According to The Social Network, Mark Zuckerberg is not only “not a hugger,” he probably couldn’t be bothered to throw a virtual sheep at you. From the very start of David Fincher’s frenetic, fictionalized biopic to its very end, the founder of Facebook is painted as a five-star asshole, a barely socialized genius who says and does what he wants regardless of the consequences. Sometimes this means pissing off friends or getting dumped. (When he rapidly talks at and condescends to his exasperated girlfriend, she says, “Dating you is like dating a StairMaster.”) But Zuckerberg’s biggest—and alleged—fuck-you move was taking someone else’s idea for a online, exclusive social network and running with it, leaving a trail of enemies and lawsuits in his wake.
It all starts with the breakup. Angry that Erica (Rooney Mara, the future Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) has left him, Mark (Jesse Eisenberg) gets drunk in his Harvard dorm room, blogging about what a bitch she is and creating a hot-or-not website to judge the university’s co-eds and somehow humiliate Erica by proxy. The experiment goes viral and crashes Harvard’s servers. This gets the attention of twins Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss (Armie Hammer, with Josh Pence helping as a body double) and their friend, Divya Narendra (Max Minghella), who want Mark to lend his programming skills to a schoolwide networking site. Sure, Mark says, one of the rare times his eyes light up. Then: Um, I’m really busy and can’t meet with you—ever. Then, a few months later: The Facebook launches, and the threesome is pissed.
In the dark about Mark’s intellectual borrowing is Eduardo Saverin (Andrew Garfield, future Spider-Man), Mark’s first investor whom he officially recognizes—at first—as a co-founder and CFO. As Facebook explodes (future partner and Napster co-founder Sean Parker, played with hyperslick bravado by Justin Timberlake, convinces Mark to drop the “the”), its economics get more complicated and Eduardo gets edged out. For a money man, Eduardo’s the one with a conscience, and he wants to believe in his best bud. Instead, he also ends up suing Zuckerberg—resulting in what is surely the most expensive defriending in history.
Based on a sensationalized book by Ben Mezrich (for which Saverin served as consultant) and likely further sensationalized by sharp-shooting screenwriter Aaron Sorkin, The Social Network goes down like a college rager—loud, chaotic, at times enervating and elsewhere exhausting. Even with Fincher interspersing scenes of legal depositions with the development and rise of the site, the time-shifts and dialogue are lightning-fast to the point of dizzying. A crunchy, industrial score by Atticus Ross and Nine Inch Nails’ Trent Reznor adds to the bluster; it’s all a perfect package to document a bright young thing’s meteoric rise and near-fall. The script’s humor comes mostly via sarcasm, though Mark’s hollered “We do not crash—ever!” earns an unintentional laugh, considering Facebook’s recent hours-long face-plant.
None of it would work without Eisenberg, however, who’s intense, gruff, alienating, and devoid of his usual Michael Cera-isms (except for when he rattles off mouthfuls of dialogue). The Zombieland and The Squid and the Whale actor, before merely irritating to some, is truly unlikeable as Mark, and you both curse and thrill at everything the character gets away with. If the real Zuckerberg is worried about his image (though one imagines his billions are enough comfort) he needn’t be; if you’re addicted to FarmVille or telling the world what you had for lunch, you probably won’t care that Facebook’s daddy is an alleged thief and an all-around jackass. Like one lawyer tells him regarding the settlement of a suit: “In the grand scheme of things, it’s a speeding ticket.”
Waking Sleeping Beauty Directed by Don Hahn
Disney’s behind-the-scenes gets a more Behind the Music treatment in Waking Sleeping Beauty, a documentary about the goings-on at the House That Walt Built between 1984 and 1994. Director Don Hahn narrates with parodic-sounding descriptions like “The wheels were coming off the car” (twice!) and “To an outsider, it looked like the perfect world. But backstage, the tension had reached a peak.” That there’s no slow-mo sequence of a toy Mickey shattering is, frankly, the biggest surprise of the film.
Waking Sleeping Beauty’s chaos isn’t thrilling, it’s just chaotic. Instead of focusing on a central high and low—say, for the latter, the bad blood between CEO Michael Eisner and chairman Jeffrey Katzenberg—the doc follows a linear timeline, which means there are a lot of titles, names, hirings, and firings thrown at the viewer. It’s difficult to even summarize what the film is about, but here’s the gist: In 1984, animation was “an art form that was given up for dead.” By 1994, it wasn’t. And some people helped while others hindered the process.
Gripping, right? Hahn’s profiles of Roy E. Disney (Walt’s nephew), Eisner and Katzenberg, unpopular president Peter Schneider, COO Frank Wells, and Howard Ashman, lyricist to some of the studio’s biggest hits, are spliced among overviews of the films being worked on at the time. So instead of getting a solid idea of each man and his contributions—which is nearly impossible in an 85-minute film anyway—you get trivia along with surprisingly dry dissections of blockbusters like Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, and The Little Mermaid.
Yes, it’s a little exciting to see black-and-white initial treatments of each, and of staff tweaking lyrics and performing songs. But it’s nearly as smile-inducing to glimpse former Disney employees and current superstars like Tim Burton (hunched over a desk, looking antisocial at best and miserable at worst) and Pixar head John Lasseter. What masterpieces they would go on to create! Oh, but there’s Eisner getting hit in the face with a pie again. On top of that tedium, much of the film uses grainy, home-video-quality footage—which is doubly annoying when it’s occasionally superimposed over crisp, contemporary footage.
Waking Sleeping Beauty does have its touching moments (including the deaths of Wells and Ashman), and if its intention is to convey that Disney is one big dysfunctional family, mission accomplished. But aren’t most workplaces? In the end, you won’t feel all that much better informed about that period of the studio’s history, but you may want to revisit its output. And that’s the film’s biggest sin: It’s a subpar movie about exceptional ones, and you don’t really care who was responsible.