The Social Network

28 02 2011

Facebook is such a consuming force in today’s world that it was only a matter of time before somebody made a movie about it. That ‘somebody’ happens to be Aaron Sorkin, who has crafted an exciting script out of a seemingly dry topic.

The Social Network tells the story of Mark Zuckerberg, the Harvard-dropout-turned-multi-billionaire, and his founding of Facebook. As the subheading suggests, he does indeed make some enemies along the way. At the centre of this movie are two lawsuits against Zuckerberg. The first case is launched by Zuckerburg’s friend and Facebook’s original Chief Financial Officer, Eduardo Saverin, and the second case by the twins Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss. The plaintiffs argue, through several emotionally-charged courtroom scenes, that Zuckerburg exploited their knowledge and resources before carelessly tossing them aside.

The Social Network is made brilliant by its casting. Regardless of what Zuckerberg is like in real life, Jesse Eisenberg portrays him as a socially oblivious nerd who believes his intelligence places him high above the rest of society. This trait is established in the opening scene, in which Mark is talking to his soon-to-be-ex-girlfriend. Mark’s mind – and his mouth – are operating at the limits of human conversational speed. His tirade is mentally exhausting to a point where Erica, the girlfriend, gives up and compares their relationship to running on a treadmill. He is frustrated by the society in which he lives and, more importantly, the aspects of society which he cannot control.

Come at me, bro

The issue of control is what drives the creation of Facebook, and the events that Zuckerberg cannot control deeply affect his character. Frustrated by his breakup with Erica and his inability to get into the exclusive social clubs at Harvard, Mark thus seeks to redefine the social experience. Surprisingly, Jesse Eisenberg successfully balances all of these traits to create a relatable character, albeit with some seriously unattractive faults. Zuckerberg’s enigmatic nature is most accurately summed up by Marylin Delpy (Rashida Jones) when she says, “You’re not an asshole, Mark; you’re just trying so hard to be.”

The supporting actors are also well cast. Andrew Garfield, while relatively unknown, plays the hurt and confused former best friend, Eduardo Saverin, in a performance that easily garners sympathy from the audience, while Armie Hammer acts as both of the Winklevoss twins, who, like the stereotypical Ivy Leaguer, were born into wealth and a strong family legacy. Hammer plays them as confident to a point of being arrogant, while also conveying their helplessness after being manipulated by Zuckerberg.

Justin Timberlake, of all people, makes a surprise appearance as the entrepreneur Sean Parker, the founder of Napster. After hearing of Facebook’s success and eager for a new venture, Sean demands a meeting with Mark Zuckerberg. Parker is the embodiment of Silicon Valley’s technological elite: young, arrogant, and constantly seeking out a new ‘preneur’.  Timberlake plays the perfect villain, as neither the audience (nor Mark) realizes his actions are evil until it’s too late.

David Fincher’s direction gives a dark theme to the movie. Nearly every scene is shot in a low-light environment, be it a campus bar or a darkened dorm room, lit only by the soft light of computer monitors. However, this serves to reinforce the plot in its illustration of the sinister side of human motivations.

As boring as a story about two court cases may sound, Fincher and Sorkin have created an exciting movie which remains interesting despite its two hour length. The dialogue proceeds at a pace which leads the audience to pay attention, but does not necessarily punish them for momentary lapses of concentration. The glimpses into Harvard’s social life and the motivations behind the founding of Facebook are interesting and informative. The audience is further rewarded when they return home to find countless news articles and Wikipedia pages about the controversy and the people involved. Given the plot, it is especially interesting to look at the real Facebook company’s masthead.

The Social Network is an intellectually stimulating story of a computer nerd who has rewritten the rules of human interaction – and made billions of dollars in the process. The true story behind the founding of Facebook may never be revealed, as Zuckerberg is known to dislike the way he was portrayed in the movie and claims that much of it is false. However, whether fact or fiction, The Social Network provides an absorbing insight into a world of ingenuity, money, and the entrepreneurial spirit.