Two things are the most fascinating after watching “The Social Network,” easily the most fascinating movie of this year. One: most of the people involved with making this movie don’t have a Facebook page themselves.
Two: People can see the exact same movie and come away with totally different viewpoints on who did what. Aaron Sorkin, the screenwriter, wasn’t kidding when he likened this movie to “Rashomon.” It is an incredible script, one that is sure to garner Sorkin a long-overdue Oscar. It is as easy to understand if you are a longtime Facebook user, or never even looked at Facebook in your life.
It is a machination of plot, spinning around the transcripts of real court cases. Friend against friend, classmate against classmate. And yet, it speaks to the quintessential question of our techie age: how can we create a cool app/product/website that everyone is going to love and use and make us rich in the process?
What a strange dichotomy that someone who seems to have such difficulty making friends creates the most social product out there.
My friend viewed this movie and came away with an image of Mark Zuckerberg as a “manipulative asshole.” I saw the same movie and saw, finally, the whole story laid in front of me. Saw how Zuckerberg pretty much had to do what he did. I don’t fault him at all, and I was rooting for him. In fact, in finally paying the amounts in question, he did right by his friends. Saverin is back on the Facebook masthead. All is now right with the world.
And just to be safe, he donated to some New Jersey schools on the day the movie opened. No, I see Zuckerberg as a good guy here.
Incredible director David Fincher also excels. The movie is stunningly shot. Harvard has never looked so good. Jesse Eisenberg, in the lead, does a fantastic job of walking us through the story. His best friend, Eduardo Saverin, played by the new Spiderman, Andrew Garfield, really makes you feel the pain he’s going through. Justin Timberlake is just perfect as Sean Parker, creator of Napster.
It’s like a multi-faceted prism. You can see each side clearly, as well as how they are all battling to be most beautiful, or in this case, most right. Wars of class and culture come into play. And out of all this morass, we have the incredible Facebook.
If there is anything faulting this movie it is Sorkin’s lack of knowledge about Facebook. And the fact that really, its key battle: the privacy wars, was completely neglected in this story. Maybe they are saving that for “Social Network 2: Privacy.” I can only hope they have someone who really knows the Internet writing about it this time.
Cause here’s the thing. Nora Ephron got it wrong too, when she wrote the almost instantly dated, “You’ve Got Mail.” It’s different when you live here. When you live on Facebook, online, on Twitter. There are nuances and details that it’s obvious this writer, though brilliant, missed though he combed through mounds of testimony and facts, and got an incredible story fashioned out of it. He missed the heartbeat of Facebook.
This is Facebook basically from the genesis of the idea until it starts branching out into other countries. Then the storyline drops the Facebook part, and focuses on Zuckerberg battling the court cases. By which time, he’s already a billionaire. You’re just not really sure why, if you aren’t already on Facebook.
I can just imagine the Twitter movie. Sigh. I heard Craig Ferguson (who used to mock Twitter himself until he actually got on it and used it) talking to two celebrities this week (on the same show). Both celebrities used the tired old canards: “why would anyone care that I’m getting a haircut? or eating a sandwich? or blah blah blah…” Obviously, they don’t get it. It’s like that with this Facebook movie too.
And, I’m sad to say, that’s what keeps it, for me, anyway, from being one of the best movies ever. It’s like Sorkin was so busy making all the partners dance that he kinda forgot what the party was there for. I’ll bet, if you asked him right now, he couldn’t even explain why Facebook’s growth was so incredible (and continues) and MySpace got huge and stopped growing. That’s pretty key to this story, and would’ve served him well as a screenwriter.
So much of the story is built around the “college campuses” idea, it doesn’t even really branch out into when other people besides colleges started using it. Or why. Why moms and grandmoms are suddenly on it. There is really a deep rich story there, too.
But for now, if we want the Facebook genesis story, this is it. I think it’s a wonderful film. I think it’s going to win the Best Picture Oscar and an Adapted Screenplay Oscar for Aaron Sorkin, and it’s deserved. Go see it!