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09/29/2010 4:00 AM |

The Social Network

Directed by David Fincher

Wall-to-wall talk and stitched up tight, The Social Network is perhaps the actual Wall Street 2 by way of good, funny, compulsively Huluable TV. Though advance-praised in eerily similar terms as a gloss on the zeitgeist, nothing is so of-the-moment about this Fincher-Sorkin production as the storytelling: fast, catchy, more criss-crossing than comments-section crossfire, and, perhaps most of all, steered by an obsession with power that feigns shock and camouflages drive as awkward single-mindedness but remains dick-swingingly open.

Beside the control-freak fantasies of a shut-out master coder, power is Mark Zuckerberg’s ambition, and as the Facebook co-founder, Jesse Eisenberg rightly plays his Sorkinized speech as war by other means than violence or image. At the hit-the-ground-snarking outset, he’s the freshly jilted loser, never again as Aspergerish as when talking past the girl who gloriously dumps him and, in the script’s almost arbitrarily weakest link, sets the angry little man off. He’ll crash the campus server with a popular looks-comparison website (coding intercut with scenes of other people’s parties), he’ll start The Facebook and see it grow exponentially, he’ll look back billions of dollars later, but he’ll never Get Over Her (though groupie blow jobs don’t hurt).

In fact, and by design, the credible heartbreak happens with the movie’s male love triangle. Mark starts Facebook with buddy/dorm-room-chief-financial-officer Eduardo (Andrew Garfield, again with the hair), the movie’s resident good guy, but, disagreeing over the direction of the company early, he outgrows him. When Mark moves to silicon-rich California for the summer, their long-distance thing doesn’t work out, especially when Napster rock-star Sean Parker (Justin Timberlake) prances onto the scene, shaking his internet cool-kid savvy in Mark’s face. (Parker’s ludicrous presence also undercuts the movie’s claim to being particular to “our time”: Mark’s sudden wealth, software ubiquity, and questionable social graces recall millennial dot-com parvenues.)

The real genius to The Social Network is its best-of heightened reality: deftly fashioned as flashbacks from two lawsuit depositions, its scenes are, by definition, the juiciest bits. Fincher and Sorkin thereby get away with the greatest-hits sin of biopics (though there’s still the matter of the First Girl, and the woeful a-ha invention of “relationship status”). But far from filler, the deposition sessions—arising from legal actions by Eduardo and by the towering blue-blood Winklevoss Twins who funded Mark only to see him go AWOL and “improve upon” their idea—show Mark flush at last with absolute power. Delivering hilariously bratty put-downs and knowing his sucker punches can land without reprisal behind the firm’s closed doors, he is in what American society seems to define as heaven: so rich you can say fuck you and then settle.

Lacking yet the fall (unlike another headstrong character, Carlos ), Fincher still includes a brash future portrait of Mark in the movie: bearing their grievances, the Winklevosses visit Harvard president Larry Summers, who smacks them around as only a grown and unscathed wunderkind has learned he can do. The script relates Mark’s ambition to class resentment (stuck at a Jewish frat, instead of Harvard’s final clubs, which seem really wild!!!) and troubles with the ladies, but one of the best lines is the most subtle: “I don’t hate anybody,” Mark declares, so efficiently have his feelings been re-channeled.

Fincher, in notes for the press, says he and his filmmaking team were never “sharpening their knives” for Mark in their portrayal—then goes on to call Mark interesting “in the same way that Travis Bickle is…Rupert Pupkin…or the narrator in Fight Club .” Business as the pathology that makes the world go round?

Opens October 1