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Nancy Doyle Palmer Headshot

The Social Network -- Much Ado About Nothing

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Am I the only person not falling for the hype and uniformly good reviews of The Social Network? Just wait, in a few weeks when the buzz wears off and you're forced to remember a movie that is simply and only about an internet start-up you'll have maybe one image in your mind -- a virtual sociopath at Harvard in front of a computer screen. Now that's entertainment!

Like the equally successful Something About Mary, this is another smart white guy sexual revenge fantasy, only there are no laughs. Well-financed and produced with lots of top of the line talent including screenwriter Aaron Sorkin (Mr. I'm Smarter Than Everyone in the Room AND Have Huge Issues With Women), it's a film that I thought I'd love but left hugely disappointed. It has no heart and isn't even all that edgy.

The Social Network is about a process, a technological development -- the star of the movie is the concept of Facebook itself, which is why everyone wants to see it -- because Facebook is about social networking, which makes it all about us. So watching it is like more Facebook. That's both the conceit and the concept and of this film, but that does not make it a good movie. There are no characters, no arcs, and no denouement except some clichéd who-betrays-who-to-get-ahead plotlines. And because of what seems to be a lot of lawyering-up and tiptoeing around what really happened, there aren't any real villains, just lots of sketchy behavior. No one to love and no one to hate.

This is not to say that Jesse Eisenberg's portrayal of Mark Zuckerberg isn't brilliant -- it is -- and there is nothing wrong with the protagonist of a film being a complete a-hole. But when you look back and picture the nasty, close-mouthed, eye-darting simpering smugness of this film's hero and the behavior of everyone else in the film I defy you to find one moment of grace, except perhaps when lawyer Rashida Jones tells it like it is to her client. And she's being cynical.

And don't collectively groan here, but yes, this is a frightfully sexist movie. Hollywood and Harvard both are fueled by these guys with a diminished world view that a) we all wish we were them and b) no one would want to be them. That's what Harvard students call a dichotomy and the rest of us call bullshit. Pretend self-loathing bullshit. Add to this their tiresome idea of success defined as ridiculous money, exclusive clubs, drinking, drugs and hootchie hangers-on. Let me put it this way -- except for Zuckerberg's soon to be ex-girlfriend and the female lawyers who show up for the depositions, the rest of the women in this film fulfill sexual fantasies, specifically those of the characters and possibly the filmmakers. Who also wish they were Justin Timberlake so they put him in the movie, too.

The film begins and ends with Zuckerberg's own Rosebud -- the affections and approval of BU student Erica Albright who brightens the first and last scene of the film. Shoutout to my alma mater here -- what those of us from the other side of the Charles may lack in perfect board scores we make up in EQ -- we can spot a maladjusted hostile loser/hater whose only cred is that he got into Harvard a mile away. And yes, we know Zuckerberg made a ton of money and internet history by playing to drunk-guy fantasies about picking which girl is hotter whether she agrees to participate or not and by deeply understanding algorithms. His big revenge for not getting into Harvard's ridiculous social clubs. So heroic!

This movie is ultimately about a game, a process, and yes, the truly significant start of social networking, but for goodness sake where is the story? This film has no soul.