When I walked in to see The Social Network, I wasn’t really too concerned that it was going to be some super-sexified techno-romp like Hackers, the 1990s action flick. While Hackers was a whiz-banging good time, it existed in a glittering parallel universe where computer hackers clever enough could easily put on a light show with a skyscraper, or do any number of absurd things, through this new technology called the World Wide Web. I wanted a history that didn’t need to sex up its material to make it interesting.
But in actuality this movie isn’t about the technology, or really about the Internet at all. From the very first scene, where Mark Zuckerberg (played by Michael Cera doppelganger Jesse Eisenberg) gets dumped by his girlfriend (played by Rooney Mara), the film’s focus is squarely on Zuckerberg, where it remains for the rest of the movie.
And yeah, it’s a well-crafted film, one which claims to only be a dramatization of history (though real-life Zuckerberg denies that it is at all factual). It moves quickly, most of the scenes are beautifully dark (don’t forget that director David Fincher made Fight Club), and I am really impressed by Eisenberg’s portrayal of Zuckerberg.
Without a good actor portraying the guy, Zuckerberg’s absolute absence of tact or apparent emotion probably would have drowned out any empathy we feel for him.
Zuckerberg’s character is still shockingly arrogant, however, which makes it difficult to side with him when things start to get ugly and people start vying for a piece of the $16 billion Facebook pie. Actually, this aloof computer genius seems so fundamentally anti-social that you have to start wondering how the hell he ever ended up inventing Facebook, one of the most social inventions ever.
But that’s about as far as the filmmakers take you into Zuckerberg’s psyche, before reeling you back in with the movie’s other major players, notably including Justin Timberlake’s roguish Sean Parker, the founder of Napster who ends up leaving a major mark in Facebook’s seminal years, and Andrew Garfield’s Eduardo Saverin, Zuckerberg’s close (and perhaps betrayed) friend and Facebook’s CFO.
I enjoyed the movie because it didn’t feel fake, and I’d recommend it because it’s not trying to propagate any message. Go see it because it’s a well-told story about this crazy-smart guy who accidentally invented something almost everyone loves.