Trisha’s Take: The Social Network review

[Editor’s Note: We’re trying something a little new here where more than one person writes a review of a given thing. Any and all feedback would be greatly appreciated. – TL]

The Social Network

Directed by David Fincher
Starring Jesse Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield, Justin Timberlake, Armie Hammer, Armie Hammer, and more
Rating: PG-13 for sexual content, drug and alcohol use and language

Before I write this review, I am obliged to tell you that one of the reasons why I was excited when I first heard about this movie was that Aaron Sorkin (The American President, “The West Wing”) would be writing the screenplay, and that he’d started a Facebook page to do research.

Back then, I’d called it a documentary, and boy was I wrong. The story of The Social Network is based on a not-completely factual non-fiction book by Ben Mezrich called The Accidental Billionaires: The Founding of Facebook, A Tale of Sex, Money, Genius, and Betrayal and it was Sorkin and director David Fincher’s job to turn the story within that book into a movie.

For those who aren’t familiar with Facebook‘s history, the first 20 minutes or so of the movie reveal part of its source via a common story trope, although tweaked a bit for the 21st century. Girl (Rooney Mara) breaks up with Guy (Mark Zuckerberg, played by Jesse Eisenberg) because he’s a tremendous ass, Guy gets drunk and starts writing computer code, and almost overnight, he has alienated almost everyone on his campus… and planted the seeds for an even greater invention.

Though I am a geek, it is not of the computer science flavor and so a lot of the jargon Zuckerberg threw out as he was drunk-coding went completely over my head. What did ring true for me was that he had been hurt by what he perceived to be an unfairness, and he took it out on innocent bystanders while performing an Allen Ginsberg-like howl into the electronic void on his LiveJournal. And perhaps that blend of new technology with age-old human behavior and conflicts is what makes The Social Network a compelling story.

(In a curious burst of synergy, though there is a Zuckonit user on LiveJournal, the account was created approximately two weeks ago and the journal is devoid of content. That’s a real shame because couldn’t you imagine what fun it would have been to be the PR copywriter assigned to simulate what Zuckerberg’s “real” LiveJournal entries would have been?)

The other curious effect of the story presented in Social Network is that it humanizes Zuckerberg by presenting him as a “sexually insecure computer nerd,” according to The Guardian‘s James Robinson. And perhaps this observation is the direct opposition of what Robinson writes about in the rest of his article which described a growing disillusionment with Zuckerberg’s disregard for privacy, but it’s a testament to Sorkin’s words, Fincher’s direction, and Eisenberg’s acting ability that even when he’s ignoring the safe and sane approach to business espoused by his best friend Eduardo Savarin (played very well by Andrew Garfield) and behaving like the most reprehensible businessman ever, the audience in my preview screening never wanted to see Zuckerberg fail miserably.

The antagonists in this story include twin pretty-boy athletes Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss (both played by Armie Hammer) and computing bad boy entrepreneur Sean Parker (Justin Timberlake, in an Oscar-bait worthy performance); it’s Parker who is given the shortest shrift by being portrayed as a paranoid druggie has-been.

As I write this review, I’m struck by the fact that I could talk for ages about how great the dialogue is, how disappointed I was that there weren’t any extensive pedeconferences, how cool the music was (except for the last nightclub scene in California, where it was turned up so loud that you almost couldn’t hear the dialogue–just as it would happen in a real nightclub), and still I really only think this movie was just good, but not great.

I have a suspicion that my ultimate dissatisfaction with this movie is that in attempting to humanize Zuckerberg and create a protagonist whose journey you really wanted to follow, Sorkin pulled a lot of hackneyed ideas out of his overnight bag and sprinkled the film liberally with them. The worst offender is the last scene of the movie which ends with Zuckerberg at his computer all alone… just as he had been when he first began his journey towards being the youngest billionnaire in the world.

And life just isn’t as “neat” as all that.

The Social Network is gathering friends for its U.S. release on October 1. Could you help by going to your nearest theater and purchasing a ticket?