Saturday, October 30, 2010

My take on The Social Network

*Spoiler alert*-ish

Can anyone finally sense the birth of a new genre in the film industry? Are you all, like me, surprised that it took so long? Online social networking! Of course. All the stories you can come up with. Sure, there's been a few movies here and there: You've Got Mail, Julie and Julia… I can't think of any more. OK, maybe less than a few. But The Social Network is not just a movie about social networking. It is THE movie that pushed the genre into the limelight. And if you have any interest in its history (I'm talking 7 seven years here), then this is a must. The producers will tell you it's a movie about betrayal and enemies, about good guys and bad guys. They want to get you interested. But they don't need to do that. We are already interested because we are all living it. This film is about our era. An era where a woman from Lebanon can write a film review that a guy from Brazil may read and think, "I can do better than that." Think of the possibilities.

OK maybe that was a tad too much. This isn't a documentary and there is a narrative, three to be precise. Two are hearings in which Zuckerberg is being sued for double-crossing fellow students from Harvard and his best friend and co-founder of Facebook, Eduardo Saverin. The third is the actual events as told by the claimants and defendant. The movie is very well written and at times funny, quite expected from Aaron Sorkin, writer of the dialogue-intensive The West Wing. It gives an interesting look at the seemingly inevitable rise to riches and fame of Mark Zuckerberg.

However, there's something quite distracting about watching an actor you know play the role of a real life person you are also familiar with. It was more difficult for me to suspend disbelief and pretend that Jamie Foxx was indeed Ray Charles than it was for me to accept that Christopher Reeve, known only as Superman, can fly. And herein lies the first glitch of The Social Network. I know that Mark Zuckerberg is supposed to be this back-stabbing asshole with an obsession to be recognized and accepted. But I really like Jesse Eisenberg and I find it extremely easy to sympathize with him. And although I understand that Sean Parker was supposed to be this unreliable paranoid child who can play with your mind and break up your friendships for his own benefit, I cannot but fall for the charm of Justin Timberlake (whoever hasn't seen him on Saturday Night Live is not allowed to judge me). And I'll make up any excuse to get him off the hook.

The second issue I have with The Social Network lies with its "facts". Now I know Sorkin said that he wasn't as interested in the facts than he was with the storytelling. And I'm willing to accept that if I felt that changing the facts was indeed done to enhance the plot. Instead, all the fact-checking I did proved that the non-factual elements were always there to make Zuckerberg look bad. For example, the movie never mentions that he was also investing money in the company. It wasn't just Saverin's money. The article about the Eduardo and the chicken never mentioned him by name. And last, when Eduardo froze the company's account, he didn't unfreeze it immediately as implied in the film. He left Zuckerberg to fend for himself and pay the company expenses out of pocket. Now I'm not saying that makes Zuckerberg the good guy. I'm just putting question marks on the intentions of the film maker.

To drive my point home, I'll quote the final line of the film "You're not an asshole Mark. You're just trying to hard to be." As catchy as this sounds, it doesn't really mean anything. No one wants to be an asshole. But someone else might be trying hard to make him look like one.

This film review was originally posted on


Amr said...

lama, your "back-stabbing nature" judge based on your personal opinion?. The auther was clear (if you read the book anyway) in his justification why he changed parts of the true story; just to make it more exciting/leg-dragging (in other vulgar word, sexier).. you cant follow up with the script/storyboard without exciment and complexity reduction, which obviously appeared in the movie.

Lama Bashour said...

@Amr, yes I am aware of the author's justification. However, my argument was that I believe the inaccuracies they made were not really intended to make the story "sexier" but in fact to vilify Zuckerberg even more. Is the book worth reading?

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