Dir. David Fincher. USA. 2010.

Talking Pictures alias







About Us


This film both starts and ends with Mark Zuckerberg in discussions with women about whether or not he is an a**hole. Charting the phenomenon that is Facebook is just one of the elements of this thoroughly engaging work, with a powerhouse central performance by Jesse Eisenberg of the now youngest billionaire in the world. Another rich thread is looking into the ‘character’ of the young geek who created it. Just who is this guy?

The plot skips back and forth in time as the Mark Zuckerberg of now is facing lawsuits from other attendant characters who claim intellectual and financial recognition for the network site that may or may not be the brainchild of one person. The story is as much about the creative process and what lies behind it – the invisible forces at play when someone has a great idea assimilates information and inspiration. The viewer watches as different people come in and out of Mark’s life and he quietly integrates their input into what he sees and thinks already. Regardless of whether or not Zuckerberg is a lone ranger, as he thinks he is, watching him learn some semblance of moral responsibility to those around him is part of the experience of The Social Network.

Harvard in the Fall of 2003 is a time of rampant activity with an hour by hour on screen progress report as to the birth of the social network that changes organically at rapid speed as the central protagonist seamlessly blends his learning into his ideas. Geeks work hard: the movie tells us this and the first ‘date’ sequence underpins the strengths and weaknesses of Mark as perceived by a girl who is sitting in front of him in a bar – Erica Albright, played by Rooney Mara (Mark drinks beer consistently when working as he often does, drunk), who says “you will go through your life thinking that girls don’t like you because you’re a nerd – I am telling you that isn’t true,” “it’s because you’re  an a**hole.” How Mark responds to this is to put a blog on this girl, complete with insults as well as starting a picture comparison with college girls to farm animals asking the boys to compare relative ‘hotness.’ This is ‘Facemash’ an early Facebook precursor. The site gets 22,000 hits within two hours and gets the attention of typical Harvard boys (Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss),who want to use Mark’s blogging and networking prowess to start a blog for undergrads with an emphasis on exclusivity.

Mark’s obsession with high net social groups is an underdeveloped area of concern in the film as he is duly captured by this in the beginning – he is exceptionally skilful and very adept at very quickly moving on what he gathers, but his motivation for getting involved with three highly connected preppy types goes undernourished, aside from the obvious point that being well connected is a career progression outside of that determined by talent. And boy does this guy work. One thing this film quietly gives us is some idea of the sheer will, drive and determination of computer nerds. One thing is for certain, Mark has the self-assurance and self-confidence that will ensure his success and he is very frank in undermining those around him he considers to be challenging his lone ranger status. Sometimes this engages our sympathies and he does have a point; the two Harvard guys (good looking rowers)are miserably and tangibly resentful at Mark’s success and we, like Mark himself considers the prospect that this clever diminutive nerd has outfoxed them in a territory that they could not compete. Their world is that of well-connected parties and making newcomers feel embarrassed. Zuckerberg has no class struggle or point to prove, he is just dismissive of anything that may or may not have been part of the whole generic Facebook in the making. He does this with unnerving and frank conviction. Some of the put downs he offers those reproaching him n the mediation room seem arrogant but they are well founded, if lacking in diplomacy.

It is only when we are looking at the relationships he has with Eduardo Saverin, played by Andrew Garfield (his friend and business partner), the girl he has a date with in the beginning, and his ill-judged complete confidence in the Napster creator – Sean Parker, played very well by Justin Timberlake. Sean is the biggest feeder to Mark’s imagination and what he believes the overall picture will look like and why it exists in the first place. The initial precept offered to him by the Ivy League guys dissipates into something far wider and with a more finely tuned focus as to the drive for its being. Sean and Mark have in common notions of what makes the site tick – it is ‘fun’ and ‘cool,’ but here is where we lose sympathy with Mark as he sees none of the obvious flaws in Sean (the girls, large stories, drugs, paranoia) and leaves his closest friend in a heart breaking sequence in the position of having to sue him. The mediation scenes between Mark and Sean are at times difficult to watch as, one of the Tyler’s observes, the creator of the largest social network in the world ‘doesn’t have 3 friends to rub together.’ This is the central irony running though the film: Mark is undoubtedly a genius at assimilating and absorbing those around him and throwing out the results into his work (he doesn’t sleep, once falling asleep only once the site goes live), but not at appropriating credit or thanks. He lacks any social skill himself and as such is an embodiment of the creation of Facebook, lacking in any depth or responsibility.

We see at the end of the film though Mark finding the account of the girl who reproaches him at the beginning, requesting her ‘friendship’ – the alienation that he has created, he himself is not all too happy with. His lawyer persuades him to settle, calling what he would have to give as ‘parking ticket money’ and advising that a jury would not really like his style – ‘you are not really an a**hole, you are just trying to be.’

A very satisfying film which engages the viewer throughout and provides a very valuable insight not just into what made Facebook what it is, but on the nature of endeavour, moral obligation and inspiration.

Gail Spencer

Also see Howard Schumann's review of this film.
Search this site or the web        powered by FreeFind
Site searchWeb search
   Home | News | Features
    Book Reviews | About Us