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
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
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?