The Social Network Review

poster from the Columbia Pictures film The Social Network

Facebook and I have a hate/hate relationship. I hate that I had to sign up for it even though I didn’t want to because my friends refused to communicate any other way. I hate that people let it take over their lives to the point where they spend more time updating their status than actually doing things worth updating their status about. I hate that the default settings are “let everyone in the world know everything you ever did ever.” And I hate that the various features are frequently broken whenever I have to use them. So when I heard there was going to be a movie about Facebook, I was decidedly uninterested. However, the story for it goes something like this:

A brilliant Harvard computer student becomes embroiled in several lawsuits as he steps on whoever he has to in order to create an online social network that he hopes will earn him respect and attention he so desperately craves.

… instead of going “Mark Zuckerberg is the coolest, greatest person evaaar because he invented Facebook!” So I decided to give it a shot. And although the fellow sitting in front of me in the theater kept fetching deep sighs that clearly said “my girlfriend owes me at LEAST two action movies for making me see this crap,” I was glad I went.

You might be wondering why a movie about Facebook that’s actually allowed to mention the term Facebook (apparently the term is very jealously guarded) is called The Social Network and not Facebook. The reason: The Social Network is not so much about Facebook as it is about the people (or ‘social network’ if you will) surrounding it. A movie that was strictly about Facebook and how it was made would be two hours of this:

Eduardo, Dustin, and Mark from the Columbia Pictures film The Social Network

“You need to put the glooblefranz on the hoggenboggle or it’ll schmanz (insert computer programming terms of your choice).”

i.e. – boring. So they focus on the people instead, which is much more interesting (unless you’re a computer nerd, I guess). At the center of the story is Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg), an elitist undergrad who is very angry that other people (especially girls and clubs) don’t recognize what he sees as his inherent superiority. His goal is to shove their rejection of him back into their faces by inventing something Earth-shaking and becoming amazingly powerful.

Mark in his pajamas from the Columbia Pictures film The Social Network

“I thumb my nose at you by wearing inappropriate clothing to a business meeting.

Naturally he doesn’t have many friends. The one friend he does have is Eduardo Saverin (Andrew Garfield). Eduardo is a charming, supportive business student who is willing to receive jealous, backhanded compliments and superior remarks from a friend instead of congratulations when good things happen to him.

Eduardo and Mark from the Columbia Pictures film The Social Network

So I guess he’s either a saint or a masochist.

After Mark invents a program that allows other students to choose which Harvard girl is hotter and crashes the network, he gets tapped by three members of an elite club to write the code for Harvard Connection, a social networking program they came up with. Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss (Armie Hammer and Josh Pence) and Divya Narendra (Max Minghella) are understandably pissed when Mark and Eduardo come up with their own, suspiciously similar social network, instead.

Winklevoss and Narendra from the Columbia Pictures film The Social Network

Here’s Divya and one of the Winklevosses. I don’t need to show you the other one, because it’s exactly the same.

Things go both uphill and downhill from there. As the network, called The Facebook, explodes in popularity, they attract attention from the manipulative, amoral mind behind Napster, Sean Parker (Justin Timberlake), who begins trying to edge Eduardo out and get Mark and his moneymaking idea all to himself.

Mark and Sean from the Columbia Pictures film The Social Network

I am wooing you. This is me wooing. Are you wooed?

So there’s a lot of backstabbing and maneuvering, which I guess is what attracted Aaron Sorkin (you know him, he created The West Wing) to the project. He wrote the script, basing it on Ben Mezrich’s book The Accidental Billionaires. In doing so, Sorkin proves his talent for sharp dialogue has not diminished. In a movie like this, where there’s not a lot of action, you need sharp, natural sounding dialogue or you’re sunk. This movie has plenty of quotable phrases. My favorite is a line by one of the Winklevoss twins when he’s talking about going after Mark:

the Winklevoss twins from the Columbia Pictures film The Social Network

“I’m 6’5”, 220, and there’s two of me.”

Equally important is the acting, because there aren’t any explosions or anything like that to distract viewers away from wooden or meatheaded line delivery. Director David Fincher (the guy who did Se7en and Fight Club) manages to pick people who not only resemble the real players in the story but who can actually act. Justin Timberlake is surprisingly good (especially for a singer turned actor) and Jesse Eisenberg does more acting here than I’ve ever seen him do. He’s still an awkward nerd, but not a loveable one. His lack of social skills make him seem almost autistic.

Mark and Erica from the Columbia Pictures film The Social Network

“When you have no friends, it won’t be because you’re a nerd. It’ll be because you’re an asshole.”

Though Mark is the main character, he’s also a jerk, which makes it hard to get behind him. He is not portrayed in a good light at all, so I have to wonder how much say the actual Mark Zuckerberg had in this film (my guess: none). He’s so unlikable that Eduardo actually ends up being the protagonist. Andrew Garfield carries this well. He may sound exactly like Hayden Christensen, but he’s natural and sympathetic and he makes it very easy to feel for Eduardo, who’s like Mark Zuckerberg’s stairmaster he gets used so badly.

Mark and the lawyers from the Columbia Pictures film The Social Network

Not that he just lies down and takes it, of course, that’s why they’re in court.

The movie is based on documents in the public record (mostly the stuff that gets dug up during lawsuits) so it’s pretty accurate as far as biopics go. The whole thing is well made, very informative and interesting. I’d recommend it for anyone who likes dramas, whether you like (or have even heard of Facebook) or not.

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