It tells the story of Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook, through a series of flashbacks that take place during two separate legal hearings, one because the entitled Winklevoss twins claim that Zuckerberg stole the idea for Facebook from them at Harvard, the other because Zuckerberg’s former best friend and business partner, Eduardo Saverin, wants his fair share of the company.
As lawyers ask pointed questions, the various parties involved space out and remember key incidents about how Zuckerberg conceived of and implemented the (in)famous social networking site. The portrait of the young billionaire that emerges is not a pretty one.
Is it accurate? Who knows? More importantly, is it entertaining? Not quite.
This may not be a fair comparison, but I can’t help thinking of “The Social Network” in light of a movie I discussed in my September 28th post, “Remains of the Day.” In a way, the films are polar opposites, one properly British, the other brashly American; one historical, the other contemporary; one quiet and thoughtful, the other loud and frenetic.
The earlier movie incorporates its flashbacks so seamlessly that the journey into the future is also a journey into the past. Not so “The Social Network,” in which the characters swivel their chairs away from the current proceedings, gazing blankly into the distance before they go back in time only to be rudely recalled by one of their interrogators into the here and now. Talk about clunky. For a two-hour movie, the flashbacks are too frequent and intrusive.
How does “The Social Network” demonstrate Zuckerberg’s romantic ineptitude? Not with a beautifully crafted image but with a long, unpleasant scene during which he insults his girlfriend, shows himself to be a worse snob than the people he accuses of excluding him, and behaves like a complete bore. Thankfully, she has the good sense to dump him.
Is the problem here in the acting? Maybe. In the writing? Most definitely. Instead of opening up a flawed character, all mixed motives and warring impulses, the screenplay oversimplifies him and, in the process, reduces him to a cliché.