"The Social Network" Unfair to Zuckerberg

As you may have heard, Facebook's founder Mark Zuckerberg is giving $100 million to the Newark, New Jersey public school system. Not many 26 year-olds can do that! Incidentally, there's a new movie about Zuckerberg. But has the movie friended our David Edelstein?

You wouldn't believe the hype for "The Social Network," which tells the story (or a disputed version) of 20-something Harvard student Mark Zuckerberg and how he invented the Web phenomenon Facebook.

One blurbmeister says, "It's the movie of the year that also brilliantly defines the decade." Yowza!

Given what a crazy decade it has been, I bet we're all hungry for some, you know, definition.

Well, you won't find it in "The Social Network," which is basically about a guy with no social skills whatsoever who creates an online social network, mostly to get back at a girl who dumped him, and some handsome WASPs who wouldn't invite him to be in their finals club - and ends up America's youngest billionaire.

And it will probably make you think, "I wish I'd been there and made millions." For all its pretentions, much of the movie's appeal comes from the longing for money and celebrity - certainly part of the decade, but I hope not the defining part.

Director David Fincher has it both ways on Zuckerberg, played by the wonderful and normally endearing Jesse Eisenberg as a borderline robot with no capacity for empathy.

Zuckerberg is meant to be a "Citizen Kane" figure: As he gets more successful, he betrays those closest to him and ends up with, like, zero Facebook friends - which is unfair to the real guy by many accounts and, more important, frustrating if you want any deeper insights into him.

All that said, "The Social Network" is a very entertaining modern business saga, with dialogue by Aaron Sorkin that spritzes out so fast it's as if people want their brains to keep pace with their 2+ Gigahertz processors.

Fincher gets the details right: the energy drinks, the alcohol, the programmers deep in their anti-social trances.

Singer Justin Timberlake gives a marvelously nuanced performance as an amoral sleazebag whose hustle is just what Facebook needs.

A good movie. Yet I longed for more about Facebook users, how if we choose - and hundreds of millions have - we can keep tabs on everyone we've known or would like to, turning the world into a giant high school.

We can also come together to organize, to give help to those in desperate need. Does so much online time finally separate us, or bring us closer? Destroy our privacy, or liberate us from solitude?

It's a worldwide social experiment waiting for a movie that truly defines it.

Edelstein Endorses:

"The Town"

"Waiting for 'Superman'"

For more info:
The Projectionist (David Edelstein's Movie Blog)
"The Social Network" (Official Website)