brent johnson clicks the like button on The Social Network …
Only two other films have affected me the way The Social Network did.
The first was Good Will Hunting. It was 1997, and I was an eighth-grader carrying a C in algebra. Not only did Matt Damon and Ben Affleck’s dialogue jump off the screen with flair, but I came out of their breakout movie gut-punched and re-energized. I re-focused my attention on math and hated the notion that I once was okay with settling for a C.
The second was Good Night, And Good Luck. It was 2005, and I was a senior in college, working 10 hours a day at the college newspaper. Watching Edward R. Murrow chop down Sen. McCarthy in George Clooney’s masterwork, I couldn’t wait to get back out in the field and hunt down facts like a giddy mouse. It was the most subtly thrilling thing I’d ever seen: an action film without explosions.
As for The Social Network? The story of Facebook’s crazed, backstabbing birth is intensely acted, tautly directed, written with vigor, utterly mesmerizing and a perfect length at two hours and one minute. It deserves a slew of Oscar noms: Best Actor for Jesse Eisenberg, Best Supporting Actor for Justin Timberlake, Best Supporting Actress for Rooney Mara (only two major scenes, but both stinging pieces of acting), Best Director for David Fincher, Best Adapted Screenplay for Aaron Sorkin and, of course, Best Picture. But you can read why in any number of reviews.
What really struck me about The Social Network was how it slapped my synapses. As the credits rolled, I sat there, mentally zapped. I re-evaluated where I’ve gotten in life. Whether I’ve accomplished what I should have. Whether I’ve wasted any time.
See: Mark Zuckerberg is 26. I’m a year older. But when he was still a college kid, he invented a new form of communication — not for money, but because he wanted to prove himself. He didn’t settle. He hated settling. Some see him as an asshole for the way he did it. And he is. But for some reason, I felt defeated. (Not to mention, the actor playing Zuckerberg was Jesse Eisenburg, an old classmate of mine at East Brunswick High School. Hence, I was watching an old classmate play a computer-geek visionary. Taxing.)
But I also felt my ambition re-charging itself. I suddenly wanted to write an album. I wanted to investigate bad politics for a news story. I wanted to lose 50 pounds.
Walking out of the theater, I realized something. Many of the historical, based-on-fact films my generation — Generation Y — have been about events before our time — like history books on celluloid. But The Social Network was about an event my generation was there for — something we experienced with our very own mouse clicks. That made the whole experience more immediate.
It felt like a calling card for 25-year-old olds going through quarter-life crises. And I couldn’t wait to see it again.