Social Network, The

Reviewed By Rob Gonsalves
Posted 10/04/10 07:44:20

"Charles Foster Kane has not approved your friend request."
3 stars (Average)

There are twenty Erica Albrights on Facebook. At least three of them are fake, and at least one of them, I suspect, is an account created to promote "The Social Network".

Erica Albright, see, is the nonexistent-in-real-life college girl (played by Rooney Mara) who breaks what passes for Mark Zuckerberg’s heart in the movie’s opening scene. Erica Albright is, if you will, Zuckerberg’s Rosebud, the motivation for a bright kid to become a lonely billionaire. The Social Network, sharply written by Aaron Sorkin and directed at a blistering clip by David Fincher, is a good story well-told. But the accolades comparing it, as a cinematic achievement and not just in a thematic sense, to Citizen Kane are more than a little nuts.

Zuckerberg is played by Jesse Eisenberg, who pulls off something fairly tricky. Zuckerberg, in this film, shows very little emotion — he might be stirred to open disdain if sufficiently riled up. Eisenberg makes his face an impassive mask throughout, except when Zuckerberg is languishing in depositions, in which case he scowls the scowl of an entitled lad who can’t believe he’s being made to waste time niggling over legal issues with toads. I think he smiles maybe twice, when introduced to Napster creator and bad boy Sean Parker (Justin Timberlake), who wants in on this new hot thing Zuckerberg’s put together called The Facebook. “Drop the ‘the,” Sean advises in passing. “Just Facebook. It’s cleaner.”

Eisenberg and everyone else in The Social Network (I keep wanting to type The Social Contract, and indeed Zuckerberg might sympathize with Rousseau’s “Man is born free, but he is everywhere in chains”) speak at roughly the speed of light, the better to strafe the audience with Aaron Sorkin’s hot-lead dialogue. The script, I take it, has little more than a passing acquaintance with what actually happened between Zuckerberg and his Harvard cronies; the film is positioned as a larger thing than an accurate transcript. “Is this a parable?” asks Zuckerberg when Sean Parker talks about the man who created Victoria’s Secret and killed himself because it went huge after he sold it. Maybe Sean’s story isn’t, but the one about Zuckerberg most definitely is.

It boils down to the good old bromide “Money can’t buy you love.” If you don’t want to go as far back as Citizen Kane, you need only look to the Beatles — whose “Baby, You’re a Rich Man” plays importantly at the end. In other words, if you’re living paycheck to paycheck and didn’t go to Harvard and wonder if you can afford braces for your kid, don’t feel bad; at least you have friends, unlike that poor bastard who made it possible for millions of people worldwide to connect but, as the movie would have it, sits alone with his equivalent of Charles Foster Kane’s deathbed snow-globe, a lap-top that he keeps refreshing. It’s a neat way to top off the movie. A little too neat. The Social Network stomps the gas and rockets along; it can be entertaining as hell, but if it were to slow down you might ask inopportune questions like, Why are we watching rich kids fight over percentages, or Why does the movie look so deathly drab as if this were fucking King Lear or something, or Why is this even a movie? Zuckerberg is basically Richie Rich without a Gloria. Duly noted, but it’s not the zeitgeist tragedy everyone is selling it as.

The film played well for me while it was playing — I wasn’t bored. But it’s far from the best movie I’ve seen this year — it isn’t even the best movie I’ve seen this week.

© Copyright HBS Entertainment, Inc.