Friday, April 13, 2012

The Social Network (2010) ****

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Rarely does a megalomaniac get their comeuppance at such an early age as does Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) in The Social Network (2010). Adapted from Ben Mezrich’s book The Accidental Billionaires, the film focuses on how Facebook was created and the lawsuits that followed.  It is a lacerating and ironic examination of the world in which we live today—Zuckerberg just serves as the unlikable whipping boy of an entire generation. 

The Internet has developed into an alternate reality for many people.  It is the place where anyone can seem interesting—especially those people who are socially awkward and personality-deprived.  It is the place where you can write on your blog that your now ex-enhanced-buzz-22107-1286039670-3girlfriend is a bitch and that she has small breasts.  It is the place where you can rate your fellow students and co-workers as “hot” or “not hot”.  It allows you to say whatever you want about someone without having to say it to their face.  It helps you make “friends” that you could never make in person. Quite simply, you could have the social skills of a paper bag and the personality of a megalomaniac and still found a billion dollar website about connecting with people.  Could anything be more ironic than this?

Yet, there is another, often overlooked, theme in this movie that screenwriter Aaron Sorkin focuses on: intellectual property theft. While Sorkin doesn’t delve into this as fully as he might have, it is still there.  While the whole debate about how much Zuckerberg appropriated from the Winklevoss twins (Armie Hammer) and Divya Narendra (Max Minghella) is examined in both Mezrich’s book and Sorkin’s screenplay, I believe there is an underlying critique of what the Internet has done to the social_network_Armie-Hammer_04-535x361-478x322-300x202integrity of intellectual property.  In cases like that of the Winklevoss twins you might have the original idea for something, but then someone can come along polish it up and then pass it off as their own and have no qualms about doing so because they believe they made it better.  It is sort of like this blog (and countless others) about the 1001 book.  Steven Jay Schneider and his fellow editors came up with the original idea, but other people have piggybacked off of it. Are we a society that lacks originality, or have we become a world comprised of adapters—as Sorkin himself is, by adapting a screenplay (an Oscar winning one by the way) from Mezrich’s book?  I often ponder this question—perhaps you should, too.

justin-timberlake-as-sean-parkerThe reason I like The Social Network so much is because I think it is a brutal analysis of  what the Internet Age has done to society.  Still, a film like this would be nothing without a superb cast and production team.  While I think Eisenberg does a tremendous job of not turning Zuckerberg into a caricature, I found both Justin Timberlake and Andrew Garfield’s performances to be more compelling.  Timberlake plays Sean Parker with just the right amount of smarminess and manic-ness (the OED hasn’t made this a word yet, but they should).  I hated his character (I think that’s what Sorkin was going for), but loved how Timberlake made be loathe him. 

Garfield’s Eduardo is the most sympathetic character in the entire picture—of course, this could have had something to do with his serving as an adviser on Mezrich’s book.  Still, I thought Garfield played Eduardo as a young man caught in a bad meltdown2situation quite well. He plays an often confounded grown-up in a quiet, somewhat restricted way, while Eisenberg gets free reign to turn Zuckerberg into one of the biggest asses ever. Garfield is often unjustly overlooked, but without him the film would have lost its moral compass.  I suppose the fact that my favorite scene in the entire movie is when Eduardo tells Zuckerberg and Parker that he won’t be pushed out willingly might make me biased towards him.  When he says to Zuckerberg: “You better lawyer up asshole, because I'm not coming back for 30%, I'm coming back for everything!” I felt that righteous indignation nudge that makes me identify with someone who has been wronged.  Plus, I absolutely loved how he made Sean Parker cower in fear when he edpretended like he was going to hit him.  The best line in the entire film is when he says, “I like standing next to you, Sean. It makes me look so tough.” What a way to be thrown out of your own company!

Overall, The Social Network is a film that expertly represents the time period in which it was made.  It says something rather profound about the Internet Age and about the social network that has evolved from it. 

 

12 comments:

  1. Kim, I have not yet seen this film.. It sounds a little chilling...

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    1. You should really see this one, Dawn. I don't know that I would classify it as chilling, but more unnerving.

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  2. Kim - I saw "The Social Network" not so long ago and enjoyed it, thought it was well-crafted, acted, etc., but is mostly notable for the piece of recent history it related and reflected (stylishly).

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    1. Eve, it is a very hip analysis of the Internet Age so far. I didn't really discuss Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross' original score (which won the Oscar), but the somewhat ominous dissonant music also serves as a statement about the social (or anti-social) world in which we now live.

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  3. Love The Social Network. I find it interesting that the views of the internet and social media came through in 2010...took them long enough lol.

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    1. The Internet is something that not a lot of writers know what to do with. I think Sorkin benefited greatly from Mezrich’s book. Thanks for stopping by.

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  4. Interesting take on what the film is actually saying. I don't think I've read that anywhere else.

    I confess that I've never really understood the love for this film. Like, yes, but love, no. I thought it was well-written and okay acted, but the story just didn't grip me that much. I knew enough about the real events that there were no surprises for me (other than the fact that they changed Zuckerberg to be a loner, which he is not. He's had the same girlfriend since before the events depicted in the film.)

    Timberlake is actually the one who impressed me the most with his acting.

    As I said earlier, I felt it was well-written, with many good lines. My favorite is when Zuckerberg is explaining why the "Winklevi" are actually suing him. "Because for the first time in their lives something didn't work out for them exactly like it was supposed to."

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    1. I think it's a timely social commentary. It certainly made me reexamine how I interact with people in person and on the Web.

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  5. Kim, while I found THE SOCIAL NETWORK always interesting, I found it hard to root for any of the characters. While that's not a bad thing, it still makes it one of those movies I'm glad I saw--but will likely not watch again.

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  6. Rick, I can see that. I have a soft spot for Eduardo, though. I've seen it a couple of times now, but I don't think it will be one of those films I'll find myself wanting to watch whenever I come across it channel surfing.

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  7. I'd rather die than watch this one again.

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    1. Is this Mark Zuckerberg? Get over it already, dude!

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