“You’re going to be successful and rich. But you’re going to go through life thinking that girls don’t like you because you’re a tech geek. And I want you to know, from the bottom of my heart, that that won’t be true. It’ll be because you’re an asshole.”
Erica Albright to Mark Zuckerberg, explaining why they’re breaking up.
The above is an exchange that took place early in the film. It should be noted that unlike the previous review, there is no real need for me to Ctrl + B ‘spoiler’ or anything like that. Also, you might notice in my review of ‘Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1’ that I ended the whole thing with, “Give me my Desplat now, bitch.” That is actually inspired by ‘The Social Network’, when Sean Parker (Justin Timberlake) turned to Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg), and told him not to sell out, not to give in to the bigger corporations. “Imagine…you will be the leader of your own company. You can give them a card that says, “I’m CEO, bitch!”” Ever since, anytime I think of the word bitch in any context, my mind jumps to that particular scene. Thank you, Mr Sorkin.
‘The Social Network’ is informally known as the Facebook movie, but it reality, it really is more about the man behind the network, to uncover the face behind the book (ho hum). In the film, Zuckerberg is a student at Harvard University in 2003. Having his heart somewhat broken by Albright (Rooney Mara), he goes back to his room and spends the next hours coming up with Facemash, a programme that allows people to rate how hot girls are compared to the other. Becoming the big hit on campus, it brings him to the attention of the Winkelvoss twins, Cameron and Tyler (Armie Hammer and Josh Pence) and Divya Narendran (Max Minghella). They want to build their own online social network, Harvard Connection, and figure that Zuckerberg would be the guy to make it happen.
Of course, that’s not quite how it turns out. Zuckerberg branches out on his own, creating TheFacebook, prompting legal actions from Narendran and the twins. That’s not all; his chief financial officer, and a key role portrayed in the film, Eduardo Saverin (Andrew Garfield), also decides to sue him. Feeling more and more left out of the equation after Parker came into the picture, he eventually opts for legal action once he realise he is being screwed out of what he believes to be his rightful share. With his girlfriend Christy (Brenda Song) also causing more than just a little bit of trouble, things got a bit heated for Eduardo, and all this translated into more trouble for Zuckerberg as he juggles the running of a burgeoning company and people wanting to take him down left, right and centre.
Notice that I mentioned in the beginning of the description of the synopsis, ‘in the film’. It seems clear film and its making is largely a fictitious endeavour in the sense that the stories being told on the screen are all required to abide by certain conventions. In short, the translation or adaptation of any real-life story should always be noted with a huge asterix after the title. No adaptation could ever be true as real life, and it is this principle that the screenwriter Aaron Sorkin adopted. The biggest difference appears to be Zuckerberg’s apparent shyness in real life and Eisenberg’s rapid-fire interpretation in his acting. Watch the film, and you’ll know how accurate the term rapid-fire is. He is portrayed as a genius, and so his thought process is a lot quicker than most of the characters in the film. His speech and actions are all ramped up, almost making him look cool rather than socially-awkward. Almost, because he is socially-awkward despite (or perhaps because of ) his annoying tendency to double talk and avoid answering questions in a direct way. It’s useful for him, but you do imagine that if you have an asshole a friend like him in real life, you’d want to smack him.
Because the film does, in many ways, portray him as an asshole. In fact, in stepping out from the cinema, I mentioned to my friend that I feel a big inclination to quit Facebook. I do not subscribe to the policy of revealing everything online, and in fact, I guard what I do reveal closely. That privacy is important to me, and a lot of what I do online is restricted to what I think is the minimum; Facebook now remains a way for me to promote my own blogs and screenings of my films…and to remember friend’s birthdays. Beyond that…well, put it this way. I allow movies to affect me, and in an interesting twist, the Facebook movie is seriously making me reconsider my membership in the largest social networking website in the world. It might not affect you in the same way, but that’s what it did to me. Ironic, too, that a person portrayed as an asshole is responsible for Facebook.
The film jumps back and forth between the past and the present, the rapidfire (there’s that word again) editing seamlessly stitching together the parts of a narrative into a creative whole. I saw ‘Righteous Kill’ yesterday starring Al Pacino and Robert de Niro, and that film is the antithesis of ‘Social Network’. In short, ‘The Social Network’ is a worthy film to be studied from its editing. The quick cuts for some of the scenes helps to increase the energy on many levels, from a quiet date between Zuckerberg and Albright (well, quiet by the standards of the film), to the moments of inspiration that struck Zuckerberg as he created and improved Facebook in small but minor ways. Witness, too, the rowing scenes that the Winklevoss twins took part in, a metaphorical sequence that also showed their impending loss (or victory, depending on how you look at it) against Zuckerberg.
The real-life twins ended up rowing for America at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, which is a fact that brought home how current and recent the events in the movie are. I realise that it portrayed 2003 as a long time ago, a world during which there was no Facebook. It was during that time that I got into Friendster, but that died down quickly. I remember someone mentioning Facebook as the new kid on the block, but it appeared to me that it did pretty much what Friendster seemed to do a long time ago, and I resisted joining it until early 2008. In all honesty, it still seemed to do a lot of the same things that Friendster did, although you do need to bear in mind that I do not and do not intend to really, really use Facebook. It does, however, make me feel slightly older than usual; Sean Parker’s mini-monologue about how people will eventually life their lives online made me feel weird. “Soon, people will be living online and post all their pictures online. We can have a tagging system, as well.” To see someone speak excitedly about something that is already commonplace feels somewhat strange.
I’m not that old, though. The part where a girlfriend asked her boy “And why does your relationship status on Facebook say ‘single’?!” is simply classic, and worthy of the audience’s applause it got in my screening. These, along with many other funny and witty lines, makes this film cool. There’s a bit in the film during the characters talk about what is cool. It’s difficult to define, but this film is indeed cool.
In short, this film invokes some sense of nostalgia for some, but for the most part, it is an energetic, fun ride. All the actors were very convincing (in my head, I was quietly auditioning Andrew Garfield, and wondering how he would fare as the new Spiderman. He passed), while Timberlake seems more at home as a conniving, sweet-talking character. The editing and the music added to the energy, making this feel like a really young movie. Or rather, a movie made for young people, packed with lovely ladies to the core. Brenda Song and Rooney Mara, I hearts.
By the way, Rooney Mara was cast by David Fincher in his next film, ‘Girl with a Dragon Tattoo’. He did so after being impressed with her in the limited screen time she did receive here.
You know…social networking, bitch.
Fikri has never finished two reviews in a row with the same word. In other news, here’s an interesting interview with Mark Zuckerberg.
2 thoughts on “Friendly Fire – The Social Network”
Mark Zuckerberg comes across as an asshole in the movie? I didn’t think so. I could relate to him.
He’s just being himself – well he could’ve been a little more sensitive to his only friend – but otherwise he’s just impatient with dumb, unsophisticated people.
Sorry, but I’d have to disagree. ‘Could have been more sensitive’ is putting it very mildly. Inadvertedly or otherwise, he screwed some of them over so hard they could name screwdrivers after him. While he is a very smart and impatient guy, and terribly misled by some, some scenes (like the ones with the lawyers) just makes me want to smack him. In my book, that qualifies the character (or its portrayal) as an asshole/jerk/snob/jackass. Take your pick. 🙂