(No longer in theaters)
Scott Rudin, Dana Brunetti, Michael De Luca, Ceán Chaffin
Oct 1, 2010
David Fincher’s business saga The Social Network is a Make Your Own Zeitgeist picture. Its protagonist, Facebook creator and world’s youngest billionaire Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg), is either an emotionally dysfunctional monster incapable of maintaining a friendship—making his invention of a tool to facilitate friendship too-too ironic, and that tool itself deeply suspect—or the guy you really, really wish you were, no matter how twisted and reviled he may be.
Fincher has likened The Social Network’s emotional trajectory to Citizen Kane’s, in that its protagonist becomes simultaneously more successful and more friendless. But Fincher’s direction is so cool and depersonalizing that the story has no emotional heft. Zuckerberg’s Wasp adversaries are cartoon boobs. More than once, the camera scrutinizes young women from behind, appraising them as the movie’s horny young voyeurs do. The Trent Reznor–Atticus Ross score is in some Eno-airport no-man’s-land of its own. Everything is disconnected from the get-go—there’s no humanity to lose.
Eisenberg has been, until now, a hugely likable actor with an instinct for thinking and fumbling in character. As Zuckerberg, he’s been whipped into monotony. Fincher directs like a drill sergeant—Mamet with an overwound metronome. The only actor here allowed to give a fully rounded performance is Justin Timberlake as Napster co-founder Sean Parker, whose sleazy hustle turns out to be just what the burgeoning Facebook needs. Fincher does get the details, though: the ubiquitous energy drinks that seem to fuel the movie’s hyped-up, jittery pacing; the programmers in headphones, deep in their antisocial trances, writing code to connect us all; the oak-and-crimson Harvard vibe, illuminating the ties between arrogant undergraduate high jinks and arrogant alumni high jinks. (Harvard president and Inside Job villain Larry Summers is played, with peerless superciliousness, by Douglas Urbanski.)
What The Social Network isn’t about is, well, the social network—i.e., Facebook, and what it means for the culture. The real Zuckerberg may have a dismaying unconcern for privacy, but from the start he had a vision that Facebook would help create communities in an ever-insular world. The movie’s final image—Zuckerberg “friending” the woman who dumped him and endlessly refreshing the page to see if she accepts—is presented as pathetic irony. But you could also read it as a sign of hope. In the Facebook world, which is now ours, a new communication infrastructure exists, with no avenues definitively closed.