David Fincher’s The Social Network opens with a conversation between a boy and girl. Mark and Erica are dating. At the beginning we are led to believe that this relationship is going well, but after a few minutes and multiple scintillating pages of dialogue, Mark, we learn will never be accepted. Not because he is not welcome in Harvard’s elitist clubs, or because he doesn’t have the body of a rower. “No,” Erica says. “It’s because you’re an asshole.”
And, that my friends, is how to become a billionaire.
Network, of course is about the spawning of Facebook, the social site which allows users to monitor friends and their pictures, videos, relationship statuses, creed, political stance, occupation, dot dot dot. Facebook now is an all-encompassing entity. What was originally conceptualized as a Myspace clone has surpassed its predecessors and left them in its cyberspace dust. Now, one can play multi-player games, chat online. Hell, you can even change your language to pirate talk. Let’s be honest, most of these features are as useful as screen-door on a submarine, but regardless of if you have a profile or not, it’s impossible to ignore. Facebook has taken over the world.
Thankfully, Network ignores Farmville and the Mafia Wars and focusses solely on how Mark Zuckerberg created a 25 billion dollar company with over 500 million users. The interesting thing is that he might not have created it in the first place. Fincher and screenwriter Aaron Sorkin (TV’s Sportsnight) make it a point to create an ambiguous atmosphere throughout; hinting at, but never admitting one way or another to Zuckerberg’s alleged plagiarism. The first act is driven by his incessant drive to be accepted. He is rejected by Erica, ignored by his school’s high society; all of this sets in motion his path to personal reprisal. We are introduced to Facebook’s other founders: Eduardo Saverin (Andrew Garfield), Dustin Moskovitz (Joseph Mazzello), and how the fledgling start-up came to be, beginning in the dormitories of Harvard to its eventual home base in Silicon Valley. In between there is deceit, childish behaviour, groupies, broken friendships and lawsuits by the rumoured originators of the program: the Winklevoss twins, Cameron and Tyler. Astoundingly, they are both played by one actor (Armie Hammer).
Zuckerberg himself is portrayed by Jesse Eisenberg (Zombieland, The Squid and the Whale). Eisenberg has made a career out of playing the habitually neurotic boy next door. He depicts lovable and fixated all at once. I have never met Mark Zuckerberg, nor have I ever heard him speak. But, if he is anything like what what represented onscreen, Fincher’s casting was spot on. Justin Timberlake (Alpha Dog) is also particularly strong as Napster creator, and Facebook infiltrator Sean Parker.
The finest part of Network though is the writing of the aforementioned Sorkin. It’s staggering to think that his name isn’t thrown around Hollywood more as one of its elite writers; his words here are impeccable. We understand these characters to be real, yet they become even more than that. We know these people by the time the lights come on. Not an easy task when dealing with a non-fiction work. There is a gravitas to the matter–always the case when dealing with money–yet, sprinkled into the script are moments and discourse that are laugh out loud funny.
Currently, and absurdly, I have 1,023 Facebook friends. A hundred or so are close, a few hundred more are acquaintances. I would venture that a third of them I couldn’t even pick out of a lineup, while even more are probably just friends of friends of friends etc. I suppose I am just as guilty as Mark Zuckerberg–a hint of vanity seeps through, the hope for popularity reigns supreme. There is no good reason to accept people I do not know, even some from other corners of the globe.
Network will have staying power as it’s been a pillar among social and economic discussion. Expect multiple nominations on the award scene for Best Picture, Adapted Screenplay, Direction, and perhaps even Score for Nine Inch Nails frontman Trent Reznor. Acting nods will be deserved but harder to come by in a deep year.
I am not a rich man, far from it; somedays I wish I were. After seeing this film, it makes you think twice about what you have to give up, or what you actually gain to achieve a certain standard. It’s difficult not to marvel at Mark Zuckerberg’s intellect–he crashed Harvard’s server while drunk at four in the morning. Although, one could question the thought process of a man who goes to meetings in a robe, and has “I’m CEO…bitch” printed on his business cards. We are told that the Facebook wheels were started by the spurning from a single girl. She is Zuckerberg’s Helen of Troy so to speak; the film begins and ends with her. 25 billion can buy you many things, but what a lonely life to live, perpetually refreshing a web page.