The Social Network is a movie about Facebook.
Like so many brilliant movies before it, the summary, while completely true, is utterly lacking. The Godfather is about the mafia. Raging Bull is about boxing. Schindler’s List is about the Holocaust. All true. All horribly inadequate.
Trying to describe this film in a review taxes a writer’s abilities. I can muster only the most profound respect for Aaron Sorkin and his ability to render the majority of this movie’s subject, computer programing, into compelling, enthralling entertainment.
Sorkin only enhances his reputation for brilliant, fast-paced, intelligent dialogue here. In my experience, people don’t talk like Sorkin writes them, but I desperately wished that they did. In this context, the dialogue isolated the main character, Mark Zuckerberg, brilliantly portrayed by Jesse Eisenberg, with nearly the same efficacy as his actions.
Here in is the core of The Social Network. The extraordinary irony is that Facebook, the epitome of the “social network” revolution, was created by a man who can not function effectively in society. From the first frame, Zuckerberg is a man of tremendous intellect and a correspondingly tremendous arrogance. He seems to suffer form an Autism Spectrum Disorder, rendering him socially maladjusted. He famously talks through the logic of why he is intellectually superior to his girlfriend with said girlfriend. To say it ends horribly is an understatement.
But the film can only begin this way. By the standards of Wall Street and too many people, Zuckerberg is the portrait of success. He became a billionaire in his early twenties. This film painstakingly details the failure of a man who has billions but has no need, desire, or value for wealth. It is the portrait of a man forever kept outside of the human interaction he desperately desires by his own fundamental lack of empathy.
I found him to be a tragic character. He did not want to be a pariah. He wanted to belong, and yet possessed none of the tools to affectively manage a social life. This plays out over and over again in his life. Seemingly overnight, he becomes unimaginably wealthy, but wealth has no value to him. Unfortunately, he falls prey to people who only value wealth. He cannot see them for what they are, and it destroys the only enduring relationship he has.
That one true friend, Eduardo Saverin, played by Andrew Garfield in a revelatory turn, stands by and supports Zuckerberg from beginning up until the fateful end. Saverin puts up the starting money for what became Facebook, helped develop the code, and did much of the legwork to get the embryonic venture off the ground.
I cannot say with certainty that the entirety of the relationship between these two young men is objectively portrayed. I related and sympathized with Saverin completely. Whereas, the conflict between Zuckerberg and the infamous Winklevoss twins, I felt the film did not take sides, and let the viewer determine for his or her self who was right and who was wrong.
The most startling performance to my mind was Justin Timberlake as the predatory Sean Parker. Parker read Zuckerberg from the off and fed him precisely what he wanted to hear. The relationship endured until Parker’s true colors showed, and all was lost. Unfortunately, by this point, Zuckerberg was utterly alone. Timberlake brought nuances to the role I had not expected from the musician.
The social study of The Social Network plays out amongst the major characters: Mark Zuckerberg, Eduardo Saverin, Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss, and Sean Parker. The Winklevoss twins are handsome, intelligent, wealthy, socially popular. Every facet of what Zuckerberg wants but cannot have, they live and breathe every day of their lives. Personally, I view Saverin as being the realistic ideal of what Zuckerberg would like to be, and yet he cannot see it. He is kind, loyal, hard-working, brilliant, manages fairly well with other people, and avoids the self-entitled whining of the twins. Parker is the dark side of it all, effectively using Zuckerberg’s yearnings and insecurities to get what he wants.
The movie will stand as one of the finest films of 2010, and rightfully so. David Fincher brings Sorkin’s script to life artfully, and turns the tale of the phenomenon of the past decode into one of the most compelling stories of our time. The movie is about Facebook, but like the website itself, far more is happening here than can be summarized, and in this way, The Social Network is the story of the eternal yearning of humanity to belong, and the failure of so many to do so.