Sun 7 Nov 2010
In the lead-up to having our second child, we are getting in some things that will be harder to do once there’s a newborn around. So, about a week ago, thanks to our baby-sitting neighbour, we got out to see a movie together.
We are fans of Aaron Sorkin‘s oeuvre, with the box sets of both The West Wing and Sports Night in our TV cabinet. Since he’d been out here in Australia spruiking his new film recently, and that was its opening night, the choice of what to see was pretty simple.
A tale of friendship and betrayal with a lot of geeky detail mixed in
This is a film that follows the Sorkin model. Sports Night had rapid-fire technical sport talk, West Wing had a thousand-words-a-minute political speak, and The Social Network has a firehose of geek speak and technical computer detail. But in none of those cases did it really limit your understanding of the plot, and on the contrary, it does at least make you feel smart.
It also doesn’t hurt that the movie is well cast and acted, and dialogue is clever and humorous. Because it’s based on a true story, you already know how it will end – Facebook will be a success – but the tale isn’t about Facebook, so much as the interesting bunch of people who were around in the early days of the social networking website, and the roles they played in bringing it about.
Perhaps these characters are as much the social network of the title as the website. They are excellent fodder for Sorkin’s script and part of the enjoyment for me was in the fleshing-out of the characters as the film progressed.
While Mark Zuckerberg doesn’t get a particularly favourable presentation in the movie, his friend Eduardo Saverin is treated very sympathetically. Still, Zuckerberg is presented in a way that allows us to feel that we can almost understand him and what has driven him to become the billionaire and social media titan that he is today.
Another aspect that comes across well is the excitement and craziness that comes from being in a high-growth start-up. This is another thing Sorkin is good at capturing, whether it is the crazy cultures of the armed forces, top-tier politics or TV journalism. In this case, it helps explain the lure of why people would want to join a start-up (despite the high risk and long hours).
So, while this isn’t a truly great movie, it was a very interesting one. Especially so as the influence of the Facebook social network continues to grow in our lives. By getting a perspective on the early days of this service, it helps in understanding the changes Facebook is undergoing.