘Zodiac’) — have something tricky and emotionally complex up their sleeves. The story of how Zuckerberg put Facebook together, one Silicon Valley bong bash and venture-capitalist powwow at a time, is intercut with a pair of deposition hearings in which he faces down the two parties he ostensibly screwed over. The Winklevoss twins, Cameron and Tyler (both played by Armie Hammer, with body-doubling by Josh Pence), are super-WASP Harvard crew champions who accuse Zuckerberg of ripping off their idea for a website that will allow Harvard students to interface with one another. Then there’s Zuckerberg’s partner, CFO and only friend, Eduardo Saverin (Andrew Garfield), whom he ultimately leaves out in the cold. The sizzling ethical-dramatic question that drives ‘The Social Network’ is: Why did Zuckerberg betray these people? Or, in fact, did he really? — Owen Gleiberman, Entertainment Weekly

The Performances
“The script is filled with sharp, intense, witty writing, much of it performed at a thrilling rat-a-tat pace and played with sustained power. [Jesse] Eisenberg is at once furtive and bold and always unrepentant, Garfield is level-headed and decent, Hammer is very funny (and flawlessly rendered into two characters by Fincher), and [Justin] Timberlake, an increasingly impressive actor, has a merry time with his gladhanding jetsetter. Watch, too, as Douglas Urbanski steals a scene gloriously as Harvard president Larry Summers.” — Shawn Levy, The Oregonian

The Director
“It’s easy to see why the meticulous, technically gifted Fincher is drawn to Zuckerberg and the challenges of his story, and working from Sorkin’s best script yet, Fincher has struck perfectly the balance between calculated and human filmmaking. No single moment of the film stands out as a showstopper, but the cumulative effect of all the skill and talent on display here is devastating by the end, as we’re allowed to piece together for ourselves what this small story means for all of us.” — Katey Rich, CinemaBlend

The Dissenters
“If it is true that ‘The Social Network’ defines the decade, as an ad blurb states, then that’s just an accident of its shortcomings. We need to look deeper: It inadvertently defines an era when subterfuge and reprehensible behavior are accepted as a social norm — especially if it proves lucrative. No wonder mainstream media minions have flipped for ‘The Social Network’; they recognize the fiat of technological privilege.” — Armond White, New York Press

The Final Word
” ‘The Social Network’ is a great film not because of its dazzling style or visual cleverness, but because it is splendidly well-made. Despite the baffling complications of computer programming, Web strategy and big finance, Aaron Sorkin’s screenplay makes it all clear, and we don’t follow the story so much as get dragged along behind it. I saw it with an audience that seemed wrapped up in an unusual way: It was very, very interested.” — Roger Ebert, The Chicago Sun-Times

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