Sunday, October 10, 2010

The Social Network

My wife and I saw the much hyped The Social Network last night. The two others on this blog were instantly pissed at this movie the first time they ever saw the trailer. I was indifferent. I knew what kind of movie it was going to be. It was never going to be “The Facebook Movie” with enterprising young men making a web site while encountering funny, endearing high jinks along the way. I knew it was going to be how this Mark Zuckerberg guy, “founder” of Facebook, is a douche-bag who steamrollered over his friends to become famous, rich and successful.

Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) is a wunderkind, who along with his roommates and best friend Eduardo Saverin (Andrew Garfield – the next Spider-Man, don’t ya know), all go to school at Harvard. Zuckerberg (with help from Saverin) shows his prowess at the internet by creating an offensive site that garners 24000 hits in a few hours, catching the attention of two enterprising students, the Winklevoss brothers (both apparently played by Armie Hammer, who was to be Batman in WB’s now dead JLA movie). The Winklevosses (Winklevi as Zuckerberg calls them) have an idea to make a site similar to Freindster and MySpace but more exclusive and they need Zuckerberg’s help in building it. Zuckerberg agrees, but then goes off and embellishes the concept, creating the site himself and blowing off the Winklevosses whenever they want to meet with him to discuss the site. They get pissed when it’s launched without them and becomes instantly popular. That’s lawsuit #1. Meanwhile, Zuckerberg uses Eduardo Saverin’s help to bankroll the site, spending his money on servers, staff, etc. Enter Sean Parker (Justin Timberlake), the man who brought the music industry to its knees with Napster before being deluged by lawsuits. He sees potential in Facebook, bedazzles Zuckerberg with visions of how rich and famous the site can make him, and convinces Zuckerberg to axe Saverin (Zuckerberg’s one true friend in the world) and disavow any knowledge of Saverin being a co-founder. That’s lawsuit #2.

I actually liked this movie. I didn’t think I would. Let’s get into what’s good about it. First, it’s pretty slick looking. They got an actual good director, David Fincher, to helm the project and it’s got a style and rhythm all its own. Characters are introduced with clever scenes that show exactly what their personalities are, and the film moves at a brisk pace. The soundtrack is wicked too. It sounds like a cross between a horror movie score and Tron. You’d have to hear it to see what I’m talking about.

As well, the acting is very, very good. Jesse Eisenberg creates a vile, sometimes sympathetic character in Mark Zuckerberg. He so desperately wants to be “in” and liked. Facebook is totally an extension of this guy. Timberlake is good as emperor of douche-bags Sean Parker. He plays the character like the tempting devil it is. Andrew Garfield’s Eduardo Saverin is set up as the most likable character. I don’t know if that’s true to real life or not, but it works here. But the two characters I really loved were the Winklevoss bros. Holy crap, man! Are these dudes based on real life people? They’re these two 6 foot 5, blond, muscular jocks who regularly compete in rowing competitions and constantly wear suits and ties and talk in restrained tones and eloquent language befitting a Harvard student, which flies in the face of the expectation that these guys would be tough, muscle-head jocks that punch first and ask questions later. They have some of the best lines in the movie. When one of the Winklevosses wants to go to Zuckerberg and confront him directly as to why he’s blowing them off, he’s asked why by a friend, to which he responds “I’m muscular, athletic, 6’5, and there’s two of me!” Later, when the Winklevosses are being persuaded by a friend to fight Zuckerberg in the media for control over Facebook, one of the brothers says that would look bad. When asked how bad, he says “Like dressing up in skeleton costumes and chasing the Karate Kid bad!” I couldn’t stop laughing. These dudes are the best, and I can’t imagine that the real guys are as pumped as this.

Now for the bad. First off, when the movie ended, my Wife said, “That’s it??” When all was said and done, it didn’t seem like a worthwhile story to tell. It’s your typical “dude steps on everyone dear to him on the way to the top and is left with no one, living with regret and pining for companionship.” Yep, that’s basically it. It’s a good thing they got Fincher to direct and Aaron Sorkin to write in order to make all this at least entertaining. As well, there are two simultaneous lawsuits being shown throughout with the events leading up to Facebook and the two lawsuits told as the bulk of the movie in flashbacks. At first, this is actually a little confusing, but once you get used to the people involved with each lawsuit, you can tell those scenes apart.

Beyond all of that, it’s still decent entertainment. I loved the first and last scenes. They really sum up the character of Mark Zuckerberg (at least, according to the film). In the first scene, Zuckerberg is condescending to his then girlfriend, implying that she’s stupid and isn’t popular enough, and she breaks up with him, saying that he will probably go through life thinking girls don’t like him because he’s too nerdy, but it’s really because he’s an asshole. In the final scene, Zuckerberg talks to a lawyer (played by Rashida Jones) and as she leaves, she tells Zuckerberg that she doesn’t think he’s an asshole, she just thinks he tries really hard to be an asshole. Zuckerberg's a little stunned by this and, on Facebook, attempts to “friend request” the girl from the first scene. She never responds. That’s probably what I liked best about this movie. Through the Zuckerberg character, The Social Network is really making fun of the insecure, teeny-boppers who make up the bulk of Facebook’s membership.

3 out of 5. Watch only if you’re curious. And for the Winklevoss brothers. They're frickin' awesome.


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