(2010) director David Fincher
viewed: 10/12/10 at CineArts @ the Empire Theater, SF, CA
So, I get it. Mark Zuckerberg is an asshole. That’s how he’s sized up in the opening scene by a freshly ex-girlfriend. But by the end of the movie, the take is a half-measure more gentle, he’s not an asshole, but he’s just trying very hard to be one. And succeeding, one would guess.
Adapted from Ben Mezrich’s non-fiction, though debatably slanted book, The Accidental Billionaire, The Social Networkis an odd work of fiction-y non-fiction. Writer Aaron Sorkin, who wrote the screenplay, notably has stated that his version of the story is not adhering to facts purely, and yet is clearly about real people and real events, portraying them in a very specific manner. And while a lot of the artistic license was employed to up the drama and the decadence, you really have to wonder how accurate or true things are, or could this be a modern version of Citizen Kane (1941) albeit with considerably smaller scale drama.
In director David Fincher’s hands, the story of Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook is a riveting, nearly thrilling two hours, following him from his wet-behind-the-ears pining at Harvard through the launch of Facebook, to the expensive lawsuits that came from his betrayals. And it is intense and involving. But when you think back on it, that it’s the story of an undergrad who duped some wealthy jocks and then launched a site that took small influence from their ideas (and made billions on it), or that aspect of the story in which he shafted his best friend and co-founder of Facebook out of his due earnings, it’s not laced with sex and death and rock’n’roll. It’s really potentially boring.
I guess what’s so impressive about the film is that it’s far from boring. In fact, with strong performances from Jesse Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield, Rooney Mara, Justin Timberlake, and others, the film may actually be David Fincher’s most well-rounded effort to date. Maybe it’s not as cool or strange as Seven (1995) or Fight Club(1999), but it’s a more rewarding and fully-realized film. And for as much as it paints Zuckerberg as a mealy worm of a human being, it certainly isn’t a wholly shallow portrait.
If anything, I came away from it thinking that Zuckerberg can’t be thatmuch of a wormy creep. I mean, this story, if anything is that of Garfield’s character, based on Eduardo Saverin, who is the ultimate good guy in the story, the best friend who gets shafted and screwed, but who was a consultant on the story. That’s the thing, for most people, this movie will be where they get the most of their knowledge about the founding of Facebook and interpretation of the character of the people involved. And it’s fairly damning.
The film doesn’t begin to consider the real cultural impact of the site, focused as it is on the site’s inception. In fact, it’s kind of funny because I remember when it was only open to those with a “.edu” email address and when it had the “who is hotter?” comparison of photos that was its drunken roots. It’s much more than that now. And no doubt, Zuckerberg, who is still very young, will be much more than this too.
Still, one of the better movies of the year that I’ve seen, a riveting, fairly thrilling film about the world’s youngest billionaire. And the people he screwed over to get there.