Movie Review: The Social Network
Spoiler Alert: Old School Reviewer
It seems only fair to start this review with a disclaimer. The reviewer is of a "certain generation" that remembers electric typewriters and rotary telephones. Which is not to say I completely reject modern technology. It's just that "social networking" had, at one point (read, the first several decades) in my life, a very different connotation than Facebook and Twitter.
I was not born with an iPhone in my hand or 5,000 friends or followers to my name. I do marvel at these inventions ... all the more so since I don't really understand why they are soooooo popular!
A Brief Plot Synopsis
"The Social Network" is the story of a Harvard student named Mark Zuckerberg, who becomes the world's youngest billionaire by creating Facebook. If you need me to tell you what Facebook is, you're even more of a luddite than I am.
The story is told in a series of flashbacks, with the current action taking place during legal depositions. You see, Mark is being sued by a pair of spurned preppy twins, as well as his former CFO (and former best friend) Eduardo. Their testimony, along with Zuckerberg's, provides a well-rounded view (not just one person's perspective) of how the biggest, most famous social network in the history of the universe came to be.
This technique is quite effective, as the action unfolds in reverse chronological order. Basically, what we now know as Facebook was not hatched fully formed. Not at all. It morphed. It is an flash-of-genius concept fueled by a series of events and many "happy accidents." Quite a few people contributed, directly and indirectly, to its formulation.
So why, you may ask, does Mark Zuckerberg end up in a law firm conference room being pounded and probed mercilessly? Who are these crew-rowing Winklevoss twins, and why are they accusing him of intellectual property theft? How in the heck did Eduardo, who figures prominently in all phases of the story, end up sueing his friend and business partner?
Sit tight, as more shall be revealed.
Along the way, we get an up close and extremely personal view of how revenge -- in the right hands -- can lead to enterpreneurial brilliance. But, as the movie trailer reminds us:
"You don't get to 5 million friends without making a few enemies."
What I Liked
Having spent many college and post-college days cavorting in Harvard Square , for me the biggest star of this film is the scenery. I drank up the scenes of Harvard University -- Harvard Yard, Harvard dorms and Harvard culture -- like a kitten laps up milk (or a plebe laps up beer). The rowing scenes on the Charles River also brought back many a happy memory.
The film definitely pokes a finger (and none too gently) at old money classism and Ivy League snootiness. Zuckerberg proves you don't have to be fourth generation Harvard, or a member of any of the "final" clubs, to make a global name for yourself. I should say the Winklevoss twins are not bad guys, really. But their maroon blazers with white-piped lapels, worn for a crew match in England, make it pretty hard to root for them over Mark and his nerdy, motley crew. In fact, one of the funniest scenes in the movie is when the outraged twins request an audience with the president of Harvard. Let's just say the meeting doesn't go their way.
The mysterious Mark Z
I also marveled at Mark's reaction to fame and the ensuing lawsuits. He's pretty deadpan throughout. not to mention irreverent. He's always a half-step off from those around him. He's arrogant, but not in a cocky, flamboyant way; more in a "you just don't get it and I do" kind of way. Whatever influence Napster founder Sean Parker (Justin Timberlake -- perfectly cast!) supposedly has on Mark, it's clear that Mark makes his own decisions. Facebook is Mark's show. He does what seems logical and rational to him at the time. Moving his operation from Cambridge, MA to Palo Alto, CA makes perfect business sense. Anyone who doesn't like it can lump it.
What I Didn't Like
For some ridiculous reason I expected Jesse Eisenberg to be the same sweet, goofy, unassuming guy he was in "Juno." But Jesse Eisenberg wasn't in "Juno" -- although he was young and impressionable in "The Squid and the Whale" and absolutely adorable in "Adventureland." Not so much in this film, however.
Regardless of my preconceptions of the leading man, I guess I was unprepared for the harsh reality of Mark Zuckerberg. I mean, the guy's a prick. Well, maybe not so much anymore, since he does give a lot of money to charity. But in this film, he's not a nice person. I think the irony of him starting a "social" networking site is how socially inept he is. But hey -- Zuckerberg's a billionaire and I'm not. Nice guys finish last, as they say.
Disloyal to his friend
I think what bothered me most was how Mark treated his best friend/business partner Eduardo Saverin. Eduardo is the epitome of loyalty. He's right there beside Mark from day one. It's Eduardo who provides the algorithm to "mash" the facebook photos of various Harvard dorms, enabling side-by-side rating of female students. It's Eduardo who provides the funding to get "The Facebook" off the ground. Eduardo's the money guy. He's the CFO of the business. And he does not deserve how Mark (and his California guru Sean Parker) diss him.
I don't harbor any illusions that undergraduate males put undergraduate females on pedestals. They are fueled by hormones and alcohol (in various forms). And so are the girls. Getting high and hooking up are mainstay college activities. I know that.
I guess the point here is that even computer nerds attract groupies (even if said groupies do turn out to be psycho bitches).
The lone exception to the women-as-status-seeking sexpots stereotype is Erica Albright. Erica is in the first scene of the movie. The words she says to Mark Zuckberg in the beginning hold equally true all the way to the end:
"You are going to go through life thinking that girls don't like you because you're a nerd. But that's not true. It will really be because you're an asshole."
Earned Lots of Awards
- The Social Network - Official Site
A story about the founders of the social-networking website, Facebook. In theaters October 1, 2010.
Do I wish "The Social Network" had won best picture? No.
Should it have won the awards it won? Yes.
Who should see this movie?
Those with a strong stomach for business back-stabbing will not be phased by this movie (I rate it "M" for "meanness"). Those fascinated by rapidly evoloving technology will love this movie. Those who like to see creative ideas take shape and go commercial and make gazillions of dollars will thrill at this movie.
Me? My first words to hubby after the closing credits, were, "Yuck. Kinda makes me want to close my Facebook account." He replied, "I know. I was thinking the same thing."