The Social Network (4 of 4)

David Fincher’s new movie based on Ben Mezrach’s book “The Accidental Billionaires” and adapted for the screen by Aaron Sorkin is maybe the best movie I’ve seen this year. I read an article in the paper where Sorkin said that when you watch a movie that says it’s “based on a true story” you should think of that film as a painting rather than a photograph of what happened. Painting or photograph I’m not entirely sure, but The Social Network is definitely excellent.

Mark Zuckerberg, played by Jessie Eisenberg, and Eduardo Saverin (Andrew Garfield) are the creators of a social networking site for Harvard students. In a drunken rage of programming and blogging about fresh ex-girlfriend woes Mark develops the website that will become facebook. His main reason is to compare the girls on campus, he calls it facemash.com and intends only to make people angry. But when the website overloads and crashes the Harvard network the two friends realize they have something bigger than they anticipated in their hands.

Harvard puts Mark on academic probation for overloading the servers and invading privacy, who is then picked up by the Winklevoss brothers who want him to design a website for them. He agrees but behind their backs he makes a plan with his best friend Eduardo. Quickly they form an agreement, 70% is Mark’s (he did the work) 30% is Eduardo’s (he put up the money for servers and start-up). CEO and CFO best friends and business partners. But when (then) thefacebook.com begins expanding to other universities Yale, Columbia, Stanford etc. things change quickly between the friends. And when Eduardo is secretly cut out of his 30% share, a close friendship ends and an enormous 3-way lawsuit for intellectual property begins. Finally ending with the worlds youngest billionaire, the film’s tag-line “You Don’t Get to 500 Million Friends Without Making a Few Enemies” has a resounding force.

The story is emotional, fascinating, invigorating and absolutely non-stop. The opening scene, which I could only describe as a shootout of dialogue between Eisenberg and actress Rooney Mara is worth admission price. My wife and I sat down in the theater and cringed when the hordes of tweens and teens bumbled in to see our movie, spilling popcorn and soda, whooping and howling like they had entered a water park. But after an incredible back-and-forth between two upcoming actors, we knew the theater would quiet down, and it did.

In typical Fincher style the lighting set the tone for his actors to deliver lines with such confidence that it’s hard not to believe them. I finally pieced this together while sitting in The Social Network. The same way I believe Tyler Durden from Fight Club when he says: “It’s only after we’ve lost everything that we’re free to do anything.” I believe him, even though I know that’s insanity. It’s the lighting. It’s that serious and consistent yellow grain light that fills the screen with this attitude. It’s why Eduardo can say lines like “I like standing next to you, Sean. It makes me look tough.” And everyone in the theater thinks it sounds so cool! Fincher works actors and shows confidence at such perfectly timed moments, that what he delivers in the end is masterful directing. And that’s not to take credit form Garfield’s acting.

Because before I get to what I think the movie means, I want to say that the cast is stupendous. Eisenberg, who I disliked in The Squid and the Whale, started to like in Zombieland, and now think is the best actor his age in Hollywood steals the show. Andrew Garfield, who has been incredible in everything I’ve seen him in (watch Boy-A there’s a good movie) performs like I expected. And even Justin Timberlake is, well he’s bearable, good at moments and unconvincing at others. Maybe having a pop-star play the creator of Napster wasn’t a good idea, it takes me out of the story for sure. But otherwise flawless casting.

I think this movie is good not only for its pacing and acting, but because I think it’s true of people. Even if the film isn’t 100% accurate as the real Zuckerberg has said, I think it says something about money and people and especially friendship. The movie presents Eduardo as Mark’s only friend, that is until Mark becomes infamous. Eduardo who is the plaintiff in one of the lawsuits is actually the better friend. Mark sold his friend for an idea that made him the youngest billionaire in the world. And it has to make you wonder, do you have friends worth a billion dollars?

Facebook, the real facebook, has become the most popular website on the internet. It’s a free service worth 25 billion smackeroonies, but it’s also been the butcher of our culture’s view of friendship. There’s a great moment when Eduardo fights with his girlfriend because his relationship status on the website says single. He confesses to her that he doesn’t even know how to change it, and it’s embarrassing as the CFO to not know how to change it. And it’s silly and the audience laughs, but we are right there. There’s a YouTube video floating around about facebook saying that 1 in 3 women between 18-26 check facebook before they do anything else in the morning.

My generation, is a generation of technology and blogging and YouTube and Facebook and Twitter and on and on, so how do we stay friends in the middle of all of it? It’s hard for me to compress it into a blog post/movie review, so I’ll say watch the film and just feel it. How many of your “facebook friends” are friends? Or are you no better than Zuckerberg, cause they’re just there for notoriety?

My #1 scene (courtesy IMDB):

Facebook Lawyer: Mr. Zuckerberg, do I have your full attention?
Mark Zuckerberg: [stares out the window] No.
Facebook Lawyer: Do you think I deserve it?
Mark Zuckerberg: [looks at the lawyer] What?
Facebook Lawyer: Do you think I deserve your full attention?
Mark Zuckerberg: I had to swear an oath before we began this deposition, and I don’t want to perjure myself, so I have a legal obligation to say no.
Facebook Lawyer: Okay – no. You don’t think I deserve your attention.
Mark Zuckerberg: I think if your clients want to sit on my shoulders and call themselves tall, they have the right to give it a try – but there’s no requirement that I enjoy sitting here listening to people lie. You have part of my attention – you have the minimum amount. The rest of my attention is back at the offices of Facebook, where my colleagues and I are doing things that no one in this room, including and especially your clients, are intellectually or creatively capable of doing.
[pauses]
Mark Zuckerberg: Did I adequately answer your condescending question?

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