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The Social Network
There have been many great bio-pics produced by Hollywood. Take for example Hoffa, Danny DeVito’s wonderful exploration of the life of union boss Jimmy Hoffa; and Malcolm X, Spike Lee’s film about the life and times of the famous civil rights icon. There is also Amelia, a movie about Amelia Earhart, starring Hilary Swank, who turns in an excellent performance. And who could forget Milk, Gus Van Sant’s bio-pic of gay rights activist, Harvey Milk. To this collection of excellent motion pictures has now been added The Social Network, a film about the founding of the social networking site Face Book and the power struggles between those involved in its creation and expansion.
The principal players are Mark Zuckerberg, portrayed by Jessie Eisenberg (The Squid and the Whale, Zombieland, A Solitary Man); Zuckerberg’s friend Eduardo Saverin, played by Andrew Garfield (The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, Never Let Me Go); Napster co-creator Sean Parker, played by Justin Timberlake (Shrek The Third, The Love Guru); and Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss, both portrayed by Armie Hammer (Flicka, Gossip Girl, Reaper).
Everybody in this film performs very well indeed, especially Eisenberg, whose portrayal of Zuckerberg as a cruel, arrogant, insecure, socially retarded uber nerd is so convincing that you just feel like reaching into the movie screen and ringing his neck. The movie is also exciting, which is quite an accomplishment given that the plot of this excellent piece of cinema involves middle and upper-middle class computer programmers comfortably ensconsed in their dorm rooms typing their way to fame and fortune; and later on, fighting each other in the justice system for intellectual property rights and lost cash.
Because the source material is, from a technological and autobiographical standpoint, quite dull, script writer Aaron Sorkin and director David Fincher apparently chose to play fast and loose with some of the facts in the story to make it more suspenseful and dramatic. It is not that the lives of young computer geeks can’t be exciting. But the fact is, Zuckerberg did not make anything particularly new or revolutionary. He just manipulated pre-existing technology and developed a new commercial product. His achievement is really quite pedestrian.
As good as this movie is, I really do wonder why it had to be made. Hoffa, Amelia, and Malcom X were all about people who through their words and actions inspired others to change the status quo. Hoffa convinced exploited teamsters to rise up for better wages. Malcolm X inspired oppressed blacks to smash the chains of race-based oppression in the United States. Amelia Earhart risked her life in the early days of aviation, becoming a hero to future generations of American women. All three overcame incredible obstacles but died before their time. Earhart died in a plane crash. Malcolm X and Hoffa were murdered.
In contrast, Zuckerburg and his friends never put their lives on the line for Facebook, were never actually in danger of imprisonment, and were never going to be impoverished if the site failed to deliver revenue. This isn’t a movie about people struggling to change the status quo, it is about people trying to take advantage of the status quo.
The movie is still worth renting. As long as you don’t expect it to be an absolutely accurate account of how Facebook was developed, and you just sit back and enjoy the interactions between the various characters; the interplay between Zuckerburg and Saverin in particular, being quite marvelous .