THE SOCIAL NETWORK
Directed by David Fincher
Produced by Scott Rudin, Kevin Spacey and Michael DeLuca
Screenplay by Aaron Sorkin
Based on the book “The Accidental Billionaires” by Ben Mezrich
There’s a very, very old saying that money changes you. I don’t agree with that. I think money just makes you more of whatever it is you already are. So if you’re a sweet, wonderful, generous, giving person before you fall into a haystack of money, after you do so you simply become sweeter, more wonderful, generous and giving. On the opposing appendage, if you were a horse’s behind before you hit the lottery…
I was thinking about this while watching THE SOCIAL NETWORK and seeing how his success in designing and introducing Facebook to the world affected Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) you see, Mark isn’t that much of a likeable guy when we first meet him. In fact, five minutes into the movie when his girlfriend breaks up with him I was pretty much on her side. And about halfway through the movie when we hear the testimony of the various people Mark has screwed over with the ruthless of a Ming The Merciless I was sure this guy was a special type of jerk you don’t see everyday.
But the thing about THE SOCIAL NETWORK is that it does an excellent job of understanding Mark Zuckerberg and why he developed Facebook and why he did what he did to take it to where it is today. A lot of the things he does in the course of the movie’s running time are mean, morally reprehensible and downright illegal. But at the same time, there’s a curious poignancy to this story of an emotionally crippled social misfit who developed and designed the world’s most powerful and influential social network.
Notice I keep using the words ‘designed’ and ‘developed’ instead of ‘created’ when referring to Mark Zuckerberg’s role in how Facebook got started. That’s because as the movie presents it, it really wasn’t his idea. Mark is approached by three fellow Harvard University students Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss (Armie Hammer) who are the golden boys of Harvard’s rowing team and Business Major Divya Narendra (Max Minghella) with a business proposition. They need a programmer to develop, design and maintain a website for them they want to call The Harvard Connection; an online social network to allow Harvard students to exchange information. They want Mark because not only is he the best programmer on campus but he’s also in the outhouse due to a drunken stunt he pulled that causes him to be ostracized by the entire female population of Harvard. But the fact that the guy was able to, while drunk, design and build a website in one night that got so many hits that same night it crashed Harvard’s servers makes him a resource that can’t be denied.
The deal is struck but then Mark promptly turns around and enters into a deal with his roommate Eduardo Saverin (Andrew Garfield) who puts up a thousand bucks to back Mark’s idea for an online social network to allow not only Harvard students to exchange information but students with other colleges as well. Mark calls it The Facebook.
I trust you see what the problem is. So do the Winklevoss twins and Divya. But they can’t get much help from Harvard and while they’re debating over what legal action to take, Facebook grows and expands, attracting the attention of Napster co-founder Sean Parker (Justin Timberlake) who manages to ingratiate himself into Mark’s good graces. So much so that Eduardo is astonished to find that Sean is making business decisions for Facebook. A job that is supposedly his.
Everything comes to a head when Mark is sued by everybody who had a hand in the creation of Facebook and many of the sordid details of that creation are revealed and it becomes apparent to Mark’s lawyers during the deposition hearings that there’s no way these lawsuits can come to trial because their client is unlikable, unsympathetic, sarcastic and condescending. And those are his good qualities.
THE SOCIAL NETWORK is really a departure for both David Fincher and Aaron Sorkin. Fincher has directed darkly sinister thrillers such as “The Game” “Seven” and “Panic Room” and Aaron Sorkin created and wrote nearly every episode of the first four seasons of the brilliant TV show “The West Wing”
If you’re a fan of Sorkin’s writing you won’t be disappointed here. Unlike a lot of movies where characters talk at each other, the characters in THE SOCIAL NETWORK talk to each other and because they’re all smart characters, they talk smart. This isn’t a movie for those of you who insist that you want to “turn off my brain and just be entertained” as the movie demands you keep up with it. I myself enjoy a movie where the characters behave as if they’re talking to each other and not rattling off dialog for my benefit.
And David Fincher’s directing really surprised me. THE SOCIAL NETWORK has enough humor to safely qualify as a comedy as well as a drama but from what I’ve seen of Fincher’s work, I wouldn’t have suspected he could juggle the two so readily. And his way of cutting from one character to another while they’re giving their testimonies reminded me of “Rashomon”. Like that movie, the main characters get a chance to tell their sides of the story and it’s up to us to figure out for ourselves who’s telling the truth.
The acting is top notch and I really can’t say enough about it. Even Rashida Jones (Quincy and Peggy’s little girl all grown up) has her chance to shine veen though she doesn’t have all that much screen time. Andrew Garfield has a wonderful scene where he’s soaking wet, raging mad and for a couple of minutes it was as if I was looking at a young Anthony Perkins. Jesse Eisenberg has the task of making an unlikable character likable and he pulls it off with style and grace.
If there’s an acting surprise here, it’s in the form of Justin Timberlake. I dunno how you feel about him but here he showed me that he has it in him to be a really good actor.
So should you see THE SOCIAL NETWORK? If you haven’t already, make a date to do so. Even if you’re not one of the half billion people who are members of Facebook. It’s an intelligent movie that entertains as well as engaging our brains and has a lot to say about people who live their lives on and through The Internet. One of the best movies of the year.