Tuesday, October 26, 2010

"The Social Network" (Review)

Watching the credits roll at the end of The Social Network, my knee-jerk instinct was to cancel my Facebook account. Screenwriter Aaron Sorkin’s rapid-fire dialogue seemed always a step behind Mark Zuckerberg’s (Jesse Eisenberg) mental lightning flashes. The rapid flow of often unintelligible intelligence could not disguise the essential emptiness of the Facebook founder’s moral bank. 

The same might be said of co-founder Eduardo Saverin (Andrew Garfield) and the wimp-jock Winklevoss twins (Armie Hammer and Josh Pence) whose litigation centering around ownership and intellectual property rights dominated the film’s second and third acts, sharing time with round-the-clock drugs-booze-sex-programming marathons. 

Nor could director David Fincher’s slick film-making mitigate the ultimate triumph of Gordon Gekko’s (Wall Street) “Greed is good” gospel, articulated by Justin Timberlake in the role of Napster founder Sean Parker. The Social Network ends up being a cautionary tale about the dark-side hacker philosophy, “I do it because I can, and it’s right because I can do it.”

The fresh air outside the theater, calmed my spleen making room for a second reaction to the film. Why did I join Facebook in the first place and quickly collect over 300 friends? Despite its origins, Facebook as it exists today allows me to stay in touch with family members, obviously, but also with many of the hundred and fifty new Catholics I have ministered to in my local parish. 

With a minimum of words or a quick click on Like, I offer congratulations when babies are born and condolences when a death occurs in the family. I acknowledge birthdays, offer support on difficult days at work or school, pop in for a real-time chat when someone I care about is online. These virtual extensions of ministry require little time, yet let people I rarely encounter face to face know that they are on my mind and in my prayers.

The Social Network reinforced my awareness that life is messy and human motives are never pure. It also reminded me that one person’s greed can enable another’s response to grace.

[Note: This review is not a comment on the actual persons named in the film, The Social Network. It is based solely on their onscreen portrayal.]

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