The Social Network
None of the characters in this frenetic examination of the FACEBOOK phenomenon emerges unscarred; director David Fincher, (working from a script by Aaron Sorkin based on the book by Ben Mezrick) casts a particularly jaundiced eye on everyone associated with the rise and ultimate domination of “hooking-up” via the Internet. Created out of gossamer-like binary code which flowed from the fevered intellect of Harvard student Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook now has half a billion subscribers and advertising revenue which have made its creator, not yet 30 years of age, into America’s youngest billionaire. What’s not to like? In the acidic view of this film, quite a lot…
Fincher (Fight Club, Zodiac, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button) and Sorkin (A Few Good Men, Charlie Wilson’s War & The West Wing) create an especially scabrous portrait of greed, class prejudice and soaring egos as it traces Zuckerman’s initial flirtation with a potential competitor, his exploitation of a financial partner and subsequent reliance on another Internet Pied Piper in arriving at the apex of an astoundingly successful company designed to let people do electronically what they would be far better off doing personally - - making & nurturing personal friendships.
As Zuckerman, 27-year old Jesse Eisenberg (The Squid & The Whale, Adventureland) portrays Facebook’s founder as a brilliant but curelessly abrasive geek; in the movie’s opening scene, he destroys his relationship with a sometime girlfriend in a manner which demonstrates he’s as insensitive towards others as he is hyper-sensitive about his own place in the scheme of things. Lusting for acceptance into one of Harvard’s elite clubs (which are depicted as institutions whose carefully-chosen members are interested only in initiation hazing, excessive drinking and nailing as many starry-eyed co-eds as possible) Zuckerman accepts an offer extended by 3 upperclassmen to write code for a “social directory” they intend to put on line. Instead, the caustic computer genius quickly grasps the potential for a much larger project which he finances by bringing best-friend Eduardo Saverin on board as chief financial officer of the fledgling enterprise.
By the time Zuckerman & Saverin launch their version of high-tech interpersonal relationships, the upperclassmen are suing and Facebook has grown large enough to attract the attention of Sean Parker (Justin Timberlake) the Internet businessman who warred famously with the music industry as founder of Napster. Timberlake’s Parker emerges as a drug-addled genius attracted to women of an inappropriately young age who seduces Zukerman into screwing Saverin out of his investment while providing the necessary introductions to venture capitalists who would ultimately take the company public and make everyone involved (after a pair of intersecting lawsuits) wealthy. As the credits roll, no one likes anyone else or trusts anyone else. Having supped the Cool-Aid of astounding business success, nobody appears able to handle the aftertaste…
Network crisply blends social commentary, biting wit and a pair of brilliant performances (Eisenberg & Timberlake) into a decidedly cautionary tale about just how lethal a corrosive blend of hunger for social status, genius and ego can be. Network’s characters focus relentlessly on their own narrowly-defined interests, continually talk past each other and grow ever more exasperated with those who don’t share their point of view. Sorkin’s dialogue veers from the wickedly humorous (an interview between Harvard’s then-president Larry Summers and the upperclassmen who thought they’d hired Zuckerman) and to the frighteningly ominous (Parker’s repeated verbal castration of Saverin). The depiction of ruthless personal agendas has rarely been presented with the sustained force to be found here.
It would hard to overstate Eisenberg’s contribution to Social Network’s success; his depiction of Zuckerman’s appalling insensitivity, venomous sarcasm and pathetic needy-ness enlivens one of the most vividly presented characters in recent memory - -what a crime if the actor’s work isn’t recognized at Oscar-time. Timberlake also shines as the smarmy Parker, delivering a devious, charming and sinister Iago worthy of his electronic-age Othello. May this Disney-alum have the sense to take on more villainous roles.
At age 48 Fincher clearly demonstrates his A-list status in Hollywood with this handsomely mounted, ingeniously structured film. From casting to cinematography, set design to soundtrack, audiences can only hope the director continues to deliver movies as polished and entertaining as this one.
The Verdict? A wickedly funny and deeply troubling gem. See it!
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