‘Social Network’ makes dorms, computer labs compelling
Will you be my friend? This sentiment is simple enough, but it also serves as the driving force behind Facebook, one of the most successful internet companies ever.
It also forms the heart of the movie “The Social Network,” a film about the founder of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, and his meteoric, yet ultimately very lonely rise to power.
What “The Social Network” has in its favor is two monumental creative forces driving its narrative and what they have delivered is one of the best movies of the year. The first is screenwriter Aaron Sorkin who is probably best known for creating and scripting the beloved TV series “The West Wing.” Here Sorkin delivers his trademark crisp dialogue and breakneck pacing, which keeps the movie trucking along in spite of all the details it could have easily gotten bogged down in.
The other reason for the success of “The Social Network” is director David Fincher. He has proven himself to be a visionary talent in movies such as “Fight Club,” “Zodiac” and “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” but here he has put all of his skills on the table and delivered a dynamic and fascinating film. We should probably start whipping Oscars at the guy for his visuals alone as he has made boardrooms, dorms and computer labs more compelling and better looking than they have been or ever will be.
The story is simple enough and as old as the hills. Zuckerberg, played with nerdy panache by Jessie Eisenberg (“Zombieland,” “The Squid and the Whale”), is a genius and he knows it. He is also insecure, driven and socially awkward. As a prank he creates a website that rates the attractiveness of Harvard coeds, which becomes so popular it crashes the university’s servers in a matter of hours.
This attracts the attention of a pair of twins and fellow Harvard students Cameron and Tyler Wilkevoss (both played with Hayley-Millsian smoothness by Armie Hammer) who want Zuckerberg to create a website where people can post information about themselves and keep in touch with friends.
Zuckerberg agrees, but then blows the twins off so he can create his own version of the website which becomes the worldwide phenomenon Facebook.
What makes “The Social Network” a great movie is that it simultaneously functions on many different levels. It is interesting enough as a biopic, giving us the back story of the now-ubiquitous Internet site. But it also brilliantly illustrates how isolating a rise to the top can be, echoing works like “Citizen Kane” and “The Great Gatsby” where a quest for power and esteem leaves a shattered trail of relationships, all set against the backdrop of times of great American excess which preceded economic collapse.
Ultimately “The Social Network” is an incredibly well-made movie. It’s as simple as that.
▲ Mat DeKinder is the self-described Jackie Moon of film critics.