Saturday, October 02, 2010

FILM: The Social Network

Of course we were busy posting on Facebook as we sat down to see The Social Network. But the film was more than engaging enough to keep our eyes off of our iPhones for the duration. In fact, I would call this story a Citizen Kane for the 21st century. It is a fascinating tale of a driven young man's rise to stunning success and riches, at the cost of betraying friendships and destroying relationships along the way, culminating in the ultimate irony: does the man who built a network of 500 million friends have any friends of his own? And of course it was impossible not to think of "Rosebud" when seeing the final scene. How closely the film hews to truthful biography is an open question, but it certainly makes for a landmark story. Facebook Founder Mark Zuckerberg is played impeccably by Jesse Eisenberg, who creates an Asperger-like intensity and unsocialized lack of filter in the main character, and as one of my friends (a Princeton classmate) said, "nailed the speech patterns and mannerisms of smartass Ivy League kids". Aaron Sorkin's script is beautifully written, from the opening scene in which we quickly get to know the Zuckerberg character as he is being dumped (for good reason) by his girlfriend, to the last scene (the Rosebud moment). The film tells the story of the events leading up to and through the founding of Facebook, interspersed with scenes from legal depositions from the various parties who later sued him, scenes which reflect on and illuminate the story. Zuckerberg comes off pretty much as a brilliant amoral jerk, though one of the young associates on his defense team sheds some sympathetic light on him, and I found myself cheering for him a little bit when he was being berated by the opposing attorneys and gave them a stinging comeback. (But then even Atila the Hun might be sympathetic when being berated by an attorney.) Justin Timberlake gives a great turn as Sean Parker, the erstwhile founder of Napster who insinuated himself into Facebook, portrayed here as a brilliant, charming, immature power-magnet with a penchant for drink and drugs and a talent for knowing who to flatter and charm. The whole story felt very realistic (again, whether it's true or not), and some scenes were giving me flashbacks to my own dot-com-founding experiences (which included a house which served as company dormitory and office space, though without so much drugs, wild parties, and funding). I predict Oscar noms for Eisenberg and Sorkin (course it's still early in the year for Oscar's short attention span).