I’m in the movie business and I don’t go to the movies much anymore. It’s only partially because I live 70 frickin’ miles from a multiplex, but more because the movies have been really sucky of late. Sometimes a “Michael Clayton” studio movie comes along. You know, a movie with dialogue and some sort of social conscience like “Network”. Yes, we fortunately have the Cohen brothers for creepy yet thrilling character portrayals and Pixar for joy. But mostly we get a lot of hurling; large pieces of car flying at us or guys throwing up a lot.
So I’m happy to report that even though this is a movie about a bunch of narcissistic guys who invent a way to avoid social contact, “Social Network” about the origins of Facebook had me laughing one minute and on the edge of my seat in another. Yes, it was worth the 2 hours of driving, (although driving on Interstate 90 in Montana is sheer bliss with little traffic and kick ass scenery. You know the whole eagles soaring deal above the Yellowstone River and against the backdrop of the buttes.) I could kick myself for not asking the young Montanans there what they thought of the excess of Harvard life. I mean those Harvard dorms rooms are mighty swanky. Their refrigerators are filled with Heineken. Loads of it. And the women’s underwear in the first party scene? Oh boy, did I feel like I needed to go shopping.
The movie was a kind of me generation “Othello” with the Othello character (nice Brazilian roommate Eduardo Severin played by Andrew Garfield) becoming the supporting player and Iago (Mark Zuckerberg) becoming the dark maladjusted leading man. The movie starts out with the Desdemona character Erica (played by Rooney Mara) being condescended to in a Boston bar by Zuckerberg (played to dark perfection by Jesse Eisenberg) and finally dumping his sorry ass, thus ending that Othello comparison. (The movie theater I was in had a sound problem and the first couple minutes we couldn’t hear the dialogue which made us a bit rebellious. So they started the whole movie over and I’m glad they did because the movie starts off with such a bang that to have missed it would have been a sin.)
Every performance is dead on. Eisenberg provides the strange hypnotic but sad center. While Garfield provides its only beating heart. The Winklevoss twins played by Armie Hammer with body double Josh Pence are the epitome of privilege who are impossibly handsome, smart and , oh yes, are on the Olympic crew team. You start off hating them, but end up loving every minute they are on the screen. And just when you thought you were having all the fun you could stand, in walks Lucifer minion Sean Parker, played with astonishing dash and complexity by Justin Timberlake. A seducer of the first order, he lures Zuckerberg away from this best friend Eduardo into the Silicon Valley version of decadent paradise.
The direction of David Fincher couldn’t be better making even the scenes in the law office fraught with danger. The Aaron Sorkin script is fast, almost dizzying, but still luscious and spare at the same time. The first scenes are actually flashbacks. We then are shown the present which is a law office where the depositions are being taken of the people suing Zuckerberg over whose idea Facebook was. Who would have thought you could get that much drama in deposing people? And who is telling the truth? I’m probably not the first person to remark that Sorkin used the “Rashomon” structure to brilliant effect. Who is telling the whole truth?
The women’s roles are not so much. This is a movie about young masters of the universe in the making and their whirling neon drug and alcohol filled world of whoopee. If we let them, they will continue to infect our innate sense of community with a crapolistic sociopathy that will be the end of us. But somehow, thank goodness I saw another possibility. I ended up hoping that Erica was happily talking philosophy with her good friends at a Boston University hangout. She was not sitting with a bunch of assholes basking in their perceived glory or alone collecting friends on her Facebook page. Who will be the winners in this battle for a real social network? Tune in.