12. The Social Network (2010)
This decade has been defined by social media. News articles are dedicated to Twitter reactions to some other news article. We can see someone's Facebook post or Instagram photo and then read about it, as well. Facebook started the decade as a seemingly entertaining way to connect with friends and family around the world. Now, it is a major courier for the spread of disinformation. Social media has become a toxic place. The Social Network, the story of Mark Zuckerberg and his creation, not only works as a highly entertaining and intelligent movie, but also as a kind of historical document. It is a pin we dropped on the map to our current state.
When we meet Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) during his college days at Harvard, he is a brilliant but socially awkward guy on a date with a girl named Erica. He sips a beer and nervously peppers her with questions. It is not a conversation, so much as Zuckerberg trying to show how smart he is. He is insulting. She is offended, calls him an asshole, and leaves. He is void of any real understanding about human relationships work. His response to the date is to return to his dorm room and set up a site dedicated to rating how hot individual Harvard girls are. Classy, no? Given our current climate for discourse online, it is little wonder that this platform was invented out of spite.
The Social Network is about the development of Facebook from those meager beginnings and the fight for whose idea it really was. Zuckerberg says it was his, along with the help of his only friend Eduardo Saverin (Andrew Garfield). Twin entrepreneurs Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss (both played by Armie Hammer) have sued Zuckerberg, claiming he stole the idea from their Harvard Connection site. Another player, Sean Parker (Justin Timberlake), who created Napster, aligns himself with Zuckerberg and convinces him to take his product to Silicon Valley. The depositions from the Winkelvoss suit serve as the framing device of the movie. The dialogue in these scenes is sharp, biting, and incisive.
What we see in these scenes is a man who is the smartest in the room. He is not warm or friendly, but he is brilliant and he knows it. Watching The Social Network reminded me at times of Amadeus and Zuckerberg is Mozart. Jesse Eisenberg is a revelation as the Facebook founder. He portrays him as a whip-smart genius with little concern for anything other than building Facebook. He is uncouth, rude, arrogant, and prideful. Watching the movie when it came out (and I watched it three times when it came out on DVD), I was left feeling the case against Mark Zuckerberg was strong. Aided with the knowledge of some of Facebook's more nefarious practices, I am convinced he did the twins and his friend Eduardo dirty. While I am hesitant to view movies of the past through a 21st century lens, it is impossible not to watch The Social Network and not see white privilege on display. The Zuckerberg of this film is a creep who hit it big and pretty much got away with it. I think about this every time I am on Facebook. I'll think about it again when I upload this post to it.
The Social Network is easily one of the decade's best movies. The performances are superb, David Fincher's direction is flawless. Aaron Sorkin's script reminds me how much I crave intelligent and thoughtful dialogue. This is a movie of style and substance. But, given where we are now compared to the beginning of the decade when it came out, The Social Network is one of the decades most important movies, too.