Monday, December 13, 2010

The Social Network

People found a lot of things wrong with the Social Network, Nathan Heller and Luke O'Brien over at Slat panned Sorkin for glossing over dteails and believing Harvard still is stuck in 70's era The Way we Were with the jews and Geeks as underdogs and overprivileged WASPS ruling the place.

I'm not a Harvard grad. Hell, I've never stepped foot an an Ivy League campus. But I think the Slate writers are the ones stuck in lala land, not Sorkin. The way Heller depicted it, I expected some sort of Revenge of the Nerds.

Harvard is not depicted as an old boys network, not really. The only one obsessed with final clubs in the movie is Zuckerberg, for whatever reason. Edwardo Saverin is also interested, and he get "punched" for one of them, but Dustin Moskovitz shows no interest in them. Zuckerberg is potrayed as embittered about not getting selected, and even tells Saverin that he was probably picked in a bid for diversity. However, as a non American I can tell you that you won't get picked for a club wearing shower sandals, I don't care if they're Adidas. Saverin on the other hand, seems to be a snappier dresser and a more sociable person in general.

Of course, this is a movie, I'm aware that the real Zuckerberg probably doesn't have Asperger's. And he's been in a long term relationship since before he even moved out to Palo Alto (something the movie completely ignores). And you don't have to be a geek in order to NOT know that the best way to meet women is to go out and meet them, and talk to them, not at them. But the real Zuckerberg still wears those sandals, and the damn hoodie. Maybe he is at least a little bit of that Eisenberg potrayal.

"Sorkin and Fincher's 2003 Harvard is a citadel of old money, regatta blazers, and (if I am not misreading the implication here) a Jewish underclass striving beneath the heel of a WASP-centric, socially draconian culture", according to Heller.

The only people who fit that description are the Winkelvoss twins. But the movie acknowledges that they're not like everyone, and not everyone is like them. Larry Summers brushes them off. Their friend and partner is an Indian guy from Brooklyn or Queens.

Every creation myth needs a devil

Towards the end of the film, a young lawyer tells this to Zuckerberg. True. But that doesn't make him any less ruthless.

I know that Sorkin and Fincher have exaggerated Zuckerberg as a maladapted kid in Harvard. The guy is a Phillips Exter grad who was captain of the fencing team. Hmm, come to think about it, that kinda sounds like Max Fischer. But the point is, they think Facebook was born out of revenge. Who knows the truth? Revenge and lust are extremely powerful motivators. And Zuckerberg is a very driven person. He created software in high school. He had software tutors for christ's sake.

All that said, the social network is a brilliant movie, an excellent piece of storytelling. The editing is tight. The music, courtesy of Trent Reznor, is quite good. The acting is also impressive.

Eisenberg plays Zuckerberg as a tragic hero, anti hero, and misunderstood evil genius all at the same time. Most people don't know much past the sandals and hoodie shtick, but he shows the human side of someon whose is so sad and angry, and at the same time driven (I already said that, no?) and energetic.

Andrew Garfield as Edwardo Saverin comes of as sweet and smart, but ultimately making some foolish decisions that got him pushed out. He seems ti still care about his friend during the deposition, but also knowing that it's past the point of no return. For a guy who looks straight out of Gossip Girl, Garfield is great, IMHO.

Even Napster's Sean Parker gets a good turn by Justin Timberlake. He's opportunistic, sure, but it's not moua-ha-ha nefarious, and you can see that he has learned from experience and helps Zuckerberg retain control (knowing that he played a key part in Zuckerberg having 3 out of 5 seats on the board, that's how I read it).

The Winkelvoss, Winkelvii? (vintage sorkin) are shown as more than two dimentional characters, arguing and feeling conflicted about the need to be "Harvard gentlemen" and the need to kick Zuckerberg's ass for his perceived larceny.

The only part I DID roll my eyes at was the final club party in the beginning, with all the Girls Gone Wild Ivy Leage Edition. I don't know how realistic it was (girls lined up outside waiting to be let in?), but my general reaction to female chauvinist pigs is, really? You're among the smartest women in America and that's what you do? Take your top off? 'Cause you're so empowered? Even if they weren't Harvard co-eds, they had to be from the area, so you're talking about Boston University, Tufts, Amherst, UMass, MIT, etc. I have no idea if final clubs are such dens of iniquity, but college in general does have that type of party, so probably.

So, in the end, did they get the facts right? Did they get the sprit of the whole endeavor? When you have trust, friendship, relationships, betrayal, alienation, entrepreneurship, and all those ships, who cares?? It's a brilliant film. Go see it