The Social Network is a movie for our times, where everything, including business dealings, moves fast, faster, fastest, and where all the lonely people, rich and poor, are desperate to connect with someone, anyone, for business or social reasons, amidst devices that seem to promise happiness in just a few quick keystokes on the keyboard.
Expertly directed by David Fincher (Seven, Zodiac) and written by one of the best screenwriters working today, Aaron Sorkin (A Few Good Men, West Wing), from Ben Mezrich’s book Accidental Billionaires, the film moves at the speed of light, or as fast as a text message, as it explores the life of Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook and currently the world’s youngest billionaire. Played in an Oscar caliber performance by Jesse Eisenberg, Zuckerberg is portrayed as being as unbelievably maladroit in social situations as he is brilliant when it comes to computers.
Nothing is left to chance in this film, as even the music chosen by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross pounds as fast and furious as the words Sorkin has given the characters to speak, heightening the tension and conflict as Zuckerberg fights two lawsuits which portray him as much for being a disloyal friend and a thief, as they do in giving him credit for being a creative genius.
No one comes out looking very good in this drama, from the brief appearance of the President of Harvard, played by Douglas Urbanski, to the smart but apparently paranoid creator of Napster, Sean Parker, played here with arrogance to spare by Justin Timberlake who fills Zuckerberg’s head with slogans such as “This is our time!”, and “I’m CEO, bitch.”
Zuckerberg comes to believe there are thousands of college students who will have no trouble posting their “Relationship Status” online as a means of letting others know they’re looking to make that special connection, because evidently meeting anyone in person has gone the way of the horse and buggy. This “Relationship Status” is, in fact, the final piece in the puzzle Zuckerberg was looking for as he takes his site online.
The irony is that Zuckerberg creates the online social site in order to become popular with girls and so that he will be invited into private clubs that usually reject him outright, not only because of his nerdish behavior, but also because of his arrogantly inappropriate social manners. The film posits that “social graces” appear to be a term that the brilliant Zuckerberg does not understand.
This is seen from the very first scene in which Zuckerberg desperately tires to woo Erica Albright (played by Rooney Mara), as he digs a hole deeper and deeper for himself until she finally tells him she never wants to see him again.
This sets Zuckerberg off to seek revenge and it is, oddly enough, the starting point for the social networking sight which will ultimately become known as Facebook and in turn will lead to the bitter and hostile lawsuits that will come from others who feel betrayed by Mr. Zuckerberg.
The film will certainly be nominated for best picture, director, screenplay, and actor, especially noting the brilliant performance of Eisenberg, and possibly for best film score too.
Sorkin has even gone so far to create his own sort of “Rosebud” moment at the end of the film to slam home the essential loneliness of a young man who has everything in the world except the one thing he really longs for and which Facebook is supposed to provide: a connection to another human being. Appropriately, over the end credits, the Beatles song, Baby, You’re a Rich Man, plays as the group sings, “How does it feel to be one of the beautiful people?”
This is triumphant film making that shines a bright light not only on this new era of instant communication, but also on those human elements of which computers can only be impartial observers: the lust for power, the timelessness of greed, and that oldest of human traits, loneliness.