In some ways, this film is a perfect storm. A ‘name’ director who will attract both a more alternative market (courtesy previous films like Fight Club & Seven) as well as the more conservative (Benjamin Button); a script -writer who induces fanatical loyalty courtesy of The West Wing; and, of course, a subject matter in Facebook which is a part of the life millions. If this wasn’t going to be a smart, intelligent, entertaining hit, then nothing else will be.
It is all of that. How good is it? It’s good enough to make a story about socially inept people sitting at a computer screen fast paced and insightful into the human condition. Of course, we don’t know how accurate it all is. What we do have, though, is a story of those society would call the deserving rich – the old money Harvard graduates with an Olympic rowing future – being gazumped by the nerds and the morally dubious. There’s no real attempt to make anybody that likable; the film starts with the creation of Facebook’s 1st generation – David Zuckerberg is cruelly (he thinks) dumped, and creates a website for rating physical appearance of women students against each other. This has been called misogynist. It may be – but it’s soon left behind. What it is, really, is a young man who has no idea how what he does affects others. The man we’re shown here has no sense of how he interacts with others and what people are really saying; it’s a kind of emotional autism – he’s simply unaware.
This barrels on throughout the story; a man who seems slightly detached from everything around him, as if he really is seeing through a glass darkly, hearing through cotton wool. So this a kind of Shakespearean reinterpretation of history to lay a grid on a story – the grid of how we build tools and structures to help us cope with our own inadequacies. We do this so well, with such art and self-deception that we’re almost completely unaware of what we’re doing. Of course, you can add an extra layer of irony when you consider how we now use our Facebook status updates and the like to present to the world how we want to appear to others.
Few people – perhaps only Sorkin – could make such an unlikable people such entertaining company. And make you think also. Good work.