The critics insist, rightly so I think, that one of the true blockbuster films of 2010 is “The Social Network.” The film, directed by David Fincher, opened in October in the U.S. to strong reviews and fairly large box-office success. It traces the beginning and development of Facebook into the cultural phenomenon that it is today.
Facebook began at Harvard in a university dorm room where student Mark Zuckerberg, and a few friends, imagined and created a new means of communication between students. The rest is the story as they shared their network and began to market it beyond the university environment in which it was created. Mark Zuckerberg is played by the brilliant young actor, Jesse Eisenberg. Eisenberg apparently gets very close to the real person in his portrayal of Zuckerberg. Mark Zuckerberg is ambiguous, if not simply unlikable in the extreme. He destroys everyone who might be called his friend and consistently finds ways to ruin every human relationship he had or might have. Ironically, the guy who created the most used tool in the world for personal relationships is not personal or relational.
The film portrays Zuckerberg as an emotionally uptight genius with an avaricious appetite to control things and make a fortune from his work. In building his fortune he cut out his closest friend in the process and then paid off two other students who charged him with ripping off their part of the plan.
Jesse Eisenberg tried to learn how to understand the social network, to prepare for playing this role, but found it daunting and gave up. He decided instead to major on the emotional life of his character, a wise choice. His role is well-played, to say the least. Says Alessandra Rizzo, of Associated Press, “The actor was fascinated by what he said were Zuckerberg’s conflicting feelings—‘alienation, ambition, great social insight and yet kind of a complete detachment from other people.’”
If I didn’t know better I wonder out loud if Zuckerberg has some form of mild autism or Asperger’s Syndrome. He seems to be unable to judge the emotions and feelings of others in a social context, whether males or females. This is both the charm of the film and the sadness at the same time.
“The Social Network” is an important film if for no other reason than this—it introduces the viewer to the evolution of the most popular social network on the Web. I personally use Facebook though I am still trying decide how important it really is to me as a person who has both friends and acquaintances around the world. Does it really help me to build relationships? I think the answer is mixed. I can tell some great positive stories about Facebook. I can also tell some fairly depressing ones. Time will tell so far as I’m concerned. Meanwhile see the film if you want to know how all of this came about.
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Sorkin (who wrote the screenplay) said he doesn’t use social networking but was attracted to the story for the human element. I found the film almost Shakespearean and thought it was brilliant.