The Social Network is Creepy and Fascinating

The Social Network (2010)

Directed by David Fincher

PG-13, 121 mins. (Sexuality, nudity, language)

* * * *

Mark Zuckerberg is the smartest guy in every room he enters. The problem is that he knows it and he’s also either suffering from Asperger Syndrome or is a full-blown sociopath. As such, Zuckerberg has the sensitivity of a two-year-old, the morals of a sadist, and the self-control of a Turret’s patient. And he’s not even the most unlikable figure in the film. That dishonor would go to Jason Timberlake playing Napster creator Sean Parker, who packs more crude than the Gulf oil spill.

Be forewarned; seeing this (barely) fictionalized account of how Facebook came into being will make you immediately want to do five things: trash your Facebook account, kill Zuckerberg, assassinate the founder of Napster, call for a federal investigation of Harvard, and start a class war. Is The Social Network real? Technically it’s fictional and is based on the Ben Mezrich novel The Accidental Billionaire. Zuckerberg says it’s fanciful, Parker (Sean Fanning in real life) hasn’t said much, and several of the litigants who claimed Zuckerberg bilked them are silent because they signed non-disclosure agreements. But the fact that no defamation lawsuits have been brought against Mezrich, Fincher, or script writer Aaron Sorkin suggests that none of the villains of this piece--and there are precious few good guys--feels confident enough to air their views of the truth in public. (Sorkin insists the film is pretty close to reality.)

The film opens at Harvard in 2003. Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) has just been dumped by his girlfriend (Rooney Mara) and retreats to his room to slander her on his very-public blog, get drunk, hack into Harvard data bases, and set up a Website that allows testosterone-poisoned Harvard males to rate the relative “hotness” of Harvard coeds. This was the genesis of Facebook. Without giving away too much, getting to the Facebook of the present also involved Zuckerberg double-crossing a trio of secret society lads (including the smug Winklevoss twins, both played by Armie Hammer); putting the screws to Eduardo Saverin (Andrew Garfield), his only friend; and coming under the Svengali-like influence of Sean Parker/Fanning. The unindicted coconspirator is Harvard, a fetid cesspool of arrogance, self-indulgence, sexism, bad behavior, and contempt for everyone who lacks the social privileges enjoyed by the Crimson-clad spawn of Satan. Among the many questions raised in the film is why rich kids are allowed to get away with actions--sexual harassment, hacking, invasion of privacy, lewdness, drug dealing--that would land a public university student in prison. (Still another question is how this film managed to wrangle a PG-13 rating.)

The Social Network is like watching a horror flick; we don’t want to look but we do. Credit Fincher’s focused direction, Sorkin’s acidic script, and superb performances all around, especially that of Eisenberg, who keeps our eyes glued on a character who is essentially a monster, and an unsympathetic one at that. The movie unfolds at a crisp pace and deftly handles a task that is hard to capture on film: the creative process. For all of his faults, Zuckerberg was/is a genius and to watch him build Facebook’s architecture and envision its potential miles ahead of everyone else is reminiscent of the scenes in Amadeus in which Mozart dictates scores from his sick bed while poor Salieri struggles to keep up.

I‘m not sure if we can call this a “good” film, as there just isn’t much social redemption to be found. It is, however, an endlessly fascinating one. See it, and then go home and take a shower. Trust me--you’ll definitely feel like you need one.

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