Monday, October 04, 2010

Film Reviews: 'The Social Network'

Millions of Friends, but Not Very Popular

The New York Times
September 23, 2010

Merrick Morton/Columbia Pictures

Jesse Eisenberg in “The Social Network.”

What makes Mark Zuckerberg run? In “The Social Network,” David Fincher’s fleet, weirdly funny, exhilarating, alarming and fictionalized look at the man behind the social-media phenomenon Facebook — 500 million active users, oops, friends, and counting — Mark runs and he runs, sometimes in flip-flops and a hoodie, across Harvard Yard and straight at his first billion. Quick as a rabbit, sly as a fox, he is the geek who would be king or just Bill Gates. He’s also the smartest guy in the room, and don’t you forget it.

The first time you see Mark (Jesse Eisenberg, firing on all cylinders), he’s 19 and wearing a hoodie stamped with the word Gap, as in the clothing giant, but, you know, also not. Eyes darting, he is yammering at his girlfriend, Erica (Rooney Mara), whose backhand has grown weary. As they swat the screenwriter Aaron Sorkin’s words at each other, the two partners quickly shift from offline friends to foes, a foreshadowing of the emotional storms to come. Soon Mark is back in his dorm, pounding on his keyboard and inadvertently sowing the seeds of Facebook, first by blogging about Erica and then by taking his anger out on the rest of Harvard’s women, whose photos he downloads for cruel public sport: is she hot or not.

Although the names have remained the same, “The Social Network” is less of a biopic of the real Mr. Zuckerberg than a gloss on the boot-up, log-on, plug-in generation. You don’t learn much about him other than the headlines, beginning with Facebook’s less-than-humble start in 2003. Despite its insistently unsexy moving parts (software, algorithms), the movie is paced like a thriller, if one in which ideas, words and bank books blow up rather than cars. It’s a resonant contemporary story about the new power elite and an older, familiar narrative of ambition, except instead of discovering his authentic self, Mark builds a database, turning his life — and ours — into zeroes and ones, which is what makes it also a story about the human soul.

The price of that ambition, at least as dramatized here, is borne by those around Mark, who remains a strategic cipher throughout: a Facebook page without a profile photo. Charmless and awkward in groups larger than one, he rarely breaks into a smile and, if memory serves, never says thank you. He seems wary at some moments, coolly calculating at others: when his eyes haven’t gone dead, you can see him working all the angles. One of those angles, according to Mr. Sorkin’s script, which follows the outline of “The Accidental Billionaires,” Ben Mezrich’s book about Facebook, was one of the site’s co-founders, Eduardo Saverin (a very good Andrew Garfield), a fellow student of Mark’s as well as his first big check writer and personal chump.

Eduardo strides in early, his collar turned up against the Cambridge winter, and quickly moves in on our sympathies, which Mr. Eisenberg, guided by his supremely confident director, never does. Mr. Garfield can sometimes wilt on screen as if in surrender, but here his character merely sways, held up by an essential decency that makes Eduardo so appealing and such a contrast to the sometimes appalling Mark. (When Mr. Eisenberg makes Mark’s face go blank, the character seems scarily emptied out: it’s a subtly great, at times unsettling, performance.) Mark might be the brains in this unlikely friendship, but Eduardo is its conscience and slowly bleeding heart. Though he knows better, he hangs on even after he’s been cut loose.

Merrick Morton/Columbia Pictures

Defriended: From left, Andrew Garfield, Joseph Mazzello, Jesse Eisenberg and Patrick Mapel in “The Social Network.”

The plot thickens after Erica dumps Mark, and he meets a pair of near-comically-perfect supermen, the identical twins and future Olympic rowers Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss. (An amusing Armie Hammer plays both brothers with wit and the aid of different hairstyles, special effects and a body double.) The Winklevosses emerge as unlikely objects of Mark’s interest and, much like Erica, his eventual contempt. The twins and their friend Divya Narendra (Max Minghella), have a Web site idea and need Mark’s programming help. They’ll pay (and how!), but the gig, they grandly explain, will also rehabilitate Mark’s reputation on campus after the hot/not scandal, a patronizing moment that echoes Mark’s breakup with Erica. “You’d do that for me?” he asks the twins flatly, recycling a line Erica once used on him.

The conspicuous paradox that “The Social Network” plays with is that the world’s most popular social networking Web site was created by a man with excruciatingly, almost pathologically poor, people skills. The benign view of Facebook is that it creates “a community,” a sense of intimacy, which is of course one reason it also creeps out some of its critics. As the virtual-reality visionary Jaron Lanier puts it bluntly in his manifesto “You Are Not a Gadget,” Facebook also reduces life to a database. In “The Social Network,” a character lashes out at both Mark and “the angry” who haunt the Internet, but Mr. Lanier takes the view that it’s fear that drives the idolizers of what he calls the “new strain of gadget fetishism.”

Beyond the obvious (money, sex, fame) it’s hard to know what truly pushes Mark, whose personality emerges in furtive smiles, gushes of words and painful pauses. Eventually everyone does pay: the Winklevosses, Eduardo, even Mark. The filmmakers have their ideas about who did what to whom, but they don’t try to fill in all the blanks or, worse, soften Mark’s edges with a Psych 101 back story. You see what turns him on: software, revenge and, in several lightly comic and darkly foreboding scenes, Sean Parker, the flamboyant co-creator of Napster, who’s played by Justin Timberlake as a jittery seducer. Sean oozes into Mark’s life for a piece of the action and instantly dazzles the younger man with his bad-boy ways (coke and Champagne for everyone!), sexy dates and big, brash talk of riches.

Shooting in digital and working with the cinematographer Jeff Cronenweth, Mr. Fincher turns down the lights and tamps down his visual style, deploying fewer special-effects sleights of hand than he did in “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” with its wizened and baby Brad Pitt, while also maintaining the familiar Fincher atmosphere of dread. Harvard has rarely been represented to such dolorous effect as in “The Social Network,” where even the colors seem leached of joy. A restrained, somber palette and the shallow depth of field express the limits of Mark’s world, while the rapid, seamless cutting among different times and spaces — scenes of him creating Facebook are woven together with scenes of him in separate depositions — evokes the speed of his success, giving the narrative terrific momentum.

Mr. Fincher pointedly abandons his smudged browns for a gauzily lighted sequence of the twins rowing at a tony British club that, with the edges of the image blurred and movements slowed, looks like a dream. This is a world of rarefied privilege in which men still wear straw boaters, and royalty blathers within earshot. Mark isn’t invited, not because he’s poor (he isn’t), but because this is a closed, self-reproducing system built on exclusivity and other entitlements, including privacy. (The movie refers to Mark’s being Jewish, and the twins look as if they crewed for the Hitler Youth, but that’s just part of the mix.) Mark doesn’t breach this citadel, he sidesteps it entirely by becoming one of the new information elite for whom data is power and who, depending on your view of the Internet, rallies the online mob behind him.

“The Social Network” takes place in the recognizable here and now, though there are moments when it has the flavor of science fiction (it would make a nice double bill with “The Matrix”) even as it evokes 19th-century narratives of ambition. (“To be young, to have a thirst for society, to be hungry for a woman,” Balzac writes in “Le Père Goriot.”) The movie opens with a couple in a crowded college bar and ends with a man alone in a room repeatedly hitting refresh on his laptop. In between, Mr. Fincher and Mr. Sorkin offer up a creation story for the digital age and something of a morality tale, one driven by desire, marked by triumph, tainted by betrayal and inspired by the new gospel: the geek shall inherit the earth.

“The Social Network” is rated PG-13 (Parents strongly cautioned). The usual college high jinks, drugs, drinking and semi-naked women.


The film, to be shown on Friday on the opening night of the 48th New York Film Festival at Lincoln Center, opens nationally next Friday.

Directed by David Fincher; written by Aaron Sorkin, based on the book “The Accidental Billionaires,” by Ben Mezrich; director of photography, Jeff Cronenweth; edited by Angus Wall and Kirk Baxter; music by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross; production designer, Donald Graham Burt; costumes by Jacqueline West; produced by Scott Rudin, Dana Brunetti, Michael De Luca and Cean Chaffin; released by Columbia Pictures. At 6 and 9 p.m. at Alice Tully Hall, Lincoln Center. Running time: 2 hours.

WITH: Jesse Eisenberg (Mark Zuckerberg), Andrew Garfield (Eduardo Saverin), Justin Timberlake (Sean Parker), Armie Hammer (Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss), Max Minghella (Divya Narendra), Josh Pence (Tyler Winklevoss), Rooney Mara (Erica Albright), Brenda Song (Christy), Rashida Jones (Marylin Delpy), John Getz (Sy), David Selby (Gage), Denise Grayson (Gretchen), Douglas Urbanski (Larry Summers), Aaron Sorkin (Ad Executive) and James Shanklin (Prince Albert).

Influencing People

David Fincher and “The Social Network.”

by David Denby
The New Yorker
October 4, 2010

“The Social Network,” directed by David Fincher and written by Aaron Sorkin, rushes through a coruscating series of exhilarations and desolations, triumphs and betrayals, and ends with what feels like darkness closing in on an isolated soul. This brilliantly entertaining and emotionally wrenching movie is built around a melancholy paradox: in 2003, Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg), a nineteen-year-old Harvard sophomore, invents Facebook and eventually creates a five-hundred-million-strong network of “friends,” but Zuckerberg is so egotistical, work-obsessed, and withdrawn that he can’t stay close to anyone; he blows off his only real pal, Eduardo Saverin (Andrew Garfield), a fellow Jewish student at Harvard, who helps him launch the site. The movie is not a conventionally priggish tale of youthful innocence corrupted by riches; nor is it merely a sarcastic arrow shot into the heart of a poor little rich boy. Both themes are there, but the dramatic development of the material pushes beyond simplicities, and the portrait of Zuckerberg is many-sided and ambiguous; no two viewers will see him in quite the same way. The debate about the movie’s accuracy has already begun, but Fincher and Sorkin, selecting from known facts and then freely interpreting them, have created a work of art. Accuracy is now a secondary issue. In this extraordinary collaboration, the portrait of Zuckerberg, I would guess, was produced by a happy tension, even an opposition, between the two men—a tug-of-war between Fincher’s gleeful appreciation of an outsider who overturns the social order and Sorkin’s old-fashioned, humanist distaste for electronic friend-making and a world of virtual emotions. The result is a movie that is absolutely emblematic of its time and place. “The Social Network” is shrewdly perceptive about such things as class, manners, ethics, and the emptying out of self that accompanies a genius’s absorption in his work. It has the hard-charging excitement of a very recent revolution, the surge and sweep of big money moving fast and chewing people up in its wake.

We know from “The West Wing” that Sorkin can write the smartest and swiftest dialogue since Ben Hecht and Preston Sturges. His adrenaline-pumped men and women anticipate one another’s best shots; they fill out or overturn one another’s half-finished sentences, answering what’s implied rather than simply what’s said. Sorkin’s script for “The Social Network” is his best work yet—incisive and witty from moment to moment but expansive over all as a picture of college social life, hipster business enterprise, friendship, and rivalry. But Sorkin’s particular skills in “The Social Network” are familiar. The unexpected element is David Fincher’s work. The director of “Fight Club,” “Zodiac,” and “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” is a master of sullen menace, convulsive violence; he loves creating an aura of the magical and the uncanny. Yet he treats Sorkin’s real-world situations with extreme delicacy and precision. Fincher has always been obsessed with outsiders and rebels, but now, in mid-career, he has transferred that obsession into a subtler, more telling form, with both comic and tragic implications.

“The Social Network” draws on a 2009 book, “The Accidental Billionaires,” by Ben Mezrich. Mezrich also went to Harvard, and in both the book and the movie the Harvard lore is laid on a little thick. The eager suburban co-eds trucked in for parties, the rabbity competitiveness and status-seeking among the men, the terrific excitement of being “punched” for one of the all-male “final clubs” (off-campus social sites for the chosen élite)—to outsiders, all this frenzied self-importance seems slightly mad. Yet the filmmakers don’t satirize Harvard, and you can see why: they needed to re-create the pressures and the social stratifications that led to Zuckerberg’s revolt. Fincher has often worked within a frantic boys’ world—by way of having fun in “Fight Club,” guys literally punch one another, to a pulp—but here the violence is emotional, not physical. Watching Zuckerberg and his friends toss beer-bottle caps and ideas at one another in the dorm, we’re meant to think that they really are the brightest (and perhaps the most obnoxious) kids in the country. In the opening scene, Zuckerberg tells his lovely and intelligent girlfriend, Erica (Rooney Mara), that he could introduce her, a mere Boston University student, to important people if he gets into one of the clubs. He’s prickly, overprecise, condescending; he keeps wrong-footing her and then scolding her for not keeping up. Yet, even as he acts like a jerk, you feel for him, because at some level he wants Erica, and the harder he tries to impress her the faster he drives her away. Sorkin created an emotionally stunted, closed-off young man, and Fincher pulled something touching out of Jesse Eisenberg. Slender, with curly light-brown hair and dark-blue eyes, Eisenberg pauses, stares, then rushes ahead, talking in bristling clumps, like a computer spilling bytes. The self-assurance he gives Zuckerberg is audacious and funny. It’s also breathtakingly hostile. Yet, after many of Zuckerberg’s haughtiest riffs, a tiny impulse of regret quivers across his lips.

As Zuckerberg and his friends lay siege to computers in marathon sessions—the pace is giddy, Beck’s-enhanced—they turn women into objects, even prey. In the end, Facebook becomes gender neutral, but the movie is sparked by a bitterly comic irony: a worldwide social revolution, capable of rattling authoritarian governments, began with nothing more urgent than the desire of two middle-class Jewish boys to be considered cool at college and meet girls without having to endure the humiliation of campus mixers. By focussing on the moment of creation, Fincher and Sorkin are getting at something new. From the first scene to the last, “The Social Network” hints at a psychological shift produced by the Information Age, a new impersonality that affects almost everyone. After all, Facebook, like Zuckerberg, is a paradox: a Web site that celebrates the aura of intimacy while providing the relief of distance, substituting bodiless sharing and the thrills of self-created celebrityhood for close encounters of the first kind. Karl Marx suggested that, in the capitalist age, we began to treat one another as commodities. “The Social Network” suggests that we now treat one another as packets of information. Mark Zuckerberg, as interpreted by this film, comes off as a binary personality. As far as he’s concerned, either you’re for him or you’re against him. Either you have information that he can use or you don’t. Apart from that, he’s not interested.

At Harvard, Zuckerberg hacks into the university’s computer system, a stunt that gets him into trouble with the administration but also brings him to the attention of the seniors Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss, who are identical twins and American aristocrats. In a weird touch, balanced between derision and awe, both brothers are played by the dazzlingly handsome Armie Hammer. Devoted to physical cultivation, civility, and fair play, the twins row at dawn on the Charles River; they’re headed for the Olympics. Yet the Winklevosses—or Winklevi, as Zuckerberg calls them—want to get into the social-media business. Zuckerberg strings them along while he and Saverin develop the prototype of Facebook; that’s the root of his eventual legal troubles. The movie is framed by the two civil suits brought against Zuckerberg a few years later—one by the Winklevosses, who claim that he stole an idea that they had developed with their partner, Divya Narendra (Max Minghella), the other by Saverin, whom Zuckerberg may have aced out of the company. The movie is a tightly fitted mosaic of agitated fragments. As the lawyers and the disputants throw verbal darts at one another across a conference-room table, the filmmakers repeatedly cut, sometimes in mid-sentence, first back to Harvard and then to Palo Alto, where Zuckerberg lands in the summer of 2004, enticed by the siren song of Sean Parker (Justin Timberlake), the co-founder of Napster.

Justin Timberlake and Jesse Eisenberg

When Zuckerberg first gets to Silicon Valley, he’s as unworldly as a cloistered monk. Surrounded by pizza boxes and beer cans, and dressed in gray sweats, flip-flops, and a hoodie, he even looks like a monk. But Sean Parker, a hustler of genius, says to him, “A million dollars isn’t cool. You know what’s cool? A billion dollars.” And though the hoodie remains, everything else changes. Parker, who foresees the universal success of Facebook, comes off as intelligent but reckless and dissolute—a candy man who brings the goods (venture capital, mainly, but drugs, too). Justin Timberlake, with his charm and his physical dynamism, and with a wicked visionary gleam in his eye, torques the movie even higher. The colors in Jeff Cronenweth’s cinematography change from Harvard crimson to the electric pink of a San Francisco night club. Yet, no matter how quickly the film moves, Fincher, working with the editors Kirk Baxter and Angus Wall, pauses within the fast tempo and lets the emotional power of the moment expand. Relying on nothing more than tiny shifts of emphasis and inflection, the director, to an amazing degree, makes us care about the split between the unyielding Zuckerberg and Saverin, who’s a decent guy but unimaginative and perhaps a little timid. As Saverin, Andrew Garfield has the emotional fluency—the fear, the indignation, and the hurt feelings—that Eisenberg has to suppress. In the legal dispute, a college prank that was once a joke between them is recalled and used as ammunition, and the moment rips what is left of their youth to shreds. “The Social Network” is a linear accelerator that breathes, and Fincher is the one who created the breathing room.

Fincher has been a bit of an outsider himself, working at the edge and celebrating inspired screw-ups, marginal eccentrics, and monsters. Born in Denver in 1962, he grew up in Oregon and Northern California, skipped college, and, at the age of seventeen, went to work as a camera operator for the San Francisco independent filmmaker John Korty, the director of “The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman” and other gentle movies. A few years later, Fincher moved to George Lucas’s Industrial Light & Magic, where he worked on the special effects for “Return of the Jedi” (1983) and “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom” (1984). By his late twenties, Fincher had found his own cinematic style in razory, provocative, and beautiful music videos—for singers like George Michael and, most notably, Madonna—and in a series of commercials that added exciting and disturbing images to the collective unconscious: increasingly fast speed demons (a dog, a runner, a horse, a bullet train) racing across a sunbaked desert, for Nike; a fetus slowly and thoughtfully taking a drag on a cigarette, for the American Cancer Society.

Fincher was never an outsider in the way that, say, an independent filmmaker like Jim Jarmusch is. But he may be one of the few directors who can flourish as an idiosyncratic artist amid the quarterly-return mentality of the conglomerate-controlled studios. There’s no indication from his work that he has read much, or that he has lived much outside the movie world, yet he’s not, thank God, another director obsessed with the movie past, like the pop-scholastic Quentin Tarantino, whose virtuosity with camera, mood, and tone Fincher more than equals. Fincher has his own obsessions. The 1993 video for Madonna’s “Bad Girl” is Fincher’s work in miniature: The police enter and examine a corpse (Madonna’s)—a visual motif that he returned to in the grisly “Se7en” (1995), in which cops repeatedly walk in on deliquescing or bloody corpses. In “Bad Girl,” Madonna is murdered by a serial killer, and both “Se7en” and “Zodiac” (2007) are about serial killers. Outside Madonna’s apartment, Christopher Walken, as some sort of angel of death, looks at his watch, which is running backward. That image became the key visual idea in “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” (2008).

Fincher is now a demon on the set, controlling everything, demanding, in “The Social Network,” seventy or eighty takes of a single shot. But, like any director working in the mainstream, he has to fight to impose himself. He was only twenty-eight when he started on his first feature, “Alien 3” (1992), and he got pushed around on the set by the studio, Fox, which then recut the movie. Still, there’s a peculiar look to this noir sci-fi horror movie, with the camera often positioned beneath the actors and tilting up at black or mucky ceilings. It’s a look that could have been produced only by a man ornery enough to attempt to have his own way with a prized studio franchise. In “Se7en,” the first real Fincher film, there’s a prolonged philosophical dialogue between a pessimistic, isolated older cop (Morgan Freeman) and an idealistic, life-loving younger one (Brad Pitt). But then, at the end, a surprise: the killer, a religious-fundamentalist nut calling himself John Doe, shows up in the hyper-articulate person of Kevin Spacey, and he turns out to be cogent and comprehensive in his disgust for the world and most of the people in it. Fincher almost makes John Doe a sympathetic character. Sympathy for the devil has always been a productive mood for an artist, and particularly for Fincher; he could probably make a thrilling version of Milton’s “Paradise Lost,” with Satan reigning heroically in Hell.

Spacey’s killer boasts of his ability as a murderer to overturn everyone’s complacency, to disrupt the bourgeois order, and a version of that disruption is enacted upon the body and the spirit of Michael Douglas’s wealthy and pleasureless banker, Nicholas Van Orton, in Fincher’s “The Game” (1997). Terrible things happen to Van Orton, and it turns out that they are all part of an elaborate prank, a kind of benevolent shock therapy administered by his kid brother (Sean Penn) in order to jolt him out of middle-aged rigor mortis. Yet what one remembers from the film isn’t the reassuring hugs at the end but the way the world falls apart for Van Orton—his pen leaks, staining his shirt; bullets whiz around his head; a taxi races down a hill and tosses him into San Francisco Bay. The banker is toyed with—terrorized, really. Fincher’s mischief was taking on a malevolent edge.

Rooney Mara and Jesse Eisenberg

Genuine terrorism shows up in “Fight Club” (1999), which begins with another rant against bourgeois order and conformity. Hoping to escape mediocrity and boredom, a depressed corporate worker (Edward Norton) joins a sub-fascist group of disaffected men, a band of bloody brothers, which grows larger and more organized, finally planting bombs. The movie has a wacko happy ending in which the bombs go off, bringing down office towers. (It’s pre-9/11.) Towers remain standing in “The Social Network,” but barriers fall; the barbarians not only enter by the gates but destroy them. Every Facebook user, Zuckerberg tells Saverin, becomes the president of the club, and the reign of the Winklevi and their kind is over. At last, Fincher has made a movie about a revolution that succeeded.

Despite the half-craziness of the themes, the early Fincher movies have a visual distinction that makes them galvanic, irresistible. Even Fincher’s patented junk and mess, first seen in “Alien 3” and then in the rubbishy, derelict rooms in “Se7en” and “Fight Club,” has a perversely attractive appeal, a glowing awfulness, as if it were lit from within. He doesn’t hide the disintegrating walls, the sordid beds; we are meant to see the ugly poetry in them. Whatever locations he uses, Fincher brings out their special character. At the beginning of “The Social Network,” Zuckerberg runs across the campus to his room at night, and Harvard, its many enclaves lit with intellectual industry, looks glamorous, like an imaginary city. The scenes of the Winklevosses in their boat, crisply cutting through the water, are ineffably beautiful; the twins are at ease in their bodies and in nature, while the Zuckerberg gang slouch over their computers in the kind of trashed rooms that Fincher’s anarchists and killers live in. The revolution brews amid garbage.

In the early movies, and in “Panic Room” (2002), a well-made but meaningless B movie, Fincher worked in overdetermined forms, with plot arcs as rigid as steel. Formally, the outlier in Fincher’s work is “Zodiac,” based on the investigation of an actual serial killer in Northern California. Jake Gyllenhaal’s Robert Graysmith, who pursues the murderer for years, is another of Fincher’s inspired outsiders, an obsessive who so thoroughly gives himself over to his task that he almost destroys his own life. Graysmith comes very close to cracking the case, but, in the end, proof falls maddeningly out of his grasp. “Zodiac” feels open-ended. It lasts more than two and a half hours, but it might have gone on for hours more; it accumulates a series of suspicions rather than working toward a simple resolution. The truth, Fincher seems to be saying, is best approached with data, impressions, and interpretations. The double-deposition scenes in “The Social Network” would also seem to be a way of attaining proof, but, again, truth slips away. Fincher and Sorkin have turned a philosophical position into a dramatic strategy. We see the events of 2003 and 2004 from different sides—Zuckerberg’s, Saverin’s, the Winklevosses’—and all the self-serving versions have a degree of validity.

The movie’s evenhandedness forces us to make our own judgments. For instance, Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss, despite their hilarious double perfection, are never caricatured as muscle-bound jocks. They understand the idea of a social-dating site. What they lack is Zuckerberg and Parker’s intuitive apprehension of it as a new form of virtual social life. Fincher and Sorkin treat the brothers as squarely honorable traditionalists. They go to see Larry Summers (Douglas Urbanski), then the president of Harvard, to complain about Zuckerberg, and one can feel, in this seemingly unimportant scene, history falling into place, a shift from one kind of capitalism to another. Fincher and Sorkin wickedly imply that Summers is Zuckerberg thirty years older and many pounds heavier. He has the same kind of brightest-guy-in-the-room arrogance, and little sympathy for entitled young men talking about ethics when they’ve been left behind by a faster innovator.

Zuckerberg’s tragedy, of course, is that he leaves behind his friends as well as his intellectual inferiors. It may not be fair to Zuckerberg, but Sorkin and Fincher have set him up as a symbolic man of the age, a supremely functional prince of dysfunction. Charles Foster Kane was convivial and outgoing; Zuckerberg engages only the world he is creating. But those viewers who think of him as nothing more than a vindictive little shit will be responding to only one part of him. He’s a revolutionary because he broods on his personal grievances and, as insensitive as he is, reaches the aggrieved element in everyone, the human desire for response. He’s meant to be a hero—certainly he’s Fincher’s hero, an artist working in code who sticks to his vision and is helpless to prevent himself from suffering the most wounding personal loss.

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