Monday, February 7, 2011

The Social Network

Directed by David Fincher.
2010. Rated PG-13, 120 minutes.
Jesse Eisenberg
Andrew Garfield
Justin Timberlake
Armie Hammer
Brenda Song
Bryan Barter
Rooney Mara
Rashida Jones
Joseph Mazzello

“If you could’ve invented Facebook then, you would’ve invented Facebook,” Mark Zuckerberg (Eisenberg) coldly says to one of the people suing him for allegedly stealing their idea. That statement is at the heart of all matters in The Social Network.. The movie never doubts Zuckerberg’s genius. It never suggest that Facebook could ever have come into existence without him. The question becomes how much did others contribute to making his vision a reality and whether or not they should be compensated.

Technically, the entire movie takes place inside a hearing room where three sides battle back and forth with flashbacks fleshing out the proceedings. Of course, there’s Zuckerberg. Then there is his former best friend, Eduardo Saverin (Garfield) suing Mark for pretty much muscling him out of the company. Finally, there’s the Winklevoss twins (Hammer in a dual role) who claim to have come up with the idea for Facebook.

Through it all, we see Zuckerberg’s not-so-humble beginnings as a drunken young man, bitter about just being dumped, venomously blogging about his now ex-girl while simultaneously hacking into much of the school’s online network to create an instant rate-a-girl site called FaceSmash. Eventually, we arrive at the point where Facebook is a worldwide phenomenon and Zuckerberg is the youngest billionaire in the world. We already know that. Many of you reading this not only have a Facebook page, but have children, parents and even grandparents that their own Facebook pages. This more about trust and what people do with it when they’ve earnied it. Trust is abused so often, we eventualyy have decide when that abuse is justified and when it is not.

TSN is also about the decade we’ve just lived through. It’s about how technology in general, and Facebook in particular, alters our world in increasingly rapid ways. It’s about how prepared or unprepared we are for those instantaneous changes. Can anyone really be prepared to go from average joe to king of all he surveys in just a few years? Strangely enough, though Zuckerberg is the focal point, the movie is not necessarily on his side. Through an excellent performance by Eisenberg he comes across as arrogant, aloof, vindictive, selfish and overly envious of others. He’s the modern day mad scientist who has succeeded in taking over the world, but found it’s not all its cracked up to be. We don’t root for him.

The person we root for is Eduardo Saverin, who put up the initial $1000 to fund the site’s development. We like him. His position seems undeniable so we sympathize with him. We desperately want Zuckerberg to come down from Mount Olympus and show gratitude to the little person that helped him get there.

This movie works because no matter how unlikeable our protagonist might be, we can see his side on a lot of things. Simultaneously, we can understand other viewpoints, as well. This keeps us locked in along with sharp dialogue in which characters rarely mince words. What also engages us is how relationships disintegrate. We’re intrigued to see if anything can be salvaged. However, the winds of sudden success has wreaked havoc on these people. Essentially, we’re watching a divorce procedure. At stake, the custody of their 500 million “kids” worldwide.

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