The bitter tagline says it all. “You don’t get to 500 million friends without making a few enemies.” It’s true here in this movie, and for the most part it’s true in life. No matter how high a person gets and no matter how likable that person may be, there is always someone who hates him. To all of you optimists out there, I am going to burst your bubble this instant and tell you flat out that there are people who don’t like you. Some of them may have a good reason to dislike you also. Some of them might just be irrational and overly sensitive. Nonetheless, there people are out there who are just waiting for you to stumble and fall. This feeling of resentment toward one single being is no better illustrated than in David Fincher’s new film The Social Network.
We all know the affect that Facebook has had on the world. Who knows whether for good or bad, but there has been an affect. People can connect with others like never before. It’s a party online. Everyone is invited, but only the people who know how to use it right have a good time. If Facebook were to suddenly disappear off the face of the earth, then many, many people would be left sitting with nothing to do, wondering what hit them. If Facebook somehow left us, there would be an implosion in business, in social traffic, in personality, in life as we know it. Facebook is its own universe with its own physics and its own natural laws. The God of this universe and the creator of its natural order is young Mark Zuckerberg, who is currently the youngest billionaire in the world. His rise to fame and fortune is a sad parable about friendship and trust and ultimately, loss. The Social Network is a sharp and bitter movie made of bits and pieces of Facebook legend and historical fact. The very first scene of the film introduces Zuckerberg as an insanely intelligent, zealous, genius who is obsessed with himself and getting into the finals club. He is truly and utterly and a narcissistic jerk. His one and only motivation is to elevate his social status. When he cannot manage to get into the final clubs and his track record with women gets increasingly worse, he starts an exclusive network for Harvard undergrads called “The Facebook”. Ultimately he succeeds in elevating his social status , but the question the film poses is whether it was worth screwing ten people (one of whom was your best friend) just to become “popular”. Zuckerberg (at least as he’s portrayed here) would say that it is was certainly worth it. His ambition takes him down a strenuous road toward an outwardly successful result, but the toll it takes on his humanity is too great for him to handle.
Right from the start, we identify Zuckerberg as one who is out for his own interests. But is he willing to alienate everyone close to him in order to gain the applause of the world? According to Aaron Sorkin’s screenplay, he is. This is a bitter legend to say the least. Although the main character is completely detestable and despicable, we can identify with his ambitions. In some respects, Mark is admirable in that he will stop at nothing to achieve his goal; however his modus operandi is dark and disgusting. His ruthless determination leads him to two law suits, hatred by uncounted numbers of people, and most painfully the loss of his only true friends. By the end of the film he is no longer human, but rather the shell of one. Inside is an empty vacuum of emotion where Facebook is all that is left to keep him company. It doesn’t matter if one knows the end of the film, so I’ll give it away now. The final scene depicts Mark alone with his laptop in a conference room. On the screen is the Facebook that he started. All he can think of to do after the arduous journey he’s just been on is to invite his former girlfriend to join his friend list on Facebook. She is the only person who he hasn’t completely lost yet. As he sits there, he refreshes the site every few seconds to see if there is a response. Will she say “yes” or “no”? Perhaps we’ll never no. He may be still be waiting.
Aaron Sorkin has crafted a masterful screenplay full of greed, revenge, and solitude. It’s a fable about the dangers of worldwide recognition. Is it worth the toll on our humanity? Perhaps not. Like Lady Gaga’s song “LoveGame” asks: Do you want love or do you want fame? It’s a Sophie’s Choice of a question and it has no real answer. Both are hard to get and easy to loose. One thing that is for sure is that we can’t have them both. This is apples or oranges. The two rarely go hand in hand. Zuckerman’s fatal misconception is that love will come along once fame is achieved. Once he does find his fame, he is left wondering, “Where is the love?” The screenplay’s strength is not only in its message and its structure, but also in the words spoken by its characters. The dialogue is sharp and sarcastic, even witty at times. There is a constant banter between the humans in the movie. Zuckerberg is sharp-tongued and straightforward. If he doesn’t like someone, he’ll tell them so. Sometimes the manner in which he goes about it is laugh-out-loud hilarious. Still, even with the liberal doses of humour sprinkled without, at the film’s heart is a deep and dark sense of loss. Mark Zuckerberg is Charles Foster Kane by the end of the film. He is a man who worked hard enough to gain everything, and in the process lost everything. Sad, to be sure, but true.
David Fincher has also left his mark on the film. The cinematography is dark and haunting, much like his previous film The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. Fincher has a distinctive style that is identifiably from the first shot. The film is underexposed to a certain degree, capturing the darkness of the subject matter perfectly. In essence, the look of the movie is somewhat of a portrait of Mark’s soul by the end of the film. It’s dark, mean, and subtle. You have the feeling that there is some demon lurking in the shadows of each shot. Despite the ominous nature of the film, it’s a beautiful movie to look at, just like Benjamin Button, but ultimately more satisfying after it’s all over and done with. Benjamin Button left me cold, and fortunately this left me thinking. Left me thinking about my own humanity, and how easy it would be to lose it. The Social Network will become a classic to be sure. I can’t say that about many movies. In fifty years this will be remembered well. It’s a modern day Citizen Kane; a parable about love on our own terms. Those are the only terms we ever know—our own.
Columbia Pictures Presents in Association with Relativity Media a film by David Fincher
Cast: Jesse Eisenberg, Justin Timberlake, Rooney Mara, Brenda Song, Armie Hammer, Joseph Mozzello, Calvin Dean, Andrew Garfield. Directed by David Fincher
Rated PG-13 for sexual content, drug and alcohol use and language. Release Date: 01 October 2010