Wednesday, October 20, 2010

'The Social Network" (2010)

Genre: Drama
Honore Balzac is credited with having written "Behind every great fortune, there is a great crime." In the case of Mark Zuckerberg and the disputes over who came up with the biggest social network on the planet, well, maybe not a great crime, but a lot of big fat lawsuits. $600 million bucks worth to be more exact.

In "The Social Network" Mark Zuckerberg, billed as earth's youngest billionaire, is a math savant and computer geek with bad social skills who gets the lion's share of the credit for inventing global entity called Facebook, which today boasts 500 million members or about one in every twelve people on the planet. How much of this movie is true in details or not, it is an engaging story.

The first half of the movie takes place at Harvard University in 2003, which is a blink of an eye in the normal span of time but a epoch in this new age of portable computers and iPods and texting and social networks.

Zuckerberg discovers his girlfriend wants to break up with him at a Harvard Square pub one evening over a drink. "Dating you is like dating a stairmaster!" she exclaims. Dejected, he goes back to his dorm room and decides to get even by blogging about her in a very ungentlemanly way on the university website.
Then on the same evening, the lad creates a forum where Harvard students and others can grade female coeds one-to-one based on their looks from yearbook pictures. College guys in frat houses jump on this "rate a girl" website like a bunch of CIA agents on the last chopper out of Saigon. The whole university Internet site crashes in an hour and a half in the middle of the night!

This makes Zuckerberg an overnight celebrity and he catches the attention of two identical twin Big Men on Campus, Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss, who are on Harvard's rowing crew and whose father has international legal clout.
The brothers Winkelvoss invite Mark into the super- private fraternity house (The Phoenix Club) and one sibling pitches an idea about a website so Harvard's elite student body can meet up for dates and friendships and such. (Translation: these Ivy League studs who want to meet pretty and smart girls in a more economical fashion.)

Will Mr. Zuckerberg, the smart outsider, mind doing the grunt work of creating such a site? But, and this the movie leaves open, is the brothers' idea for a Harvard University date site on a computer really the impetus or just an addition to an idea Mark already developed the night his girlfriend gave him his freedom?

If this were an earlier American movie, this would be about how well-heeled Anglo-Saxon Americans use envy to get Jewish-American friends to give them something (money, brain power) in exchange for access into their world of upper-class clubs and semi-secret societies. And at first Zuckerberg fits the role of the parvenu. Then he changes when he sees that the idea, whatever its inception, is huge.

The new Zuckerberg could care less about status, or money for that matter. He wants to create something of his own that everybody recognizes him for. How much he owes other people for the creation he spearheads is the central drama.
Sometime a few weeks later "The Facebook" is launched by Zuckerberg and his friend, a Brazilian named Eduado Samarin, who becomes the business manager of the fledgling company--until he is forced out in a power play worthy of a David Mamet story.
The movie takes us through the maze of claim and counterclaims on how "Facebook" (with its reported 500 million members) came to be.
The viewer of the movie can choose their own heroes and anti-heroic rebels, as well as victim and victimizers. The deposition scenes in this film are quite interesting, which is a rarity in a movie of my memory. In the end the story travels to the Silicon Valley/Stanford University area in California and we see how the budding empire unravels and reforms. In the end, Mark Zuckerberg stands like Octavian at the end of Shakespeare's "Anthony and Cleopatra", not exactly a villan or a worthy character, but victorious in a battle that remakes the world.

"The Social Network"
Directed by David Fincher
Produced by David Fincher
Scott Rudin
Kevin Spacey
Dana Brunetti
Michael De Luca
Ceán Chaffin
Screenplay by Aaron Sorkin
Based on The Accidental Billionaires by Ben Mezrich
Starring Jesse Eisenberg
Andrew Garfield
Justin Timberlake
Music by Trent Reznor
Atticus Ross
Cinematography Jeff Cronenweth


  1. Still sounds like a good movie to me. Thanks, Doug. I've wanted to see this since it came out, and am just waiting for the DVD release.

  2. I'm sure this will be one I'll want to see again when it comes out on DVD, Jacquie.

  3. Just trying to find the opportunity to go and see it... it was released in the UK last week

  4. Let me know what you think of the movie when you can, Ian.

  5. Thanks for this review, Doug. I might go and see it this weekend.

  6. You're welcome Jeff. If you do, please drop back if you'd like and leave a comment.

  7. Thanks for this review Doug, the virtual version of the American Dream it seems.

    It makes me very glad that I have never been on Face Book (nor Twitter) and never will.

    I doubt I will ever see this film either, the soundtrack alone puts me off, so thanks for the warning which has I think prevented me from absent mindedly wandering in to a showing.

    Somehow it seems to encapsulate everything I find distasteful from spotty geeks to multinational corporations.

  8. Yes, virtual it all seems--a dream spawned from little grains of synthetic sand instead of the bricks and mortar of the hard goods phase of capitalism.

    I have a Facebook account to keep with with a few relatives and one or two friends. 95 percent of what I do is on this site. Facebook holds no real allure for me. Too many people I respect dislike it.

    Always glad to be a clarion call of warning, AA. One movie like this keeps me from seeing something I fiind more annoying like "Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps".

    And computer outfits that mine personal information in the name of "innovation" and wittingly or unwittenly take jobs away from their neighbors and ship them to India and China are not my favorite role models in society.

  9. Saw it on Saturday. I thoroughly enjoyed it. Well written and directed.

  10. Great to hear it Jeff. It is engaging story-telling.

  11. Interesting, doug. Like aaranaardvark I've never bothered with Facebook or Twitter. I stick with Multiply. I like getting out in the air too much and visiting my bookshops,touching real books. I do find that many of my students work too hard to spend too much time on those social sites. I'd hate for life to pass them by while they sit in front of a screen all day and night.

  12. Yes, Cassandra, that's a problem especially for young people according to some reports--a lack of "deep reading" you get from holding a book and going over the page. You can read with concentration on a computer I suppose, but the temptation to zip around on the Internet can be compelling.

    I'm like you in that I don't enjoy being cooped up too long. I usually give myself a couple hours on the PC in the morning when I have a day off by myself, and then I do errands and/or walk in the park or the neighborhood or hit the library, etc.

    I had an interest in the genesis of Facebook, but , as you probably read, I'm not a big fan of the thing. I have a Facebook site, true, but anybody who goes in there will only see a few blogs I carry over from here and some connections to family and such.

    The less personal information I have on there, the better I feel.

  13. Good review Doug. Mine feels a bit superficial now I've re-read yours

  14. Your review covered it well Ian.

    I just had too much time on my hands when i wrote this. Thanks.