"The Social Network" is this week's recommendation.
Quick programming note: There will not be a Binge Blog next week as I will be taking a staycation. Don't worry, though, I will be using the time off to ponder fresh ideas for the column. There are theme months I haven't used yet that might come back into play soon, so look forward to exciting times in the weeks and months ahead.
Only one recommendation today, but it deserved its own space. It's a doozy.
"The Social Network" (2010)
Netflix, rated PG-13, 121 minutes
"You are probably going to be a very successful computer person. But you're going to go through life thinking that girls don't like you because you're a nerd. And I want you to know, from the bottom of my heart, that that won't be true. It'll be because you're an asshole."
Looking back, the prescience of "The Social Network" gets more astounding with each passing day. The story of Facebook is a story of self-victimization and revenge. It is a story of cruelty acting as justice for being told no. It is, in no uncertain terms, the story of the entitled American male.
"The Social Network" script, written by Aaron Sorkin, makes the case that Mark Zuckerberg created Facebook as an act of revenge on all the people who pushed him to the side. His girlfriend broke up with him because he was mean, so he called her a bitch on the internet then created a makeshift site where classmates could rank Harvard women by hotness. He got mad that the Winklevoss twins — Olympic-caliber rowers who are also much cooler than him — thought of a good idea, so he took it, changed a few details and called it his own. His best friend got into the secret society Zuckerberg wanted to get, so Zuckerberg used him for his money and then screwed him out of the company.
All the young Zuck wanted was to be cool. In Sean Parker, the disgraced founder of Napster who somehow manages to retain power in the tech world, Zuckerberg saw what he thought he could be: slick-talking and girl-getting, someone who got whatever they wanted. He never saw that Parker was as self-loathing as he was; Parker was just better at hiding it. Even with (then) millions of dollars, Zuckerberg couldn't become beloved. He had to throw people off the ladder as he was climbing up it, ruining his chances of ever having anything approaching a real relationship.
I'm not generally a Sorkin fan, but he nails it thematically here while including enough quotable roasts to cook a turkey. Ultimately, Zuckerberg is mad that his actions have consequences.
All the actors are great — especially Justin Timberlake as Parker; casting a real-life pop star to play a guy who thinks he's a pop star is magnificent casting — but this is David Fincher's show, and he directs the hell out of it. Sports and entertainment writer Will Leitch has said he believes Fincher should direct every movie ever made because he maximizes each film to its greatest potential, whatever that might be. It's hard to argue with him. For a movie where not a lot actually happens, "The Social Network" hums. When two characters are talking at a nightclub, they aren't talking, they're screaming, and as the audience you can still barely hear them, making you feel like you're there. He makes hacking college databases for photos seem like breaking into Fort Knox. Who else would hire Nine Inch Nails' Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross to pen the score? Now, everyone, but at the time, no one. It turned out to be a great decision — the score is parts menacing, parts party-rocking.
The movie's final gut punch is its final crawl, where it reveals where its characters were in 2010, at the time of release. I'll give a 2020 update. The Winklevoss twins made the Olympics in 2008 and now hold more than $1 billion in Bitcoin. Eduardo Saverin, Zuck's best friend, is a venture capitalist with a net worth of $12.4 billion, according to Forbes. That's after having his Facebook shares diluted, mind you. And Zuck, well, he's one of the most powerful people in the world. These guys are fighting tooth and nail over table scraps while 99% of the world is a dog hoping to gnaw on a discarded bone. They were always going to be fine. Consequences aren't real to any of them.
That "The Social Network" manages to make their pissing contest must-see content, to this day, is perhaps Fincher and Sorkin's greatest accomplishment.