You might be asking; why another movie review of David Fincher’s Facebook film “The Social Network”? Media hype abounds with “The Social Network” and its ensemble cast of Jesse Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield, Justin Timberlake, Brenda Song and Armie Hammer. It is a smart film, due mostly to Aaron Sorkin’s screenplay, which gives movie reviewers and critics a lot of meat to tear into. “The Social Network” also rides the wave of a phenomenon that has entrenched itself in the cultural lexicon as deeply as Google.
Surely producers Scott Rudin and Kevin Spacey saw that “The Social Network” was an obvious film to make. Just as it’s an obvious film to write a movie review about. As the press has so affirmed, when Aaron Sorkin was given Ben Mezrich’s book proposal for The Accidental Billionaires, he was sold by page 3. There is no better combination for a film about Facebook than, Aaron Sorkin’s (“The West Wing”, “A Few Good Men”) dizzying dialogue and David Fincher’s (“Seven”, “The Game”, “Fight Club”) stylistic edginess as Director. Throw in a cast that nails every note of Sorkin’s scripted symphony about money, power, sex and friends; it’s an instant classic.
That Sorkin wrote the screenplay parallel to Mezrich’s book about Facebook, allowed Fincher to give “The Social Network” a life of its own. The film need not be rooted in the pseudo-factual hearsay of a business book about the tumultuous birth of a billion dollar idea. Sorkin puts the players in Fincher’s hands for a full on Greek tragedy that will probably long outshine any factual realities or claims about the truth of Facebook. The absence of journalistic truth makes myths of Facebook founders, Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg), Eduardo Saverin (Andrew Garfield), Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss (Armie Hammer), and Sean Parker (Justin Timberlake).
That is the power of myth and “The Social Network” is more a study of modern mythmaking than an honest portrayal of a generation. This is nothing new as the birth of the home computer is rooted in the modern myth of Bill Gates and Steve Jobs. This was seen in a Google Book search overload of titles and a made for TV movie, “Pirates of Silicon Valley” starring Noah Wyle and Anthony Michael Hall. Even Napster Founder and cyber-rockstar Sean Parker, brilliantly played by Justin Timberlake, enters “The Social Network” with a mythological presence.
To cite a rather well known authority on Tragedy, Aristotle wrote in his Poetics that the best tragedy should be a story filled with complexity to arouse fear and pity. Sorkin’s anti-hero, Mark Zuckerberg, is driven because he is a victim of his own circumstance, not the social network surrounding him. Lives that brew in Harvard dorms and carouse with venture capitalists in Palo Alto are easily tragic. With all the resources in the world at one’s beckon call, society cannot be blamed for one’s own pitfall.
Sorkin’s portrayal of Zuckerberg attempts to be a lesson that money isn’t everything. Zuckerberg is at odds with those who contest him as the genesis of Facebook and the drive for money is what motivates them. Zuckerberg’s strength is equally a pitfall with a desire to be cool, accepted and iconic. As any adolescent tragedy would reveal, these characters are motivated by redemption in the eyes of a lover who scorned them. This is captured by a scene where Zuckerberg and Sean Parker confess to starting their Internet revolutions to impress a girl. Let’s be honest, it’s adolescent because we are in essence all driven by adolescent desires; we just become disguised by intellect and wrinkles or just get exhausted trying.
“The Social Network” might as well been titled, “How to Lose Friends and Alienate People.” That is the tragedy of both Mark Zuckerberg and Sean Parker portrayed by the filmmakers. The screenplay has been compared, by Sorkin himself, to Akira Kurosawa’s “Rashomon” and its cinematic breakthrough of storytelling through multiple viewpoints. A breakthrough that gave the notion of truth a more genuine meaning as subjectivity through many points of view. Though Zuckerberg is clearly the center upon which this social network hinges and the film is a sympathetic romp through his social awkwardness.
It’s more reminiscient of another cinematic landmark, Orson Welles’s “Citizen Kane”, than Kurosawa’s “Rashomon”. The difference being that Orson Welles made a film about 1920s publishing magnate William Randolph Hearst, but changed his name to Charles Foster Kane. Just as in some form, we come to pity the tragedy of Charles Foster Kane; we pity the tragedy of Mark Zuckerberg. To ensure this Sorkin wrote in the character of Marylin Delpy, played by Rashida Jones (“The Office”, “I Love You, Man”). Marylin is a junior lawyer in Zuckerberg’s defense, and at one point says to Mark, “…creation myths need a devil.” Bringing a mythological tone to Facebook’s creation and explaining the resentment surrounding a guy who made it to the finish line first.
Marylin, in a final statement of pity, tells Mark he’s not really an A-hole, he just tries too hard to be one. It’s a highly intentional defense of Zuckerberg, and with how his detractors are portrayed, including the dumb jock Winklevoss twins, just where is the even handed multiple view points? We are in a way not seeing the story from everyone’s Facebook profile; just Zuckerberg’s and occasionally get a glimpse from someone posting on his profile “wall”. Though, it’s well known that the real Mark Zuckerberg had no involvement in the film’s production.
So why, you ask again, another movie review of “The Social Network”? It is an undeniable force of filmmaking that tells an irresistibly tragic tale. Sorkin’s screenplay is dazzling and delivered with a tremendous force of bottled energy in Jesse Eisenberg (“The Squid and the Whale”, “Adventureland”). David Fincher reunited with his “Fight Club” collaborators, Jeff Cronenweth behind the camera and in the editing room with Kirk Baxter and Angus Wall. The penetrating, yet smooth cinematography is juxtaposed by frenetic jump cuts, accentuating the all too familiar voice of Sorkin.
The last scene of “The Social Network” has Zuckerberg alone as he repeatedly refreshes the Facebook page of the girl that dumped him. The page “refresh” is a clever motif earlier exclaimed by Sean Parker as he heralds “Refresh!” in the Facebook offices as they reach their millionth subscriber. Even with the world at his fingertips, Zuckerberg is still tragically trying to refresh old friends and lovers. His best-friend has sued him and the girl that started it all for him still cannot be “added” as a friend. As evidenced by several encounters between the two after the breakup, she has a polite hatred for Zuckerberg. Yet that hatred, born of the cyber-permanence of Zuckerberg’s inappropriate blogging, does not prevent the permanence of Facebook. She, like 500,000,000 others, fall prey to the genus and addictive social network of Facebook.