When I first read that Hollywood was making a movie about the founding of Facebook, my response was: yawn. I remember thinking of 1999’s “Pirates of Silicon Valley,” a made-for-TV-biopic about the founding of Microsoft and Apple and the rivalry between Bill Gates and Steve Jobs.
Based on critical response (I’ve never see it) “Pirates of Silicon Valley” wasn’t a bad movie, and, apparently, was even modestly informative. “Pirates” wasn’t the kind of story, however, Hollywood was interested in making for the big screen; it just wasn’t provocative or sexy enough to entice big-budget risk from a movie studio.
Certainly, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and his cohorts (and rivals) come from a strikingly different generation than Gates and Jobs (the irony’s not lost on me, either, that the Facebook generation wouldn’t be possible without those two); but still, a movie about the travails and tribulations of a bunch of computer nerds? That sounds about as exciting as writing iambic pentameter about the blue screen of death.
After reading that David Fincher (“Zodiac”) had signed to direct, I was mildly intrigued despite myself. I still didn’t hold out much hope, but if Fincher was involved, surely the finished product would, in the least, be worth a rental. Maybe. Then I saw “The Social Network’s” first full-length trailer before a screening of “Inception,” and my doubts evaporated.
This clip does far more than create interest in the film; this is one of the few movie trailers I’d characterize as art unto itself. The clip’s effectiveness starts with the background music, a choral rearrangement of Radiohead’s “Creep.” Rarely do song lyrics fuse so flawlessly with a film trailer. What makes the lyrics so apt is that they perfectly convey the aspects of human nature that fuel social networking’s allure: the need to be seen, to be heard, to be special; the need to be in control. Set that rearranged song and those lyrics against a film trailer with nary a line of dialogue; a camera angle; or an edit out of place, and the effect is almost haunting.
In a two-and-a-half-minute span, then, “The Social Network” has gone from an almost laughable idea to a must see. Folks, this looks like juicy, provocative, human-interest stuff; it’s dark; its salacious; its sexy. Thanks to Fincher and to the fact that Facebook itself has worked its way into Earth’s collective consciousness, the world may never view computer nerds the same way again.
“The Social Network” is based on the book “The Accidental Billionaires: The Founding of Facebook, A Tale of Sex, Money, Genius, and Betrayal” by Ben Mezrich; it’s adapted for the screen by Aaron Sorkin (“Charlie Wilson’s War”). It stars Jesse Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield, Justin Timberlake, Brenda Song, Rashida Jones, Max Minghella, Rooney Mara, Malese Jow and Joseph Mazzello.
“The Social Network” logs onto movie screens everywhere Oct. 1.
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