I’m not usually one for dramas. I feel like the last one I saw was probably Gone with the Wind or something equivalent that my mom forced on me in years past. But I guess someone has to make us see all the “greats” that are generally too slow for our modern attention span (I’m looking at you, 2001: A Space Odyssey). That said, The Social Network is a fantastic movie and anything but slow. There are certain times you walk into a theater, eschew your bag of popcorn (nobody else is getting any), grab a seat, and think “What am I doing here?” only to have the opening scene suck you in so vacuumingly hard that you’re not capable of conscious thought for the next 2 hours. This is one such time.
The movie begins with little fanfare in a bar where Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) sits across from soon-to-be-ex girlfriend Erica Albright (Rooney Mara). The opening was so sudden and understated that I barely even realized the movie had started. My moviemates had to intervene and get me to stop stalking my friends on my shiny new Facebook-enabled Droid X before I would start paying attention, but once I did, I was blown away. Eisenberg gives one of the best character portrayals in recent memory, slipping into the mind and mannerisms of another ’berg with ease. His quick speech, emotional control, and unequivocal beliefs will immediately make you question and perhaps dislike the person, but you’ll be hard-pressed not to love the character. All he talks about on this particular date is his desire to join an exclusive Harvard club because they’ll lead him to a better life, and the only way he’ll be able to do it is by creating something substantial that will get him noticed. Part of what makes this movie so enjoyable is the juxtaposition between Zuckerberg’s fairly normal human motivations and his super-human drive for success. Anything he can achieve, he feels entitled to be allowed to achieve, no matter how many friends he loses or people he leaves dead and bloodied along the way, just so long so he can make a name for himself, no matter how many friends he loses or people he leaves dead and bloodied and dying along the way. In short, he’s compelling.
Something that dramamentories like this often have to worry about is how to create enough tension to keep the audience riveted, especially when the plot is mostly about computer programming. Now, pretty much every single one of my friends is a computer science major (or, now that we’re out of college, “employed”—something we English majors find highly overrated), so I have spent many a dinner conversation listening to a bunch of hyperintelligent kids babbling about single-tree hash functions, bivariable parsing strings, and multiphasic reverse compilers. Needless to say, dinners are usually very dull, but all the CS kids seem really into it. I don’t know. Anyway, the techno-babble in The Social Network is about as good as it gets. It’s some amazingly hard to achieve combination of understandable, reasonable, and so over-your-head that you end up extremely impressed.
One of the other main features of the movie that keeps it relatively riveting is its use of intercutting. Half the movie takes place during Facebook’s inception, following Zuckerberg on his journey to success. The other half takes place much later, in rooms full of lawyers where Zuckerberg is being sued by former friends and colleagues for colossal amounts of money. The fact that we know how badly things are going to end up keeps us constantly worried during the more linear parts of the movie. “How could things have gone so wrong?!” we wonder. This nonlinear storytelling manages to up the ante in nearly every scene and allows the main story to jump around in time without us noticing.
If I were forced to say something bad about the movie (and I am, thanks to the secret reviewers code by which we all abide), I’d have to question the final line. For something so high quality, I thought the movie ended with some pseudo-psychological nonsense that we’re supposed to assume is very deep. Some mostly irrelevant lawyer looks Mark Zuckerberg in the eye after hearing his whole story and tells him, “You’re not an asshole, Mark. You’re just trying so hard to be one.” Then she walks away and we see Mark finally decide to friend the girl from the opening scene, perhaps trying to make amends. Was Mark an asshole? Yeah. He was, though we empathize with him heavily by the end of the movie. I mean, what kind of asshole tries to be an asshole and fails? I think just by trying, you automatically succeed.
But I can’t fault a movie too much for having a single bad line, now can I? Action movies would never stand a chance. The Social Network is good. If it’s your kind of movie, there’s no way you should miss it. Hell, it’s not my kind of movie, and I still liked it. My main movie metric (other than its use of alliteration) is how long it keeps me silent afterward. This one did a good job. I was pretty quiet for a couple hours, busy simply trying to comprehend how different my world is from that of my parents. I’m connected to my friends at all times. Facebook has seriously changed the scope of the earth. Last I checked, 517 million people use Facebook. That’s almost 8% of the world population. How many things are there that that many people use? Food? Fire? Facebook? Who knows? Verdict: Good movie, but I won’t be thinking about it a couple weeks from now.
P.S. All that techno-jargon left my thoughts a bit scrambled; all I can say for sure is, Facebook certainly is The Social Network, though it’s A Lot Sketchier Now. Or, in other words, er, Look, A Wench’s Tit!Follow @russnickel