The Social Network (2010)

The Social Network

Rated M

Written by Aaron Sorkin, Directed by David Fincher

Starring Jesse Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield, Justin Timberlake

Hey! Let’s make a movie about a website!

Not the most promising concept. So when I first heard news about a movie being made about Facebook, I can’t say I was overly enthused. But five words changed my mind and had me eagerly expecting this movie: “Aaron Sorkin and David Fincher.” The guy who wrote The West Wing teaming up with the guy who made Fight Club? That’s a sure-fire way to get my attention.

And thank God that it was more than just attention grabbing. The film The Social Network could be in the running for best film of 2010. Yes, it is that good.

First up, let me get something out of the way: this is not a movie about Facebook. Sure, Facebook gets mentioned a lot. We see the time they thought of including relationship status on your page. And in one scene someone says “Hey look at this – I just created something called The Wall.” But that’s not what the movie is about.

This is a movie about a brilliant young man who made some stupid choices. Mark Zuckerberg is the creator of Facebook. Depending on who you talk to, he either single-handedly revolutionised the way we interact online or he stole the idea from other people and stabbed his friends in the back along the way. Want to know the true story? Well you won’t find it here. The Social Network tries really hard to present things the way they happened but it’s aware that this just isn’t possible. The story behind Facebook is a mess of contradictory statements and outright lies. By all appearances, no one is telling the whole truth. Instead of this being a fault against the movie, it’s a plus. The viewer is encouraged to make up their own mind about what actually happened.

The story told by Sorkin and Fincher is about Mark Zuckerberg, a student at Harvard University. Mark has a desperate need to belong, to be part of the exclusive social elite. His desire is so all-consuming that he barely notices when his girlfriend dumps him. What follows is a night of drunken blogging and the creation of a website that rated the female students at Harvard based on their attractiveness. This website, which involved some unethical and illegal hacking, gets him some attention. What follows is a tangled web of deceit as everyone tries to claim their piece of what will become Facebook.

It’s ironic that a site about friendships could result in so many broken friendships in the real world. By the end of the movie, Mark and his best friend Eduardo can no longer look each other in the eye. Their friendship has been broken by betrayal and the billions of dollars brought in by the website.

This movie is a must see. There’s still a couple of months left to go, but this could be the movie of the year. (Although for me, I find it very hard to go past Scott Pilgrim vs The World but that’s the comic book geek in me.) The movie is fast paced and engaging. Not for one minute was I distracted. Some of Fincher’s direction is awe-inspiring, but I expect that from every thing he touches. But the highlight has to be Sorkin’s dialogue. The Social Network is funnier than most of the comedies released this year. The humour is witty, sharp and doesn’t pull you out of the story.

The performances from the three leads are fantastic. Eisenberg does a brilliant job of making Zuckerberg such a layered character. There’s a danger of him being too one dimensional. Instead, he plays the role with such a manic energy that you’re never really sure what’s going through his head. Garfield, who plays Eduardo, has been cast as Peter Parker in the new Spider-Man film. Based on his performance here, Spider-Man might have a chance of not being terrible. And what can I say about Justin Timberlake? I loved him in Southland Tales and I loved him here.

The only thing to watch out for are a few scenes that depict/suggest sex and/or drug use. Take these scenes with caution and enjoy the rest of the movie.

The Social Network is a gold mine for Christian illustrations. There’s so much packed in here that you can have fun for weeks pulling apart everything. Here’s two things that I think are particularly noteworthy for the Christian.

First, there’s a reminder that we have a responsibility to live a life online that honours God. The Zuckerberg in the movie begins the spiral or betrayal and broken friendships because he was “drunk and angry and stupid and blogging.” He didn’t think before he blogged and ended up saying some things that he really shouldn’t of. It’s very easy to post things online that you’ll later regret. And once it’s there, it’s there forever. As Christians we need to think hard about our online behaviour. There’s not an online you and a real life you – they’re the same person. And both of them need to act in a way that is worthy of Christ. James writes “With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness.   Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be.  Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring?” (James 3:9-11) The same thing applies to the written word.

The second thing to note is the desire to be popular. What would you do to be part of the popular group? Is being popular more important to you than your current friends? More important than your committment to God? There’s something in all of us that wants to be popular. That wants to be loved and adored. To belong. And sometimes we can do some pretty stupid and pretty selfish things to achieve it. No one wants to be forgotten. No on wants to be left out. But the desire for popularity can easily be an idol. When it comes the driving force for what you do, when it becomes all consuming, you need to step back and say no. You have been chosen. You do belong. In the eyes of God you are special and loved. “He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things– and the things that are not– to nullify the things that are,  so that no one may boast before him.  It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God– that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption.” (1 Corinthians 1:28-30)

There’s much more I can say about The Social Network but really, this is a movie you need to see for yourself. Not only is it a very watchable movie, it will be a great source for discussions for months to come.

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About Joel A Moroney

Associate Minister at St Luke's Anglican Church, Liverpool (in the Sydney Diocese). A very strange man, but he usually has Pez, so that makes it okay.

5 responses to “The Social Network (2010)”

  1. dave miers says :

    thanks for another well-written review joel.
    i look forward to seeing it!

  2. ianthecool says :

    Thanks for the review. You’re right, there is a lot here to chew on. A great movie which did almost everything right.

  3. Tony says :

    Great review. Great blog for that matter! I am following your blog. I think you might dig my blog about culture and christianity (similar to yours actually!). Check it out at http://www.filmandtheology.com and tell me what you think. Tony

  4. Tony says :

    Sorry that was filmandtheology.blogspot.com

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