Screen Time: ‘The Social Network’ deserves its awardsPublished 8:50am Wednesday, January 19, 2011
Column: Point Across
4 out of 5 stars
Not much in the computer world has the potential to be more poetic on film than the bitter irony of a million-person-strong social network created by a friendless wunderkind.
“The Social Network,” which was released on DVD and Blu-ray last week, pulls that off with precision and reaps the rewards in the process, sweeping the awards for best picture, best director (David Fincher), best screenplay (Aaron Sorkin) and best original score at the 68th annual Golden Globe Awards this weekend.
“The Social Network” is tasked with fictionalizing the tale of Facebook’s beginning and the journey of its co-creator Mark Zuckerberg (played by Jesse Eisenberg), from the inception of its predecessor “FaceMash” in 2003 to Facebook’s 1 millionth member in 2005, and two major lawsuits along the way. The suits — one by his former-best friend and then-Facebook CFO Eduardo Saverin (Andrew Garfield), who was forced out of the company, and the other by identical twins Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss (both played by Armie Hammer), who claim the concept of this social networking site was their idea — are flash-forward points throughout the film. Somehow, the writer of “West Wing” and “A Few Good Men” (Sorkin) manages to dramatize the creation of a website and dramatize it well.
Sorkin’s screenplay for “The Social Network” is an adaption of Ben Mezrich’s 2009 nonfiction book “The Accidental Billionaires.” So while many of the major plot points are accurate, “The Social Network” is a work of fiction, and Sorkin never claims it to be more than that.
Oliver Stone’s 1991 film “JFK” was loosely based off of Jim Garrison’s 1988 “nonfiction” book “On the Trail of the Assassins” about the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, but that doesn’t mean “JFK” is factual.
But the brilliant writing in “The Social Network” is what turns a film about a website into an in-depth character analysis of an individual who is complexly intelligent, creative, ambitious, arrogant and selfish, all while desperately seeking the approval of others — including Napster co-creator Sean Parker (Justin Timberlake) — at the expense of his best friend, Saverin.
Eisenberg plays this pretentious genius brilliantly. His character invented Facebook — a website now used by more than 600 million people — but he relies on others’ approval to bring merit to his achievements. With Eisenberg, it is believable.
So while this is only Eisenberg’s second major role, (he played a similar role as Columbus in “Zombieland”), his performance is worthy of the Golden Globe nomination it received, and should be in contention for an Oscar nomination as well. Eisenberg — his physical similarities to the real Zuckerberg aside — gives the part depth and believability.
In the film’s opening sequence, Zuckerberg sits in a bar with his girlfriend Erica Albright (Rooney Mara) and rattles off a near incoherent rant that is as eloquent as it is condescending toward Albright. Her response — which includes the fact that she is breaking up with him — puts him in his place, and sets in motion the events leading up to the creation of Facebook.
“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’s because, she says bluntly, he’s another word meaning jerk.
Sorkin’s Zuckerberg may be exactly that, but that arrogance is a big part of what makes his creation, Facebook, and this film a success.
Tribune Audience Manager Adam Harringa’s column appears every Wednesday.