Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The Social Network

The Social Network,” directed by David Fincher and written by Aaron Sorkin, is a quick-paced, in depth account of the inception of facebook, the social network. A melancholy paradox lies at the heart of this entertaining and emotionally gripping movie: in 2003, Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg), a nineteen-year-old Harvard sophomore, invents Facebook and eventually creates a five-hundred-million-strong network of “friends,” but Zuckerberg is so egotistical and work-obsessed that he can’t stay close to anyone. He ends up by losing his only real friend, Eduardo (Andrew Garfield), a fellow Jewish student at Harvard, who helps him launch the site, and who eventually sues Zuckerberg for the raw deal he was given as a business partner.
The movie opens with a scene between Zuckerberg and Erica, his date, and we are drawn into their intense stacatto conversation, whereby Erica fails to steer Zuckerberg away from his own obsessions, and engage in normal, more open conversation. Erica, as it happens, is the only female character presented in an intelligent, self-contained way. This was a great opening scene, as it gives us an insight into Zuckerberg's character but also sets the story in motion, when Zuckerberg, just dumped by Erica, blogs cheap lies about her, which spread through college in very little time. We learn how brilliant Zuckerberg is with computers, and through another programme he sets up, hacking into the Harvard database to rank female students in terms of their 'hotness', he comes up with the idea of 'facebook'. However, he is hired by a group of upper-class rowers, who have a similar idea, but who's snobbishness and derisiveness piss Zuckerberg off, to the degree that he blows them off, and proceeds with the work himself, taking financial help on occasion from Eduardo. He later becomes enthralled with the founder of Napster, Sean Parker, (played very convincingly by Justin Timberlake), who comes on board the business departure, leading to the betrayal of Eduardo.
The film is told through a series of flash-backs and forwards between the present courtroom drama (he's being sued by the Winklevoss twins and by former friend Eduardo), and the past events as they occurred. The pace at which 'facebook' became established is evident in the film, as we are rushed from scene to scene, back and forth in the mesmerising computer-savvy world that these characters occupy.
I was left wondering how accurately this film recounts the story as it happened, and why Zuckerberg would agree to being so exposed, as he seemed to be in this film. Certainly he's the world's youngest billionaire, with a very brilliant mind to boot, but there are gaping flaws to his character, not least, his inability to engage with society, which were laid bare in the film.
The closing scene effectively returns to Erica, whom we met at the beginning and only briefly in the middle, whereby Zuckerberg, all alone, requests her as a friend on facebook, and stares at the screen, in vain hope of a reply.

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