The Social Network is one of the best films of the year for me. Yes, there are those hyperbolic quote whores that are praising it as the film of this generation or the Citizen Kane for the aughts, and that’s silly. I doubt there is any film that can or will capture the totality of us kids living in a post 9/11, 21st century world because like Mr. Zuckerberg, we are still very young, and cannot be defined because we have not yet defined ourselves.
What I think The Social Network is, is an ode to the birth of this online generation. In the very beginning of the film when we see Zuckerberg walking around the Harvard as Reznor’s ominous score plays underneath, suggesting that something dark, maybe not evil, but new and uncompromising is being born. It is not Zuckerberg’s greed, or even facebook, it is this beginning of a movement where these young intellectuals are going to be taking the opportunities afforded to them by the internet generation and create a new system for business and ethics.
I think this is best encapsulated by the Winklevi’s segments of the movie, in particularly their meeting with the dean of Harvard. When they tell him the idea for this website is potentially worth millions of dollars, he scoffs at them saying that they’re letting their imaginations get away with them. The older generations who came from old money and got to where they are through hard work were blind sighted to this impending cultural wave.
This isn’t the Citizen Kane of our generation, because that’s not how riches are made anymore (of course I’m speaking very generally), so maybe in a way The Social Network captures that spirit for this generation as opposed to being comparable to the movie in terms of relevance to cinema. I believe the dean of the school says something along the lines of “You kids today would rather make a job than take a job,” showing the change in sensibilities as well as how unaware the older generations were to this movement, something that geniuses such as Zuckerberg were able to see.
Through out the movie, Eisenberg’s character is constantly commenting on how they don’t know what facebook can be, what it will be, just that they know its cool, and Sean Parker will later go on to say that this is our time, and this is true, the time of these brilliant men is just now on the rise, beginning a movement of what’s to come. This movie is ultimately about facebook as much as Chinatown is about stealing water, this is practically a macguffin to get across all the things that have come from this generation and what they will go on to do. I read one review that said that this is a film about people who were too old to be boys and too young to be men, and the fact that these were the people coming to run our world now made for an even more frightening depiction of this new age. These are people just pushing ahead and expanding without thinking about the consequences, ultimately leading to people like Zuckerberg making sacrifices that he feels he has to make, even if it causes him to lose the people closest to him.
I find the character of Zuckerberg to be tragic and one of the most fascinating of this year for that and many other reasons. As Rooney Mara says, and I’m probably taking this out of context in a way its not intended to me, but whatever, “The internet isn’t written in pencil, it’s written in ink.” Eat your heart out Prince, the internet isn’t a fad, it the present and future.
It touches on topics that are as old as cinema, from greed to betrayal, friendship, pretty much all the silly words plastered all over the promotional material. I feel like you can view the movie on two levels, the grand depiction of this new culture and generation as well as all the other themes that it touches on, and then the small personal story of a friendship coming to an end because of betrayal, not even for greed but for progress.
This is just as much a Fincher movie as it is a Sorkin movie. In fact, this is without a doubt my favorite director pairing with Sorkin I’ve ever seen (not that that’s necessarily saying much) but especially because Sorkin knows how to get characters talking like no man’s business and Fincher knows how to create a pretty frame at his worst of Buttons. Like all Fincher protagonists, Zuckerberg is an outsider wanting in, even if his approaches are misguided, and in a way I feel this has a lot in common with Fight Club in terms of a sort of commentary on acceptance and male fantasy. I found this to be some of the sharpest writing in Sorkin’s career, and while everyone does get their Sorkiny quick talking intelligent clever dialogue, I thought every character was unique while still channeling the man’s thoughts.
Also to just gush on the performances, I thought everyone was pretty great. Eisenberg is the best I’ve ever seen him, and I’ll say it, I think he deserves an Oscar nomination. He’s kind of my Jeremy Renner for the Hurt Locker of this year. While I understand that this may not be truly that big of a stretch for him, I think he brings a lot of nuance to this character and there were just moments that he got across through facial expressions alone that just impressed the hell out of me. Him and Cera this year have kind of both taken the basic character that they’ve made their careers out of at this point, and brought it to their most successful extremes, but Eisenberg brings a darkness and loneliness that I never thought to expect from him. Garfield was also very good, although at times I felt a little too passive for the sake of keeping him sympathetic, but towards the end he sold his scenes when the betrayal finally hit. Justin Timberlake was pretty great and charismatic as Sean Parker, adding a sort of adrenaline to the last half of the film that I really enjoyed, and Armie Hammer was great fun as the Winklevoss twins, making each distinguishable in subtle ways. Rooney Mara, even in the few scenes she had was really fantastic and made me excited to see what she does with them dragon tattoos in the coming years. The only thing I didn’t care for was Rashida Jones, her role’s kind of thankless and she mainly acted as a cipher to make Zuckerberg more tragic in the end.
This film is a special one, and definitely one of my favorites from Fincher, just behind Zodiac which I find to be his personal masterpiece.