Tuesday, February 15, 2011
I should back up slightly, for coherency's sake: The Social Network is the story of Mark Zuckerberg, who founded the social networking Internet site Facebook.com, and is currently worth north of a dozen billion dollars. In the time-honored way of tech pioneers, Zuckerberg founded Facebook while he was still an undergraduate (at Harvard -- the other time-honored part of the equation is that the pioneer must be a privileged over-achiever to begin with) about seven years ago, and the movie runs through roughly the first year of Facebook, from the night Zuckerberg threw up a "rate the girls of Harvard" site called Facemash.com to get back at the girlfriend who just dumped him to the point where he'd driven out, locked out, outmaneuvered, or alienated all of the people who had helped get Facebook started.
Of course, that's this movie's angle; presumably Zuckerberg himself would have a different story. Social Network is based very heavily on the depositions from two suits brought against Zuckerberg: one from his former best friend and the original "outside man" for Facebook, and one from a pair of vastly more overprivileged twin rowers, who seem like a gift from heaven to make Zuckerberg seem more likable in comparison with their endless smug rich-prep pose of superiority. Social Network keeps looping back to those two deposition sessions, presumably because the events of them are legally guaranteed, but that keeps framing this as a story about money, when it should be a movie about connection. It is, more or less, but it could have been more visually inventive -- it's an old-fashioned, plodding sort of movie to look at, for all its zippy modern subject matter -- and could have either focused more tightly on what Facebook was -- why it was so successful, so quickly -- or on Zuckerberg himself. As it is, Social Network has a bundle of good performances circling the enigma of Mark Zuckerberg, and it raises a whole lot of questions and thoughts that it isn't sure how to address.