The Social Network

Posted: December 19, 2010 in Movies
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How do you make a movie about Facebook? The Social Network accomplishes not one but two amazing things. First, it’s a fantastic movie about a social networking site. Second, it’s a fantastic movie with a completely unlikeable lead character. (As opposed to, say 2008’s Jumper)

It sets the pace right away with a great opening scene where Mark Zuckerberg’s girlfriend breaks up with him at a bar. Immediately Mark is portrayed as a complete insensitive jerk. His social skills are so poor you can’t help but wonder if he’s autistic or has Asperger’s syndrome, (not to mention how he got this girlfriend to begin with). She closes the scene saying (paraphrasing) “You’re going to go through life thinking girls don’t like you because you’re a nerd. But I’m telling you, the real reason girls don’t like you is because you’re an asshole.”

Social Network suggests that Mark’s inventing of Facebook was at least partly inspired by him breaking up with his girlfriend. In short Mark made a site called Facesmash, which shows two girls side by side to be ranked against each other. This brought Mark to the attention of the Winklevoss twins, two large dudes on the Harvard Rowing team (Who later competed in the 2008 Beijing Olympics. They’re played by one actor, Armie Hammer). The twins share an idea with Mark about a social networking site (called The Harvard Connection) and propose that Mark help program it.  According to the movie Mark delayed the project and didn’t communicate with the twins over the next few months, and instead designed what is now known as Facebook. The twins reluctantly sue Mark for stealing his idea. Mark’s defense is that when designing Facebook he used none of the coding that went into Harvard Connection. Mark is also sued by Eduardo Saverin, his only friend and business partner, for cheating him out of stock as Facebook expanded. The rest of the movie is told in flashback during various meeting with lawyers (but not via trial).

Justin Timberlake plays Sean Parker, founder of Napster and later investor/business partner in Facebook.  His rockstar persona and attitude begin to drive apart Mark and his friend Eduardo.

The dialogue is absolutely fantastic. At one point the twins talk about simply beating the hell out of Mark, one of them reasons “I’m 6’5, 220, and there’s two of me.” I literally laughed out loud in the theater hearing that. Of course it’s filled with the college lifestyle of partying, drugs, and hot chics. Jesse Eisenberg is fantastic in his role as Mark, Timberlake and the rest of the cast is spot on as well.

Obviously there’s been some controversy over the accuracy of this film (as well as the book it’s based on, The Accidental Billionaires). Did Mark really invent Facebook to impress his girlfriend, was he driven by jealousy over his friend getting in a Final’s Club? Maybe, maybe not. I think the audience must accept that any movie “based on a true story” is still at least partly fiction. Real life doesn’t adjust itself to film structure. Mark’s ex-girlfriend is the bookend of the film. It starts with her, and ends with her as Mark friend requests her after a lawyers meeting, and obsessively refreshes his page every few seconds to see if she accepted yet. It raised the question of how much does success matter if you don’t have friends?

The bigger question/concern I would have would be is Mark really this much of an asshole? The last ten minutes makes some desperate attempt to redeem him, when a cute young lawyer suggests maybe he’s not an asshole but just pretends to be. By this point it was too late for me to feel sympathy. If Mark isn’t really like this, he has the right to be mighty pissed off, if he is, then he might want to take a long look in the mirror.

These concerns aside, perhaps only David Fincher could do what seems impossible, make a fantastic movie about Facebook. 10/10

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