© 2018 by J. Eric Thompson

The Social Network (PG-13)

Director: David Fincher

Cast: Jesse Eisenberg, Justin Timberlake, Rooney Mara

Considering my expectations going in, (everybody is blowing it up, so it’s not gonna be very good, plus Benjamin Button was a solid “alright”, and Zodiac, save for a few scenes, was almost a snoozer…two and a half hours Finch? Really?) I generally like the film.  But after David Fincher put together the string of The Game, Se7en and Fight Club, I think we should all feel a general sense of interest and obligation to go see whatever he puts out next.

 

Like Zodiac,it was occasionally a little tepid, due mainly to the legislative nature of the events unfolding.  The structure of the film lends itself to how exhausting and hectic the last few years of Zuckerberg’s life have apparently been; we’re not only thrown back and forth in time from the beginning of the idea and the company to the more recent present (in order to show what they’re discussing in the litigation scenes), but also somewhat randomly back and forth from each lawsuit that Zuck is fending off.  It was almost necessary to keep our interest, however, since 85% of the film consists of well-filmed conversations.

Having said that, Fincher did a wonderful job in his use of color and focus to give us a sense of how secretive and significant the whole thing was, most importantly in the lives of the characters.  I have a feeling, however, that the real life events didn’t play out in so many dark, secret corners, and no office building I’ve ever been to has the moody, ill-fated feel as did those in the film.  But it would make sense that the characters see everything that way, considering how much is at stake.

The best scene in the film came in the form of the finale to a crew race set to Trent Reznor’s cover of “In the Hall of the Mountain King”.  The score was borderline brilliant, not only lending to the atmosphere of whatever party or rave was hosting whatever secret meeting was taking place, or adding to the intensity of an otherwise coma-inducing monotonous  sport, but it also rendered a distinctly haunting atmosphere and a sense that things could turn for the worse at any moment.

Both Eisenberg (Zuckerberg) and Timberlake (Sean Parker, the founder of Napster) did a good job portraying rich, quick-witted assholes, although Parker seemed to enjoy it more (and I’m sure both of them are more assholes than they are quick-witted in real life, although I’ve never met the guys).  Their relationship makes us wonder how far Facebook would have gone had it not been for Parker; not necessarily because of his business advice, which seemed sound enough, but his prodding motivation and risk-taking style that seemed to challenge Zuckerberg to not only have a larger vision, but also allowed him to not care who’s toes he steps on in the process.  Wherein lies the “asshole” part.  And we’re supposed to feel for these guys?

Wait, is that the kid from Jurassic Park?!?

Overall, the film came off like reading a Bill Bryson book (as opposed to just reading the boring, factual text book).  It’s basically a well-told and beautifully directed history lesson, should anyone be interested in the story of how Facebook began.  It’s not hard to get into, because of Eisenberg’s performance and Fincher’s direction, but it’s difficult to find anyone to like, or even relate to, which is the downfall of the film.  We rarely find ourselves rooting for someone who has more money than God from an idea he basically stole and a friend whom he basically stabbed in the back in order to get it.

It’s hard to sympathize with him, though Fincher did his best to remedy this by giving us the impression that he’s ended up somewhat lonely, neurotic and bitter (although something tells me that’s probably not 100% accurate), and, of course, by giving him a quasi-love interest in the form of a girl whom he has a crush on but hates his guts because he put her mug on facemash.com.  Oooh, the sweet, sweet irony.  The whole angle seemed a little forced and reminded me of Titanic or the blatant attempt to attract female viewers in (oh God) Pearl Harbor, but in this case, since we don’t really like the guy, I, for one, didn’t give a kitten’s caboodle if this guy ended up with the girl or not.  I was almost rooting for the latter…

We as an audience have a tendency to like, or at least sympathize with, assholes who are idiots lacking the self-awareness to the point of making themselves look bad (see Michael Scott or anyone from Arrested Development) or assholes who give us the impression, in their assholiness, that they actually might have a good heart, somewhere deep, deep in their asshole.  Er, nevermind…  Mark Zuckerberg isn’t one of those assholes.  He’s the regular kind.  Worse, the rich kind.  So I don’t have to like him.  But with 500,000,000 “friends”, I’m sure he’s okay with that.