Thursday, March 10, 2011

The Facebook Movie

Even though Peter Travers basically peeds his pants over it, I was sort of hesitant to see The Social Network when it came out in theatres. I wasn't convinced that a movie about Facebook would be all that engaging - although Facebook itself can hold my attention for hours at a time. Jesse Eisenberg staring menacingly at me behind the tagline "You don't get to 500 milion friends without making a few enemies" on every available subway ad, billboard and magazine spread took me a little aback.

DVDs (and cookies) are basically my version of catnip, but I was hesitant. The Facebook movie could have gone so horribly wrong, but it had been nominated for an Oscar, and Eisenberg had been nominated for best actor, so there was a chance that my pea-brained first assumptions would be off the mark. So I settled in with my mug of ice cream and my preconceived notions, and you know what? The movie was good. It wasn't the American masterpiece that Travers claims - anything with CGI cold-weather breath that bad can't be a cinematic Rembrandt. But was it enjoyable? Sure. Engaging? You bet. Did I fall madly in love with it and want to leave my family to travel in its touring caravan? Well....

The movie opens with Mark and his erstwhile girlfriend Erica in the middle of a pub. He's a douche - all condescending because she goes to some school that isn't Harvard. She's sweet, gamely trying to keep up with him, even though he's clearly more invested in looking smart/being right than he is in, say, Erica's feelings. It's a great scene, because we get to see her as she comes to her senses and storms out, and he sits there like a befuddled chump. I think the audience is supposed to feel pity for him - here he is, Mark Zuckerberg, who can't even hold onto a BU girl. Pfft. (It's kind of unclear what BU actually is, but I'm going to assume it's the same school from the Van Wilder movies and so let's all move on.)

After that, there's the Winklevoss twins, Fashmash, Trent Reznor's much-lauded score, rowing crew, two different lawsuits, some cold-blooded business dealing, Justin Timberlake, crazy girlfriends, appletinis, pouting, heaps of moral ambiguity, underaged bong hits, and Eisenberg's ubiquitous GAP hoodie. It's a collage of college, coding, how social trends hit the masses (according to the movie, Zuckerberg, who had exactly one friend in Eduardo Saverin, managed to spam his Harvard classmates with a link so popular it went overnight-viral, which is a little like the nerd version of the ugly girl who goes to the prom without her glasses and is suddenly the belle of the ball), and how money and betrayal apparently go hand in hand for suddenly-successful young people.

I liked it, but I didn't l.o.v.e. it. What really killed it for me, though, was the final scene. The Social Network isn't really a spoiler-alert type of deal - the major plot points can be Googled fairly readily - but for those of you who like your emotional reveals untainted, avert your eyes.

Look, I like David Fincher as much as the next Fight Club-watching girl. I saw Seven when I was way too young, and haven't really seen many of his other movies. But I trust Fincher not to walk a trite line. So was I disappointed in the ending? Yes. Fincher's final scene was of Zuckerberg sitting alone at the enormous conference table, hitting refresh on Erica's Facebook page. All the whys and wherefores of Facebook were tidily summed up into "He did it for a girl."

BARF. Come on. While I can appreciate that Zuckerberg, as the world's youngest billionaire, is going to doubt his dating life for the rest of his days ("Does she like me for me, or because I control the most successful socializing method since the phone line?"), I sincerely doubt that he did it all for the nooky. Zuckerberg, boy genius, prince of the internet, man in the high castle, emotional retard and/or thieving bastard, built the Facebook to get into his ex's head? And it does a disservice to all the unstable, untrustworthy weirdos we've spent the last couple hours with to suggest that's the case.

The movie is all about presentation - who are we? What's the difference between The Truth, and what we present to others, both online and in person? There's a nice breakup scene in the film, when the crazy girlfriend starts haranguing the unfortunate chap about why, online, his relationship status is "single." I feel like an older generation would be all "BFD, yo." but I found myself nodding in recognition. I've had those conversations with boyfriends - how much of yourself, of us, do you want people to see?

The whole "what's really happening?" issue is compounded by the movie's coyness regarding Z-man intellectual property theft. And by leaving the coding relatively unintelligible, Fincher cuts us off from what's happening online. The movie comes down to, who do we like more? Mark? Eduardo? The Winklevosses? Sean Parker? Erica? Who presents the best on paper, and who comes off as a jerk? And does it matter, in the long run? Even if Zuckerberg is a huge pompous ass, I'm not likely to meet him. I'll use his free website and continue to fret re: relationship status, and the world will keep spinning, and Peter Travers will find another movie to soil himself over, and we'll all add each other on Facebook until the next big thing comes along.