Written by: Lance Carmichael, CC2K Staff Writer
Sorkin’s new script is dense and brainy, but will Mark Zuckerberg allow it to get made?
Learning that someone is making a movie based on “Facebook” sounds weird enough. But hearing that it’s being written by Aaron Sorkin is just plain bizarre. Almost as bad, say, as hearing that Ridley Scott is attached to direct an adaptation of the board game Monopoly. Sorkin–who created the West Wing and wrote, among other things, A Few Good Men–is about as A-list as a writer gets, and presumably gets his pick of projects (assuming a sort of collective amnesia regarding the entire existence of Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip) (Hey, remember when people used to debate whether 30 Rock had a chance against Studio 60?) . Whither this seemingly unwanted, paper-thin cultural ephemera?
It turns out Sorkin knows what he’s doing. Which I guess isn’t a surprise (again, assuming Studio 60 collective amnesia, and also assuming he’s not currently on crack ). His script is called The Social Network–at least the May 28, 2009-dated draft that I saw–and word has crept out of the Dark Tower of Hollywood that David Fincher himself has been attached as a director (no word on whether this puts any board game -based projects of HIS on hold). After reading through the script, it actually seems like a no-brainer that Fincher has been attracted by the material.
Sorkin’s script is reportedly an adaptation of the upcoming book (with the long-winded title) “The Accidental Billionaires: The Founding of Facebook, a Tale of Sex, Money, Genius and Betrayal” by Ben Mezrich. And the script is basically about everything in both the title and sub. Generally, it’s the tale of Mark Zuckerburg creating Facebook out there at Harvard, up to the point where he gets his first big infusion of that sweet, sweet Silicon Valley venture capital fundation; more specifically, it’s about Zuckerberg starting Facebook with varying (and disputed) levels of help from various Harvard classmates, and then screwing them out of the unimaginable, GDP-sized profits as it takes off. The movie’s main action is framed by not one but TWO depositions in lawsuits by two different parties who claim Zuckerberg fucked them over.
If you watched The West Wing or have otherwise sampled Sorkin’s writing style, it’s all on display here. Breezy, clever dialogue that manages to pack in scads of complicated information without feeling leaden is on full motherfucking display. Sorkin has one of the lightest touches around when it comes to two characters shooting the shit (and presumably walking quickly through a busy work area ), and this script is essentially ALL dialogue. So apart from anything else, it’s a great read–no chunky, eye-straining pages full of description paragraphs. Like reading a play in book form.
It also moves along quite tidily (even though the script in its current form weighs in at a “big-boned” 162 pages). There’s a lot of jumping backwards and forwards through little scenelets, and for that alone feels like a natural for a kinetic stylist like Fincher. Fincher proved himself to be something of an ace handling large amounts of fact-based information and keeping things toasty in Fight Club and, in particular, Zodiac and though The Social Network is much lighter in tone than anything he’s done (with the notable exception of Benjamin Button(s?), I guess), this doesn’t feel out of his wheelhouse.
Sidenote- I’ll bet anyone a thousand bucks it won’t be called The Social Network when it eventually hits theaters.
(Let it be known that I am no expert in the legal issues surrounding cinematic depictions of real people–I’m really not even qualified to call myself a layman on the issue. But still.)
The Social Network is, in some senses, another retelling of Reese Witherspoon’s Tracey Flick in Election, without the Matthew Broderick POV: young, bright, ambitious, and soulless person burns everyone around him/her to succeed, and ends up successful beyond his/her wildest dreams but alone. It’s classic rise and (spiritual) fall stuff. Zuckerberg doesn’t die with the name “Rosebud” on his lips, doesn’t go down in a hail of bullets snorting coke and introducing cartel assassins to his little friend but you get the idea. And hey, I’m not complaining. It’s sturdy stuff, and Sorkin is deliciously ruthless in portraying this guy.
When you step back and think about this script and possible movie-to-be in toto, it just gets weirder and weirder. The reason Zuckerberg is a compelling public figure, I would argue, is because…well, just look at that picture of him. He looks like an embarrassing yearbook photo. He’s the guy we all were in our mortifying adolescent phase. He just seems way too pathetically normal to be a mind-boggingly, incomprehensibly rich and influential entrepreneur. It’s pretty easy to imagine yourself AS him (the same reason, I assert, Mark “The Benefactor” Cuban is also publicly compelling).
So go with me on this for a second: Look at the above picture. That’s you. Putting aside the fact that you’ve become a billionaire, you’re still, basically, just YOU. You live in several really nice houses, but these houses all have mirrors in them. You still wake up in the morning, eat, shit, and go to sleep at night. Life still feels pretty normal.
Now imagine that Aaron Sorkin was paid millions of dollars by Columbia Pictures to use all his well-regarded artistic skills to make YOU look like an asshole. And imagine David Fincher read that script and thought Sorkin’s portrait of you–as an asshole–was so compelling that he decided it was worth two years of his life during his prime as a director to use all HIS skills to take that script and make the definitive cinematic portrait of you, the asshole. And someone like Shia LeBouf decided to portray you as this asshole. And then millions of people around the world would pay money to see what an asshole you are. And then it would be bootlegged around the world, shown on premium cable, etc. etc. etc.
That would be kind of weird, that’s all I’m saying.
Anyway, back to the script.
So…in taking Facebook from campus phenom to global icon, Zuckerberg also teams up with Sean Parker, co-founder of Napster, in the script and in real life. Parker is basically represented as a Tyler Durden-like Trickster who beds Silicon Valley bimbos (who knew they existed?) at the cock of an eyebrow, and lures Zuckerberg into cutting his co-founder loose because he’s not ready for the major leagues. Parker is intro’d fleeing the scene of a night of casual sex and is tracked by the eyeballs of nubile young sex bombs everywhere he goes. Sorkin does seem to be under the impression that hot models flock to Silicon Valley computer dweebs like Vincent Chase at the Aqua Man premiere–which come to think of it Sorkin also wrote Charlie Wilson’s War, where Washington DC is portrayed as the Playboy mansion. It’s a good way to sex it up for the movies, but is symptomatic of Sorkin’s writing in general. This isn’t reality, which is probably fine–the Sorkin-verse is a fun, bouncy, funny and energetic place to be, a close, more benevolent cousin to Bret Easton Ellis-verse . There’s just no mistaking it for good old Earth.
But to be honest, who wants to see a realistic depiction of computer nerds? How many hours of masturbation to online Megan Fox clips does America really need? (The answer might surprise you…) The Social Network is getting a lot of buzz around Hollywood, and, you know what? It deserves it. To the best of my memory, there’s never been a definitive garage-to-billionaire Silicon Valley startup movie before, despite the fact that it’s one of the defining archetypes of America during our time. The Social Network (boy, that title doesn’t get any better, does it?) may be fairly superficial gloss, but it’s entertaining gloss, and if Fincher can inject some depth into its corners, the results could be quite tasty indeed.