Monday, May 12, 2014

"The Social Network" Revisited

"You are probably going to be a very successful computer person. But you're going to go through life thinking that girls don't like you because you're a nerd. And I want you to know, from the bottom of my heart, that that won't be true. It'll be because you're an asshole."

"The Social Network" was one of my first reviews, my tenth if we're going to be picky. As such, it's a horrible mess of a review and I've included the link here (The Social Network) for curious minds. I've seen the film quite a few times and remain a huge fan; but the latest time I was watching it, I was surprised by how much there is going on in the picture.

From moment one, it's clear that Mark Zuckerberg is motivated by something, yet we are never sure what it is. In the infamous first scene when he's talking to his soon to be ex-girlfriend, he mentions final clubs and how great they are because they are "exclusive, and fun, and they lead to a better life." He wants to do something that will capture the attention of the final clubs, something truly noteworthy. His first attempt at this embodies itself in a drunken blogging rage against his now ex-girlfriend as a site that rates girls on their hotness level. After crashing Harvard's system because of overuse, Zuckerberg is placed on the top of a self-made pedestal before being approached by the Winklevoss twins. Now he sees his first glimpses of the life he wanted, and it doesn't interest him so much. He now thinks of himself as superior.

Aaron Sorkin certainly didn't hold back from being as scathing as possible towards Mark Zuckerberg, though while there's so much to hate about him, you find yourself thinking that he probably couldn't have helped himself. He seems so plugged in to his own world that he is immune to other people's feelings. The film is so overt with this thinking and Jesse Eisenberg plays the billionaire with such naivety that we begin to wonder if he doesn't have some anti-social disability. Whatever the reason, Mark's ego grows into a beast and under the pampering influence of Napster founder, Sean Parker (played with paranoia by Justin Timberlake) and he starts to take every piece of advice, including making himself a card that reads: I'm CEO, bitch!

Mark is prepared to fight for Facebook, but no one tries to take it from him. He tries to vault over obstacle after obstacle, but none come his way. The process of turning the network site into a full-fledged mega-structure seems fairly far as programming is concerned. The movie never talks about the technical side, more than is necessary, and focuses more on Mark and his best friend's relationship. Eduardo Saverin (brilliantly played by Andrew Garfield) was the finance side of Facebook's genesis. He thinks that they have to start monetizing the site sometime; but Mark disagrees because that isn't cool. The true struggle of the film is between Saverin and Zuckerberg—friendship versus ego.

For being such a small role in the movie, and receiving low billing for the film, the most pivotal moments of the movie come from Rooney Mara as Mark's ex-girlfriend and Rashida Jones as Marilyn Delpy. These two have the bookends of the movie, and each one says something quite poignant that makes us realize that Mark hasn't changed from the first scene to the last, he's still trying for something to be famous, to gain attention and we don't get to know why. Mark is a chauvinist, according to the film, so what better way than to get to hear the best advice from women?

This is why I love the movie. There is so much good drama here that creeps up on you and attacks you unexpectedly. We see Mark's descent into blind submission and egotism, but we don't expect that betrayal will result from this. After all, Eduardo was Mark's only true friend. He sees their business venture as a furthering of their relationship. They did everything together and Eduardo was the only one who could really understand Mark's peculiar antics. It makes it all the more cruel when Mark rips the rug out from under Eduardo and this results in many court cases.

This is the biggest aspect of the movie that I hadn't noticed before. Eduardo is constantly mentioning his father. He longs for approval; but his dad is a non-present figure of the movie. The Winklevoss brothers also have dealings with their father; but Mark doesn't. In fact, we don't hear mention or see his parents at all. While Eduardo struggles—at one point in the hearings, saying "My father won't even talk to me", it's a small line, but crucial—Mark tries to soar on his own.

Sorkin has almost outdone himself with this screenplay. It's his most insightful and his most perceptive work. Even if you take the movie as a fiction movie, there is so many dynamics to it, that it's almost impossible to absorb it all. One of my favorite moments, is near the end when Marilyn is talking to Mark about why he should settle. She mentions that they have the original comments that Mark made about his ex. Mark tries to justify himself:
Mark: I was drunk, and angry, and stupid...
Marilyn:...and blogging.
Mark: And blogging.
Teeming with references and loaded with quick lines, the script is in a class of its own.

This is the most frustrating part of the film. We want Mark to suffer because he has screwed over people that shouldn't have been screwed over; yet when he settles out of court, does that really satisfy us. No. There is justice, but is there enough? Perhaps not, but that makes the film true.

By the ending of the movie, as Mark has climbed to mega-stardom, he is left in a room alone trying to reconnect with his ex-girlfriend. Why? I think that all Mark wanted was friends, but cyber friends are not the same as real people. For being such an intensely intelligent person, Mark doesn't fit in well. his quest for more friends causes him to lose the only one he's had.

It's all summed up at the very end, by Marilyn:

"You're not an asshole, Mark. You're just trying so hard to be."

As the music is cued and the credits roll, we are left to our own thoughts.
"The Social Network" remains one of the most interesting and diabolically clever movies of recent years.

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