This Blog Has Been Glanced at This Many Times:

Monday, January 31, 2011

MOVIE REVIEW - The Social Network

Since I saw this film in September I’ve been toting it as, “one of the most important films of our generation.” It seems I’m really good at spitting fire, but hiding the fuel tank. “So why, G? Why is The Social Network so important? And why should we care?” Answer:

Does everyone remember Citzen Kane? I’m fully aware I’m not the first to liken The Social Network with what the AFI claims to be the greatest film of all time. However, I do want to sit on this comparison for a moment. Both movies are inspired by real events that follow young corporate juggernauts out to find love on their own terms. (Thank you Mr. Leland.) Whether either of these films was accurate doesn’t matter. What matters are the main characters depicted in Citizan Kane and The Social Network used what was popular and innovative, for the time, to gain power. The Social Network reminds us the dangers of Charles Foster Kane's errors still live, but in a much different way.

The difference between Kane and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg is the latter created a new communication network to influence big business. Currently, Facebook is the epicenter of web communication. It has carelessly transformed the word “friend” in to a meaningless web of contacts you may or may not communicate with. Knowing this makes The Social Network all the more tragic. Zuckerberg’s hijacking of various networking ideas causes an escalating “friends list.” But the people who inspired his project sure as hell aren’t on it. The poster reads, “You don’t get to 500 million friends without making a few enemies.” The poetry behind this tagline is really incredible. In the film his enemies are right in front of him; face to face. The people on his "friends" list? I can't be sure I saw any onscreen.

Zuckerberg's business triumphs mixed with his social failings make the movie. It hits hard when he’s left alone with his own creation, watching his profile in hopes to earn a “real” friend. Though it also shows how vicious one entrepreneur must be to reach success. Apparently you don’t make $500 million without making a few enemies either. So while parading Zuckerberg as a tragic “asshole,” the movie also establishes the grit and initiative needed to create a corporate flagship like Facebook. Aaron Sorkin’s script plots through the ideas of Facebook’s evolution without feeling like it's needless exposition. The characters remain as entertaining as ever while the ideas of success are presented to the audience.

I must say I was one of the first to turn my nose up at the idea of this movie. But placing it in the hands of Sorkin and David Fincher brought real heart to the film. They know Facebook is a monster that has taken up our generation’s time with needless worries of what Gracie thinks about Ellen’s picture. Or updating statuses. Or seeing if Sondra is still dating Bob. The list goes on, but The Social Network comes down to why we do this. It turns out the creator wanted Facebook for the same reason we do: Instant gratification. Now we can all feel important with a simple click.

Accurate or not, it makes for great storytelling. I wonder if Mr. Zuckerberg really does get that instant relief when logging in to Facebook. He might also feel empty knowing his monster is just an existential time-waster. Is Zuckerberg sitting in front of his laptop waiting to utter, "Rosebud?" Nah, we've seen that story. He’s probably just counting his checks.

**** out of ****