The final scene of The Social Network is a quiet one. It is perhaps the only quiet moment in the film.
Facebook creator, Mark Zuckerberg (brilliantly portrayed by Jesse Eisenberg) is left alone in a conference room with his computer. The inventor of the social networking giant goes on Facebook.com and then patiently waits to see if a girl he once loved will accept his friend request. To restate, the inventor of Facebook, one of the richest men in the world, is impatiently clicking refresh over and over again, praying his one-time girlfriend will “like” him. The moral of the story – he can create a social empire (the social empire), yet can’t get a response from a random girl. Interesting.
The Social Network opened Oct. 1 to some of the best reviews that a movie has unanimously received since No Country for Old Men. It catapulted to the front of every magazine in the country, and secured itself as the early frontrunner for Best Picture at next year’s Academy Awards. In a nutshell, it is probably going to end up being the best reviewed film of the year, and I wouldn’t be surprised if nothing can stop its run to Oscar in six months. The reason? It is simply that good.
The film eloquently tells the story about the invention of Facebook. One night after a breakup from his girlfriend, Zuckerberg blogs about her and starts having fantastic ideas about how we compare people, befriend people, and define people. A few days later, the seed is planted. Eventually, it’s all the rage at Harvard (where the film takes place) and other Ivy League schools. Before long, Facebook is everywhere. Today, if it had a population, Facebook would be one of the ten largest countries in the world. Zuckerberg is worth a reported $6 billion. Facebook pretty much rules the internet and its presence killed MySpace and various other sites.
However, The Social Network is not simply a story about a young, socially awkward guy who starts a company from scratch. In fact, the movie has very little to do with Facebook itself. It is more a story of greed, success, priorities, and getting everything handed to you on a plate – and yet still having an empty stomach. The outstanding script by “West Wing” creator Aaron Sorkin redefines what a good screenplay can be. It is full, so sharp, that at times you simply have to gasp from the text that is flying around the screen. The direction by Fight Club and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button director, David Fincher is both elegant and economical. The film never slows and is like a non-stop shot of adrenaline in a year where film needed it most.
Of course, as reported, the bulk of the film takes place in litigation. The movie cuts in and out of two different cases where Zuckerberg is being sued for both theft. Zuckerberg is first sued by a pair of twins who created (or had an idea to create) a small website eerily similar to Facebook. The second lawsuit involves Zuckerberg’s best friend (and Facebook founding CFO) who is suing for a bigger (and deserved) piece of the pie. Andrew Garfield is outstanding in this role, and may find himself short-listed for Best Supporting Actor. However, if anyone receives acting accolades, it will probably be Eisenberg and dare I say Justin Timberlake. Timberlake shows up mid-way through the film as smooth talking Sean Parker (Napster creator) who hustles, swindles, and inevitably controls Zuckerberg. There is no way that anyone could have seen a performance like this within the gifted Timberlake. He is so slimy that you want to shower after a few frames. A word should also be said about Rashida Jones, who delievers a fantstic performance in a tiny, yet winning role. You get to see her stretch far beyond her work on “The Office” and “Parks and Recreation.”
In the end, the film is essentially about whether or not the idea/ideas were stolen and how badly they were handled (and the people involved). You do, however, leave confused about Zuckerberg. You recognize that he is twisted, manipulative, and weak, but you also leave feeling a bit bad for him (in Citizen Kane tradition) for his decisions have left him alone, empty, and with a mere shell of decency.
It’s ironic that the alone, empty, and hollow eyes of the real Mark Zuckerberg are evident in every frame on the screen. Of course, he is not endorsing this film, but he really doesn’t need to. The reclusive Zuckerberg has been making the rounds in favor of his sudden (and generous) need to donate $100 million to the New Jersey school system. Of course, there is nothing fishy about his subsequent interviews, the timing of the donation, or his sudden interest in New Jersey. Regarding the film, in the end, you feel some empathy for the title character, but you also leave hating him. Either way, there’s only one way to leave The Social Network and that is completely and utterly satisfied.
Wayne Bell is a regular contributor for the Fayetteville Flyer. He moved to Fayetteville in 2003 for his Master’s Degree and you can almost always catch him at Little Bread Co. or Hammontree’s. For more of Wayne’s contributions, visit his author page.