Before Mark Zuckerberg became the world’s youngest billionaire, he was as awkward at talking to women as anyone in Skirkanich Hall.
The opening sequence of The Social Network depicts a rapid-fire, cringe-worthy exchange between Zuckerberg (Eisenberg) and his girlfriend. His condescending attitude drives her to dump him. Spitefully, Zuckerberg creates a program that allows Harvard guys to rate the attractiveness of female students. Recognized as a computer genius, he is invited to work on a social networking project with the Winklevosses (Hammer), but instead creates Facebook by himself. Needless to say, multimillion-dollar lawsuits ensue.
Is Mark Zuckerberg really an asshole? Throughout its depiction of the power-play that marks Facebook’s foundation and growth, The Social Network frequently refers back to this question. The film is a morality tale, livened up and modernized by West Wing scribe Aaron Sorkin, whose dazzling screenplay combines with the film’s slick editing to make it not only a testament to the culture the Internet has spawned, but an embodiment of it.
The Social Network is completely dialogue-driven and Sorkin has uncannily captured the quick rhythm and laugh-out-loud humor of college interactions. The film’s challenging pace reinforces the Internet age’s unspoken motto: those who can’t keep up are left behind — like Zuckerberg’s former best friend and partner Eduardo (Garfield), who Zuckerberg betrays to get to the top.
The film's execution is flawless, but its main shortcoming is its portrayal of women, who too often come across as gold diggers. Rashida Jones provides welcome relief from this as a sympathetic and intelligent lawyer working on one of Zuckerberg’s court cases.
She brings out Zuckerberg’s humanity in the film’s final scene, breaking down the protective wall he has built around himself. This moment reminds us that despite its examination of postmodern society, The Social Network is, at its core, a compelling character drama featuring themes such as friendship, jealousy, love and betrayal that have been around for millenia. In the end, Zuckerberg offers an apologetic gesture to his ex-girlfriend. The word is still out on whether she accepted his Facebook friend request.
THE SOCIAL NETWORK Directed by: David Fincher Starring: Jesse Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield, Justin Timberlake, Armie Hammer Rated PG-13, 117 min. 4.5 Stars