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The movie of a generation? That’s actually a pretty accurate description of “The Social Network”, the cautionary tale about the world’s youngest billionaire, Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook, and lawsuits that followed him into the spotlight. Following critical success with “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”, director, David Fincher, has another Best Picture nomination on his hands but this one actually deserves the acclaim.
The moral of the story is pretty simple: a brilliant mind can lead to a life of loneliness. Mark (Jesse Eisenberg) is an aspiring Harvard student who can speak HTML code perfectly, but he hasn’t a clue when it comes to human interaction. As his ex, Erica Albright (Rooney Mara), says, “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 geek.” She goes on to say that’s not the case because, in fact, geeks are the new jocks, but they remain prepubescent wallflowers because they’re jerks (OK, so they used a little harsher language) — or at least the geeks in this story.
The plot thickens as Mark develops an idea for an exclusive social networking website for the students of Harvard. Alas, the circumstances take a step towards the gray area since our young entrepreneur began development for the site after a conversation with classmates, Cameron Winklevoss and Tyler Winklevoss (twins played by Armie Hammer) and Divya Narendra (Max Minghella), regarding a very similar site. Lawsuit #1.
Troubles hit a little closer to home as well when Mark goes into business with his best and only friend, Eduardo Saverin (Andrew Garfield), who provides the startup cash for Facebook (then known as The Facebook).
The major dilemma ensues as Eduardo needs to earn back his investment, but Mark doesn’t want to ruin the integrity of his growing idea. Adding more fuel to the problem, former Napster founder, Sean Parker (Justin Timberlake), wants in, and personalities clash as the bankrupt wild child doesn’t quite have the same vision as Eduardo, leading to an eventual falling out. Lawsuit #2.
As far as biopics go, you’ll be hard pressed to find a faster paced story that makes two lawsuits and dialogue about HTML both interesting and intense. “Benjamin Button” had captivating moments amidst a droning pace and a largely uneventful cinematic experience, but “The Social Network” is a refreshing turn for one of the most promising directors of the past 10 years, on the short list with Christopher Nolan, Darren Aronofsky and Steven Soderbergh.
Fincher knows how to pick a crew too. Pulling from his music video background, the director occasionally uses bands to create film scores. Nine Inch Nails’ Trent Reznor and sometimes band member, Atticus Ross (who did his first score for “The Book of Eli”), have a major win here with a post-industrial sound that complicates cliché representations of Harvard and functions like a drug trance during party scenes intercut with web design. Internet addiction has never felt so psychedelic.
I haven’t a clue how well the film chronicles the events of one of the most popular websites, or even how it follows the book on which it’s based, “The Accidental Billionaires: The Founding Of Facebook, A Tale of Sex, Money, Genius, and Betrayal” by Ben Mezrich. Quite frankly, all I really care about is how this film truly embodies the ideals of the Western young adult in the information age (this point is especially hysterical early in the film when Mark narrates everything he does to create a website, using exhausting techno-jargon).
The story of Mark Zuckerberg is the most pure example of skill’s triumph over class, social and socioconomic. Zuckerberg isn’t depicted as the likable nerd who just needs some help to turn into a beautiful swan. Quite the opposite, our (anti) hero aligns more with Daniel Plainview (Daniel Day-Lewis) from “There Will Be Blood”; there’s something compelling about awful people.
It would appear many of our modern-day heroes, at least in film and mainstream media, aren’t that noble any more. The American Dream seems to be moving away from “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” towards a more blatant connection to pure capitalism, especially Social Darwinism’s guiding principle, survival of the fittest. If a friend outsmarts you, don’t take it personally, it’s just business.
Anonymity might be one of the worst byproducts of the Internet’s growing influence. With hidden authorship lies the potential for a sluw of racist, sexist and homophobic interactions on forums, comments and forwarded e-mails.
It’s no coincidence that the first site Mark creates in the film is a hot-or-not equivalent for the Harvard student body.
By the end of the film, it’s pretty clear that Mark isn’t a good person, and it just might have something to do with continual engagement in a medium of communication that doesn’t have a soul.
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