The Social Network: A good film, but not a great film

The Social Network is a good film, with a great script, smart pacing, and some terrific acting, especially from Jesse Eisenberg in the role of Facebook creator Mark Zuckerberg. A good film, but not a great film. It would have made better television, for we expect less from television than from film.

I have come to the film late in the day because of life changes and travels to places beyond the reach of The Social Network, though not beyond the reach of commentary on the film. From everything I heard and read, this sounded like a film about making an enormous amount of money, which is not a subject that appeals to me. What interested me more was that the film had something to say about betrayal, about the undergraduate moment out of which Facebook was born, and about Zuckerberg’s supposed social ineptness.

Perhaps, I thought, when I got home from my travels and started catching up on some of what I had missed, there would be something poignant about the film, something ironic, something worth the price of admission. What interested me most, and what finally got me to go see it, is that this is a film about a startup, which is something I myself have lived.

There are interesting things to say about what happens to friendship when a business takes off unexpectedly. They are not said in The Social Network. I would like to know what is going on inside the mind of Zuckerberg, of his friend and business partner Eduardo Savarin. Is Zuckerberg jealous of Eduardo’s social success, as is implied? Is he the one who plants the story about Savarin’s cruelty in feeding morsels of chicken to a chicken? We have no way of knowing Zuckerberg well enough to be sure.

Yes, the film is snappy and funny and so manic that it’s a relief to move into the lawyer’s boardroom. What stands out, though, is the shallowness of the film. If that’s what Harvard is like, I would not want to go to Harvard. Though I don’t know Zuckerberg or Savarin very well, I do know what’s going on in the mind of Napster co-founder Sean Parker, who moves into Savarin’s spot as Zuckerberg’s business advisor. This knowledge does not add depth to the film.

So what’s to cheer for here? Would anyone have bothered making The Social Network – or praising it – if it weren’t for the fact that Zuckerberg ended up with $26 billion? 

Linda Leith

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