The Social Network – Review
by Miguel Douglas on September 29, 2010
On a fall night in 2003, Harvard undergrad and computer programming genius Mark Zuckerberg sits down at his computer and heatedly begins working on a new idea. In a fury of blogging and programming, what begins in his dorm room soon becomes a global social network and a revolution in communication. A mere six years and 500 million friends later, Mark Zuckerberg is the youngest billionaire in history…but for this entrepreneur, success leads to both personal and legal complications.
Based on the novel The Accidental Billionaires: The Founding of Facebook: A Tale of Sex, Money, Genius and Betrayal by author Ben Mezrich, David Fincher’s The Social Network offers a rambunctious journey into the foundation and subsequent growth of the social networking site Facebook from dorm room theory into cultural phenomena. As someone who has actually read the original novel—which is already controversial due to the apparent creative privileges undertaken by the author to liven the story up—I was a little skeptical to how it would transfer over into film considering this. It’s stated that the producer of the film, Scott Rudin, allowed the script to be previewed by some of the prominent members of the Facebook staff. Stating their dislike for the script, they apparently wanted to make major changes to it—changes that Fincher, Rudin, and screenplay writer Aaron Sorkin ultimately didn’t follow. This in turn displeased Zuckerberg and company, and they decided to completely ignore the film and not promote it on Facebook in any capacity. With the obvious dispute over legitimacy of the material, it seems that like the book, the film is also offering a rather dramatized look into the founding of Facebook and the ensuing chaos that took place along the way.
Of course, this is all simply provided as background towards the actual content of the film standing on its own merits, but it’s certainly interesting to note. It’s important to remember that The Social Network is not particularly the most truthful account of Zuckerberg, his associates, or even the foundation of Facebook itself, but it does offer a frenetic and dramatic look into how it might’ve occurred. Encapsulating the entire legacy of Facebook into one film would be a colossal task to begin with, but through Aaron Sorkin’s screenplay and Fincher’s direction, the film offers a fascinating atmosphere of spontaneous ideas, developing friendships, social acceptance, and most certainly that of interpretative memory. With the dramatic rise of Facebook as a company, the film delicately looks at how this might’ve affected those consumed within its most immediate sphere of creation. Somewhat unaware of the consequences that money and power offer through the medium of technology, the conflictions between foe and friend are constantly blurred as the characters increasingly attempt to adjust to the frenzy. In a sense, The Social Network remains a personal tale of not only relationships and the potential harm that can be done to them if exposed to money and power, but also finding one’s place within a society that doesn’t necessarily accept you.
This string of madness is certainly held together by Mark Zuckerberg, played excellently here by Jesse Eisenberg. Rather ironically, the film portrays the founder of the biggest social network site in the world as one of the most socially inept individuals possible. Presented as someone who really can’t relate to people in a normal capacity, the Zuckerberg of the film is one person who we find as desperately attempting to reach out and connect with people on any level he can find—and this is where the mannerisms of Eisenberg come out in full force. From the rather eccentric and oft-spoken interactions between the people he encounters, to his willingness to literally drop everything at hand to better flesh out an idea, Eisenberg is exceptional as the eccentric Zuckerberg. It’s certainly interesting to see that the Zuckerberg in the film is not really a bad individual per se, he’s just very inadequate when dealing with people. Throughout the film there are moments where we see his creative genius at work, but also see that he can be real hurtful towards the people he interacts with. Not really through the fault of his own—and in most cases he’s simply not fully aware of what he’s done until later on—we begin to see him as an individual attempting to find some solace amidst an environment that prioritizes itself on social interaction, which is certainly not one of his strong points. Utilizing his skills as a programmer though, the foundation is laid for his plan to garner attention really the only way he can—through the usage of computers. This is all certainly viable given the standards of today, but considering that these ideas were fresh at the time—with the obvious exception of the creation of Myspace—were completely revolutionary in bringing the common masses into the world of social communication through the internet.
In essence, Zuckerberg is presented here as someone who constantly faces rejection after rejection. Gaining some form of acceptance is clearly his focus, but due to his rather awkward behavior, he seemingly can’t fit in. This eventually has him expressing himself in the most socially destructible ways possible—from ending his relationship with his best friend to denying having any help in constructing the ideas for Facebook—the film paints him as quite the aggressive but flawed individual. Seemingly tyrannical at times for sure, we slowly begin to see him as an unsympathetic character that uses unconventional means to connect with other people—which in many regards is the only way he truly knows how. Other characters throughout the film don’t escape this grasp as well—particularly that of Sean Parker, which is played here by pop star Justin Timberlake. Presented as greedy and egotistical, he encompasses the capitalist mentality to the fullest. When combined they create a formidable duo, but at what cost? The film offers these questions up, but doesn’t attempt to coerce a specific response from the viewer, just that these are things that unexpectedly occur when you happen to be involved with the biggest Internet revolution envisioned in years. Stumbling upon such a huge concept is bound to create animosity amongst peers, which the film handles with considerable measure not to directly point a finger at who to blame.
For the all the controversy that the film offers in terms of the impending lawsuits and the like, the film diligently separates itself from presenting any sort of biased viewpoint. Throughout the film, there are many segments that hint at the potentiality of Zuckerberg implementing an idea given to him by another individual—in a better sense of the word, essentially stealing it—and subsequently showcasing the legal proceeding stemming from his actions years later. While certainly humorous in many instances, the film opposes to simply labeling Zuckerberg as a thief and betrayer, instead opting to leave it up to the audience to delegate. While the film gives the strong impression that he was likely this way, there are moments of pure ingenuity where we see him at his fervent best and holding fast towards making his dream a reality at any cost. Is Zuckerberg portrayed here as someone who cares little for people? Yes, but one has to remember his ineptness when interacting with people. This film seemingly chronicles his rise towards gaining some outlet to better interact, but certainly looks at the supposedly devious tactics it took to get Facebook to the global arena it’s at today.
Obviously, the legal matters are more faithful to history than the other portions of the film, and usage of editing here is fantastic. The juxtaposition between the implementation of ideas in the beginning stages of Facebook (known as Face Mash and then theFacebook) and the legal depositions afterwards has the film showcasing the ramifications that come along when creating something as a big as Facebook. This was certainly no easy journey and a lot of people got hurt along the way in the creation of it, and the film makes sure to advocate that idea. The film interlays between showing the conflicting depositions as to who literally created the concept behind it, looking at who came up with the later additions to it and who actually implemented it all. With the film’s drive primarily concerning this aspect, it showcases all parties as equally guilty and innocent of the carnage in creating what we now know today as Facebook. This amply removes any sort of blatant blame on part of the characters within the film, which offers an approach that is less biased and more universal in its interpretation of the story. As I stated earlier though, I wouldn’t necessarily find the depiction of the characters within the film as truthful representations, but it does provide for the development of quite an engaging story to flourish.
With this in mind, the film remains a shining example of intelligently showing the fruition of perhaps the most popular Internet phenomenon of our time, elaborately laying out a story that it easy to understand and follow. While some might disapprove the questionable approach the story outlines in attempting to convey the likeliness of their real-life counterparts, it does a fantastic job of developing a story that we seemingly all can relate too in some capacity—minus the billions of dollars of course. Followed by an inspiration—regardless of who or where it came from—The Social Network showcases the determination to bring that inspiration into a tangible reality. While many films have done this before, The Social Network doesn’t attempt to portray a pretty picture as to how this was actually done. What we see is a crude portrait of the accumulative successes and failures of doing so, with heavy emphasis on the interactions between the individuals that found it. At what cost do we forsake friendship in order to obtain social status? Ironic to consider for sure, but The Social Network shows us the fallacies of creating the world’s largest social network in perhaps the most socially unconventional ways possible, and that alone makes this one intriguing film. Fincher and Sorkin offer a vivid look into the construed and conflicted rise of social networking, ultimately establishing The Social Network as an important testimony to the technological era in which we live and participate within every day—all the while showing us the extraordinary but devastating road it took to get there.