October 12, 2010
Director: David Fincher
Starring: Jesse Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield
Release Date: October 1, 2010
Oh, What a Tangled Web We Weave
I’m old enough to remember when Facebook was only available to college students. Of course, it’s now a worldwide phenomenon that’s accessible by everyone, boasting some 500 million registered users. Its creator, Mark Zuckerberg, is the youngest billionaire in the world. It should come as no surprise, then, that the tale of how a disgruntled Harvard undergraduate spun a fledgling idea into a global empire was just begging to be made into a movie.
What we get with The Social Network is a biopic that’s slightly less cryptic than A Beautiful Mind, and, perhaps, slightly more complex than the likes of Ray or Walk the Line. The most interesting thing about the film is that it is, more or less, about social acceptance. Zuckerberg, as he’s portrayed here, only wants to be a part of the “in” crowd—his efforts to infiltrate said ranks results in the now infamous networking site. He’s a person who harbors extreme jealousy and is quick to insult anyone who garners any semblance of peer approval. Because of this, Zukerberg is an awfully difficult character to like, but one has to imagine that’s kind of the point. Feeling disconnected from his techno-babble about lines of code and elusive algorithms is all part of the intended experience; in the same way, he continually shuts out anyone (including his best friend and a romantic interest) who might otherwise elicit a little humanity from his robotic persona.
The movie, which is beautifully directed by Fincher, seems to be peddling a message that’s as true now as it has been since the dawn of man—money and power can’t buy happiness (or friends). There’s a lot of phoniness on display in the bronzed over existence Zuckerberg’s Ivy League colleagues inhabit, and this crisp-collared facade—a word that has plenty of implications regarding the social network in question—only accentuates the notion that “keeping up appearances,” for the vast majority of people our protagonist is surrounded by, is everything. This is certainly a sure-handed subtext to use as the foundation for what amounts to a timeless morality play, and the contemporary framework makes it that much more powerful—and that much more likely to resonate with younger viewers.
For all its successes, Sorkin and Fincher never give us the chance to see Zuckerberg suffer the retribution he so rightly deserves (one could argue that historical accuracy is needed), and many of the relationships featured are a little too superficial for us to invest it. Again, though, I suppose that’s one of the film’s main points.
If I could, I would “Like” The Social Network a dozen times over. And that reminds me: it’s just about time to post a link to this review on my Facebook status.
out of 5
Check out a trailer for The Social Network: