The Social Network

Egocentric Billionaire

         
 

02 October 2010| No Comments     by Sean Chavel

 

Electrifying and vivid entertainment. Be ever for certain though that this is for adults, leave the kids out of this. The Social Network, tracing angry-geek whiz kid Mark Zuckerberg, during his creation and invention of Facebook, is as brilliantly written and as tech adroit, not to mention suave, as the greatest screenplays by Robert Towne, Quentin Tarantino, Paul Schrader or the Coen Brothers. In other words, the screenplay by Aaron Sorkin (TV’s “The West Wing,” “The American President”) ripples through the definition and meaning of the very information age we have become a part of and has caught its colloquial essence. Jesse Eisenberg, in the performance of the year as Zuckerberg, proves that he can do everything that Michael Cera cannot do. He exudes as a nervy, pugnacious S.O.B. who stomps over friends for what is first bragging rights and then over friends for billions in revenue.

As the first scene fades in at a college pub set outside Harvard in 2003, Zuckerberg is giving his girlfriend Erica Albright (Rooney Mara) a verbal attack on the validation of belonging to one of Harvard’s elite final clubs. She mispronounces, and makes misusage, of the word final. Zuckerberg condescendingly corrects her as well as brashly scolds that she will never meet any cool people without him being admitted as a member, and without that, she would have to… (fill in the sex insinuation) in order to belong. She breaks up with him on the spot. “You think that a woman will never want you because you are a geek, but in truth, nobody will want you because you are an asshole,” she says, lowering the boom. He never loses his obsession and desire for attachment with Erica, even after he writes a blog that discerns her small and unsatisfying cup size subsequently read by peers everywhere.

On another impulsion, Zuckerberg uploads the female student body on a web creation called “Facemash” that invites peers to vote on the hotness of competing coeds. The site has so many hits that the Harvard internet server crashes, which issues Zuckerberg to face his first hearing board. But he gets the attention of other Harvard undergrads who acknowledge his gifts in web design artistry and code-making, and believe that web communities could be a viable enterprise.

This is a movie of wild ambition about wild ambition, and there is not a dumbed down line of dialogue in it. If Sorkin is the genius linguist then director David Fincher (“Zodiac”) is the mercurial orchestrator, interlacing multiple storylines and flashbacks into biographical and persuasively speculative fusion, and doing it all with visual virtuosity. Fincher might be the very first to truly capture the scene of today’s reckless and sloshed college parties, the fraternity and sorority stunts pitched somewhere between orgiastic adventure and narcissism, and the rave-bombard boom of cosmo city nightclubs without making it feel like any of it was done on a sound stage or diffused in post production at a recording studio.

The embedded colors and fastidious details will certainly keep the film sealed with freshness years from now, but the movie is best because it thinks fearless and yet tactfully, and pryingly, about its core subjects. The key to getting by the real Zuckerberg and his disdain for this film project, as well as the tainting of his public persona, was to pivot the movie around two simultaneous depositions. Hearing the testimony of two legal parties that claim they were screwed over as creators – positioned as if it were their point of views – and their corroborating voices only makes the film more persuasive. The Winklevoss Twins (both played by Arnie Hammer), are Harvard crew champions who accuse Zuckerberg of ripping off their Harvard Connection idea, intended for exclusivity among the Harvard Ivy League.

Close friend, associate, launch partner and appointed CFO Eduardo Saverin (Andrew Garfield) put up all the capital – for the servers, intern pay, office instruments – at a cap of $19,000. In all developing stages Saverin says yes to every demand by Zuckerberg, and also gets him laid for the first time. Saverin carries on a relationship with the first Facebook “groupie,” a lusty, high heels Asian girl (Brenda Song) who is so paranoid jealous that she sets fire to Saverin’s gift to her as if it were a pouting gesture. Saverin, who is just as committed to Facebook, is thinking internship connections and door to door visits to wealthy New Yorkers. But the economic wellspring seemed to be Silicon Valley, where the real internet venture-capitalists are seated.

Saverin makes the mistake of letting himself stay a day behind the progress updates. Zuckerberg forms a hearty partnership with Napster and Plaxo creator Sean Parker (Justin Timberlake, an ecstatic actor) who sees not millions, but billions at stake. Their sudden partnership has a lot to do with Zuckerberg looking up to Parker as a party connection badass. As a consultant veering on co-partner, Parker brings sound ideas to the table, such as how to overcome the illegality of the site and usher in new iron-clad clauses standards for state of privacy on the internet. Zuckerberg forms alliances with those who help him at the nearest immediate minute.

The portrait is of Zuckerberg as a geek pining for widespread acceptance while at the same time he is so glued to his computer that there is not enough time for social interaction outside his Facebook bubble. But after he masters the infinite possibilities of cyber space his contentment is to spew his superior genius unto others. The positive and negative language of it all (kudos again to Sorkin) is more revitalizing and complimentary to audience intelligence than anything that has come into American movies in years.

Is it fit to suggest that any hot girl that validates Zuckerberg can inspire him to behave better? (Rashida Jones, as a litigation lawyer, might as well be that girl at the end.) This makes it possible that he’s willing to listen to somebody, but he listened to Sean Parker because he was a cool guy he wanted to model himself after. But if it’s not women he can easily claim, he can claim his business. Zuckerberg made a success of himself, becoming the world’s youngest billionaire, by linking the world together. Yet success for him was a means of revenge against the world and all the pretty women that rejected him. The rest of us, probably more happy than he, are among 500 million users that smile on daily. That upshot resonance is worth pondering over what has become one of the key revolutionary dotcoms of the internet age.

120 Minutes. Rated PG-13.

DRAMA / BIOPIC / MASTERPIECE VIEWING FOR ANYTIME OF YEAR

Film Cousins: “Citizen Kane” (1941); “Chinatown” (1974); “Zodiac” (2007); “There Will Be Blood” (2007).

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Sean Chavel

About The Author / Sean Chavel

Sean Chavel is a Hollywood based author and movie reviewer. He is the Executive Director of flickminute.com, a new website that has adapted the movie review site genre by introducing moodbased and movie experience based reviews.

 

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