The Social Network
David Fincher’s latest film, The Social Network has been called both a “masterpiece” and “the film that defines a generation.” Once you get pass the initial hype, and the tendency for critics and bloggers to go gaga over everything Fincher touches, it becomes clear that these associations are not quite true. While The Social Network is one of the better films to hit theatres this year, it is the Facebook application itself and not the movie that will be remembered in the history books.
After being dumped by his girlfriend Erica Albright (Rooney Mara), Harvard student Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) takes to his blog and trashes her character over cyberspace. This leads to the idea of creating a website that allows students to rank all of the female students on campus. An instant hit amongst the students, Mark’s program end ups crashing the Harvard computer system. While this raises the ire of both the school faculty and the female students, it also brings Mark to the attention of twin brothers Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss (both played by Armie Hammer). The Winklevoss twins approach Zuckerberg about creating a Havard version of MySpace. Although Zuckerberg agrees to help them with their project, Zuckerberg ends up working on his own website, The Facebook, with the aid of his best friend Eduardo (Andrew Garfield). Soon The Facebook becomes a global hit and Zuckerberg not only finds himself meeting the likes of Sean Parker (Justin Timberlake), the brains behind Napster, but also finds himself in the middle of multiple lawsuits.
While the film looks at the creation of Facebook, The Social Network is a legal drama first and foremost. The film looks at the question of ownership in today’s society. In one scene Zuckerberg makes a great point where he questions if someone who makes a nice chair, must they pay everyone who has ever made a chair before them. Fincher never picks a side on the issue of who actually created Facebook, he merely lets the evidence play out and forces the audience to decide for themselves.
The interesting thing about this movie is that the hero is actually the villain. Although Zuckerberg is clearly a genius in regards to the way his brain functions, he is far from a likeable person. He is socially awkward and wants desperately to be a part of everything he despises mainly because it is what the cool people do. In fact, all the major developments in the film stem from Zuckerberg’s childish habits. Erica even remarks to Mark, although it could really apply to bloggers as well, that writing crude comments online is what angry people do in the dark. Although the lawsuits involve millions of dollars, Fincher makes a point to remind us that, at the end of the day, the participants are still immature boys looking to impress the opposite sex.
The Social Network has more to say about the nature of mixing friendship and business than it actually does about the impact of Facebook on today’s society. Some of the best moments in the film are found in the tension between Sean and Eduardo. Sean is the cool kid that Mark wants to be. Sean not only talks the talk but has the vision and the experience to back it up. Eduardo on the other hand is the loyal friend whose school taught approach to business limits his imagination in regards to how big Facebook can actually be.
The performances in the film are outstanding. The Social Network features one of the best works from an ensemble cast you will find all year. The performances coupled with Aaron Sorkin’s brilliantly written script and David Fincher’s stellar visual eye packs a big punch. My only knock on the film is that, since it is primarily a legal drama, The Social Network never looks at the effects Zuckerberg’s creation has on society. The program was designed to bring people together online, yet it is actually alienating people from each other in the real world. What I mean by this is that people connect less now face to face, as everything from making plans to sharing stories is done online. It is this reason why I have problems with the whole “the movie defines a generation” chant some are spewing. It is a great film but not one that really impacts society the way you hope it would. Still, as far as legal dramas go, The Social Network is one of the best.