The Social Network (2010, dir. David Fincher)
Starring Jesse Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield, Justin Timberlake, Armie Hammer, Max Minghella, Rashida Jones, Brenda Song
In the middle of David Fincher’s latest film a character sums up the current technology driven economy by saying this current generation creates jobs for themselves. In the past supply-demand was the dominating force; the people wanted something, then someone provided it. Now, we have products that are given to us and we are conditioned to need and want them. Facebook as one example. No one ever needed Facebook, but by preying on some very primitive psychological compulsions, it has become an addictive force. The Social Network rewinds back before there was Farmville or Poking or Mafia Wars, and focuses on the collegiate roots of Facebook. Here we see at its core the entire idea came from the exclusivity of Harvard’s Final Clubs.
The more intimate moments of the film are fictionalized and used to reveal aspects of Mark Zuckerberg’s personality, but the litigations that frame the film are very real. Its 2003, and Mark is a sophomore at Harvard, a kid from a middle class family who is studying computer science. Mark and his best friend, Eduardo are a clever pair, with Eduardo able to get money together whenever needed. After being spurned by a female student due to his emotionally stilted personality, Mark strikes back via Livejournal and quickly cobbled together webpage that has students rate Harvard girls against each other. The site gets him placed on academic probation and the attention of the Winklevoss twins, monied legacies who want to make a Harvard dating site. Mark listens to their idea, turns it down, then rebuilds it in his own images. As the site spreads beyond the walls of Harvard and even across the pond, Mark becomes more obsessed with becoming the very elite he resented in school.
This film succeeds on a number of factors: Aaron Sorkin’s amazing script, David Fincher’s perfect direction and editing, and Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross’ score. In a movie that is mostly people sitting around talking, you think it would drag, but the craft around everything creates tension and drama in every moment. I find myself liking every *other* Fincher film. Meh on The Game, loved Se7en, Fight Club doesn’t hold up, Zodiac is underrated, Benjamin Button is a yawn, and now The Social Network. I think Fincher works best with a script that isn’t trying to be anything huge. These small stories are given scope through the way he makes films. The score is also one of the strongest elements of the film, in particular a rowing competition scene that involves tilt-shift camera work and tight editing that is a short film unto itself.
The Social Network reminded me a lot of films like All the President’s Men. That film was made only a couple years after the events of Watergate, and it is a much stronger film about the Nixon administration than it would have been if they made it in 1990. The Social Network is very much about this moment and mindset in time. The young men behind Facebook were following the capitalist fundamentalism they were born into in the 1980s. They were never too concerned about the money behind the site, it merely worked to fund the venture, but they desired the power that came with it. There’s a moment in the film, Mark and Eduardo have just had sex with a couple girls in a club bathroom, they stand outside grinning and revealing their adolescent nature. Eduardo turns to Mark, smiling, and says “We have groupies”. Counter this with an image at the end with Mark obsessively refreshing a Facebook page and its clear this mindset is a destructive one.