REVIEW: The Social Network

9 10 2010

Has Facebook made us more connected to our friends?  Or does hopelessly staring at their pictures, their moments, their lives only increase our feeling of isolation?  Such has been the question for the past five years as the Silicon Valley start-up has all but taken over the world.  We have been forced to ponder how much we want people to know about who we are, using our profile pages as a façade to cover the person hiding deep inside.  We can sculpt social perfection on the site, and perhaps that is why we pour so much time into it.

That’s the story of us in the Facebook age.  However, anyone not willing to closely scrutinize “The Social Network” might have the mistaken notion that the movie is only about the founders of the site.  While Aaron Sorkin’s script concerns itself entirely with the Facebook’s early years, the perspective is not limited merely to those intimately involved in creating the predominant social networking site of our time.

If Sorkin and director David Fincher had been interested in doing that, they would have made a documentary on the birth of Facebook.  Instead, their fictionalized account is meant to challenge our conceptions of communication and friendship in the digital era, as well as the changing nature of innovation.  As the face of human interaction becomes increasingly digital, this commentary will be an important work to consult.  “The Social Network” could very well be the movie that future generations will watch to get an idea of the millenials (or whatever history will call us).  The movie now puts the pressure on us to decide how to interpret its message: do we go polish our Facebook profiles or become disillusioned with the site?

Since creator Mark Zuckerberg refused to participate with the production, Sorkin and Fincher present him as they see him: a visionary with his fair share of vices who winds being torn asunder by two people with different ideas for the future of his creation.  Jesse Eisenberg hardly makes him sympathetic, but the ultimate interpretation of Zuckerberg is left to the viewer.  Is he a hero, a villain, or an antihero?  Whatever mold he fits, it cannot be denied that he is a figure of huge importance to the digital age.  Take his social idiosyncrasies out of the picture, and his journey is not too different than our journey with Facebook.

“The Social Network” is built mostly around the paradox that Zuckerberg made the site to connect to other people, and he winds up more and more alone and friendless as the site expands.  Sorkin especially loves how ironic the fact that seeds for Facebook, the facilitator of the modern connection, were sown after a break-up.  While Zuckerberg certainly has issues of his own, being dubbed an asshole by his ex-girlfriend Erica (Rooney Mara) seems to leave an indelible impact on him and all future interactions with people.  He gets the actual idea from the Winklevoss twins (Armie Hammer), two future Olympic rowers with plans for a social network to get girls for Harvard guys called “The Harvard Connection,” and winds up in a lawsuit with them after he takes the idea and runs with it in a different direction.

However, at the heart of the movie is the good angel/bad angel dialectic.  Zuckerberg’s closest ally and first CFO, Eduardo Saverin (Andrew Garfield), winds up suing him for $600 million after the influence of Sean Parker (Justin Timberlake) shuts him almost entirely out of the company.  Saverin is made out to be the film’s measure of good, trying to take the traditional routes to make Facebook a profitable venture.  On the other hand, Parker offers Zuckerberg the chance to be a rockstar and introduces him into a world where people want his idea, not his personality.  We all know the ending; Facebook has become a multi-billion dollar company and Zuckerberg the world’s youngest billionaire.  Yet beneath all the cash and all the success, the movie dares to suggest that it still can’t make up for the fact that Zuckerberg has no meaningful connections in his life.

David Fincher has never made a movie quite as dialogue-dependent as “The Social Network,” but all of his filmmaking brilliance is still on full display.  He is a precision instrument, and every shot seems to be set up to provide a sense of loneliness and solidarity.  Be it through the gloomy lighting at Harvard, the shots where everyone seems to be paired up except Zuckerberg, or the fleeting pan to an empty chair when the phrase “best friend” is tossed up in a deposition, nothing is an accident.  The sharp editing and crisp cinematography blend perfectly with Sorkin’s acerbic, theatrically-styled dialogue.

While the movie will likely go down in history as a so-called “writer’s movie,” the performances are absolutely dynamite from a very young cast.  Eisenberg nails all the eccentricities of the fast-talking technological wiz, and the nuances in his portrayal of Mark Zuckerberg will captivate for endless viewings.  Andrew Garfield as the upright Saverin is a force to be reckoned with, a true presence throughout the movie with his very likable charm.  For just that reason, he makes it wrenching to watch the inevitable turn when Saverin gets cheated.  Timberlake plays Parker much like he carries himself in real life, and the outcome is surprisingly quite fun to watch.  And then there’s also Armie Hammer as the “Winklevi,” who makes for some of the most serious and brilliantly performed comedic relief.

How much “The Social Network” actually defines a generation is debatable.  However, it is, at the very least, a snapshot of life in the first decade of the millenia.  Did we have actual friends – or just friends on Facebook?  The movie captures us just as we are for a brief moment in history, and that’s a scary idea for many people.  Face it, we the dedicated users are just as responsible for Sorkin’s timely script as Mark Zuckerberg is.  A /

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2 responses

11 10 2010
Fitz

Best Picture leader for the time being. The King’s Speech reception will be critical to seeing what kind of awards Social Network can win.

5 11 2010
CMrok93

Totally blown away by the fact, that a film about Facebook directed by David Fincher, can be a big-time Oscar contender. Loved it almost from start to finish, hope it gets awards come Oscar time. Nice post, check out my review when you can!

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