Film: The Social Network

I really don’t like Mark Zuckerberg. That does not sound like a review.  But, it is.  And a favourable review at that.

Of course, I don’t know the actual Mark Zuckerberg.  I am responding to the portrayal in The Social Network, the performance by Jesse Eisenberg and the direction by David Fincher.  They show his abilities and skills, his ingenuity – and his rather unpleasant personality (which some commentators endorse, though his smiling photo in Wikipedia looks far more genial than Jesse Eisenberg does).

Whether we are Facebook members or not, this is an intriguing film about the communications phenomena in our time, of the internet in general and of sites like Facebook in particular.  With the introduction of  Facebook we are dealing with a short time ago in the history of the world, quite some time ago in the history of the net, 2003-2004.

While the film shows the action of this period, it is framed by legal meetings where Zuckerberg is being sued by a group of Harvard undergraduates who had invited him to develop a site for students at the university, The Harvard/ Connection.  He didn’t do this work.  Instead, with the help of his best friend, Edoardo Saverin, he developed The Facebook, later, on the advice of Sean Parker, dropping the The.  He is also being sued by Saverin.  The settlement discussions provide quite some drama in themselves, with Zuckerberg showing almost supreme disinterest, doodling and occasionally intervening.  He is sometimes referred to as nerd and dork – and that is how he comes across, the intelligent, obsessed, technically wizard creator who lacks person skills.  Jesse Eisenberg, who has done some interesting variations on this type, including Rodger Dodger, The Emperor’s Club, Cursed, Adventureland, Zombieland and The Squid and the Whale, perfectly embodies this interpretation of Zuckerberg.

The interpretation comes from writer, Aaron Sorkin, who has tackled the complexities of people in power and power struggles in the military (A Few Good Men) and in politics (The American President, The West Wing).  It also comes from director David Fincher, who seems to revel in dark themes and psychological game playing (Seven, The Game, Fight Club, Zodiac).  Fincher is always able to bring a dark visual look to dark themes.

The other two principal characters in The Social Network are Eduardo Saverin who was business manager but edged out by Zuckerberg’s lack of trust in his abilities and on the advice of internet wiz, Sean Parker, who had founded such sites as Napster, for the downloading of music.  If the film has a sympathetic focus for audiences, it is Saverin, played nicely by Andrew Garfield.  Which leaves Parker (played with nasty arrogance by Justin Timberlake) as the unsympathetic focus, taking the heat off Zuckerberg.

There is plenty of dialogue that may delight geeks but will bamboozle the ordinary audience who will accept it as a necessary evil if they are to delve via the film into some of the history and mystery of the internet.

The final information reveals the results of the multimillion dollar settlements – and informs us that Zuckerberg is the youngest billionaire.

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