Sunday, October 17, 2010

The Social Network

Who is Jesse Eisenberg? We don't know. Or, at least, we didn't know until The Social Network cast him as Facebook inventor (and the real-life world's youngest billionaire) Mark Zuckerberg. We know who Mr. Zuckerberg is, since every Facebook page once read, "A Mark Zuckerberg Production" at the bottom, and because the studio marketed this unexpected and excellent film so well. And now we know who Mr. Eisenberg is, too. He's the guy who played Mark Zuckerberg in that Facebook movie! If we are to believe the brilliantly executed characterization, Mark is the unfriendliest person you've ever met, but also the smartest--and you'd better not lose sight of the latter.

The filmmakers manage to keep us viewers riveted with a well-choreographed blend of modern-day law office negotiations and flashbacks into the distant past (2004, but that's the distant past in the world of social networking websites, right?). In the legal negotiations, Mr. Zuckerberg is being sued by old college buddies who say he ripped off their idea. In the flashbacks, he is running all over the campus at Harvard, passionately trying to change the world with the computer in his dorm room.

Along the way, there are parties that Mark is left out of, prestigious university fraternities that he doesn't get invited to join, plenty of girls whom he has either grossly offended or simply don't understand his superior mind, and no mention of any family life or boyhood home life. Mark's character is abrasive, insensitive, and at times clumsy, but also very passionate about making "The Facebook" successful. And, of course, we know how that turned out.

What we don't discover until the film's closing minute is whether Mark's character has any simple, lowly human emotions within his craftily defended brainy exterior. For the two hours that he is on screen, there are at times hints of jealousy and certainly frustration, but he seems to feel no sense of obligation whatsoever to anyone but himself, and declares with both words and actions that he has no need for anyone else. But in that final minute, alone, and in the midst of an apparently tumultous business life that he never anticipated, we are allowed to glimpse what was really going on in his mind all along. In spite of everything, he's as needy as anybody. Can a person have hundreds of millions of Facebook friends, and still be lonely?

This film is a sure Oscar contender.

Brooke: B+
Grant: A

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