Maybe you’ve seen some movies like The Big Chill or St. Elmo’s Fire where all the characters are nice and they all love each other. But there are other movies like The Social Network, where pretty much everyone involved is loathsome and completely unlikeable. Even more disturbing is the fact that all these characters that prolific screenwriter Aaron Sorkin has created are real people. Whether they all are really as hollow and horrible as shown in this film, I don’t know. You’d almost think Sorkin and director David Fincher have some kind of vendetta or grudge they were trying to settle.
The first of the many awful characters to appear, and the second most unappealing figure in the movie, is Mark Zukerberg, the creator of Facebook, played by Jesse Eisenberg. Judging from the portrayal of him in this movie, he has a totally brilliant mind but is otherwise totally useless. He begins by insulting and humiliating his girlfriend, played by Rooney Mara in a part that is smaller than she will ever need to take again. Apparently, the film begins this way to show that Zukerberg is awkward around women, though the rest of the film doesn’t show him dealing with men much better.
Zukerberg may or may not have stolen the idea for Facebook from other Harvard students. That seems a legal argument that is almost beside the point of the film. It’s just an excuse to move the plot forward and show more of the horrible qualities of the characters.
When I say everyone is reprehensible, that doesn’t just mean the computer geeks. Former Disney star Brenda Song plays the freaked-out girlfriend of Eduardo, the partner of Zukerberg and another of the socially-challenged computer people. Douglas Urbanski plays Larry Summers, former Secretary of the Treasury for Clinton and an economic advisor for Obama. Summers was head of Harvard at the time of the story. He comes off as selfish and uncaring as any of the other characters in the film.
The sleaziest figure in the movie is Sean Parker, the founder of Napster who managed to get himself into the middle of Facebook. Justin Timberlake plays Parker, perhaps the most unpleasant character to appear in a movie since Darth Vader, or maybe Dracula. Whatever bad things you can say about Zukerberg and the others in the film, Parker manages to outdo all of them when it comes to greed and cruelty.
So in the end, what was the point of the movie? Are Sorkin and Fincher trying to show that greedy people are mean and unlikable, or is it mostly modern computer types who put humanity behind money and fame? In any case, watching The Social Network is a rather unpleasant and joyless way to spend a couple of hours.