WHO NEEDS FRIENDS when you have six billion dollars? Not Mark Zuckerberg, who alienated every single living soul around him on his stunningly rapid rise to become the world’s youngest billionaire.
My first reaction upon learning that someone was going to make a movie about Facebook was nowhere near a positive anticipation. When it comes to the world’s largest online social network, my feelings are ambivalent, particularly when it comes to ‘collecting’ so-called friends as if people were objects – how many of the 625 ‘friends’ on the list are really friends? Real friends communicate with one another; they are not tugged away in a dark corner on a website, like a business card you slip in a box among 500 others and never see again. Why does anyone feel the insane need to update their ‘status’ on a daily, even hourly basis, to tell everyone what they’re doing, where they’re at, or who they’re with?
There are many things more pressing and worthwhile to spend time on than inane chatters, gossips and sharing of completely inconsequential daily happenings with everyone online – most of the day, every day. A movie about Facebook? Seriously?
My misgivings about the website aside, the movie about how it was created has turned out to be the year’s biggest surprise. There is no competition that The Social Network is the most outstanding movie of 2010. Please give me a moment as I crunch up a piece of paper and eat my words. Facebook may not be my preferred method of making or keeping friends, but this movie on Facebook is one I recommend unreservedly. See it. Then see it again.
The creation of Facebook as dramatized (and fictionalised to a certain degree) in The Social Network is built on a foundation of archetypal elements of classic dramas. Fierce ambitions, the recklessness of youth, insane jealousy and a burning need to be accepted make for a revenge fantasy like no other.
It is an engrossing look at what a cultural groundshift some brilliant minds can achieve in a remarkably short time. It sheds light on the dark side of a networking tool that’s taking over the world in a way no other website has done. Friendships are tested, trust eroded, as super-smart boys scheme, manipulate and program their ways to untold wealth and write their names in history books.
The bitter irony of it all is how the world’s most popular connecting website was the brainchild of a misanthrope. Mark Zuckerberg, if his portrayal in the movie is anything close to a truthful depiction, is not a people-person by any stretch of the imagination. His complete disregard for other people’s feelings is only matched by his undisguised arrogance. He’s cold, calculative, distant, and thinks only of himself. In the process of setting up Facebook he betrays and loses even the one friend who stood by him. The character of Zuckerberg is compelling, even as a self-absorbed 19-year-old jerk who thinks he’s above everyone else. To his credit, Zuckerberg is bright, terribly so. And he puts his smarts to excellent use, fast-tracking himself while oblivious to his own character and emotional deficiencies.
The price for Zuckerberg, among others, is a long series of legal proceedings. Did he really rip off the Facebook idea from the Winklevoss twins, who were paying him to develop a similar website at the same time? The narrative structure of The Social Network is interspersed with two sets of depositions and the events around the creation of Facebook. Lawyers and young brainiacs sit across conference table in boardroom arguing with dagger in their eyes. Zuckerberg also brings to the table a chilly contempt, condescension and intimidating self-confidence.
Based on the book The Accidental Billionaires by Ben Mezrich, The Social Network is written by Aaron Sorkin. Fans of The West Wing on TV would know exactly what to expect. Sorkin’s script is like a mighty river after the snow has melted. The words never stop; they just keep coming – angry, defensive, assured, compelling in a non-stop talk-fest.
David Fincher’s direction has a briskness in unfolding the escalating drama. He’s like a magician that keeps making things appear before the eyes. Fincher’s vision is underpinned by a youthful energy, a sense of defiance, and a rhythm that hooks you deep in the endlessly riveting battle for the crown in super geekdom. Just look at the way Sorkin and Fincher style the opening scene. Out on a date, a tactless and insecure Zuckerberg is dumped by his girlfriend, in a verbose break-up scene that is so astonishingly well executed to the point of breathless brilliance. Any tiny hint of romance is flattened like a squashed bug, with a serving of sarcasm, irony and heartbreak that fuels a young man’s battered ego to create – on the very same night – the foundation on which Facebook will eventually rise to its stratospheric heights.
Is Mark Zuckerberg a bad guy, or as they call him in the movie, an asshole? In movie language, we need a villain; and in the character of Mark Zuckerberg – nerd, genius, maybe also a thief – we have an anti-hero that remains a little boy who yearns to be accepted deep inside.
Money. Power. Brain. Friends. Enemies. This boy has it all.