the social network

Written by Aaron Sorkin (based on a book by Ben Mezrich)

Directed by David Fincher

When Quentin Tarantino learnt what would become of his awesome Natural Born Killers screenplay, he had a conniption. Similarly, but far less dramatically, I wished the Source Code film lived up to the original screenplay I read—despite it coming mighty close.

So has been the theme for the last couple of Classic Screenplay entries: the journey from screenplay to screen. I set myself a ‘challenge’ to find a classic screenplay whose viewing experience lived up to the original reading experience. It wasn’t hard. Cue The Social Network.

Directed by David Fincher, The Social Network was ubiquitously lauded upon release; so that it may be a Classic Screenplay is hardly surprising. When I read the screenplay written by Aaron Sorkin … ‘surprise’… ‘laud’… these words understate the achievement of the 162 pages that comprised The Social Network. In short, that screenplay was a revelation.

I wasn’t a member of Facebook in 2010—outrageous, I know. I had been quietly, futilely, boycotting the stupid social network platform because of the idiocy it digitally discharged. So I was not expecting to be wowed when I sat down to read The Social Network, despite it already being celebrated online.

A swift, joyous reading experience ensued—the kind in which you forget you’re reading words on a page, irrespective of medium. I was captivated, astonished, humoured. The story had such an impact on me, I even featured it in an academic essay I wrote. And why wouldn’t I? The story of Facebook’s genesis is a seminal illustration of First World humanity in the 21st Century.

Ah. But where does the intriguing, Machiavellian story of Facebook’s genesis end, and Sorkin’s genius begin? That’s the 65 million dollar question (if you’re a Wilkevoss; ‘undisclosed cash settlement’ if you’re Eduardo).

In his speech upon winning the Oscar for Best Adapted Sreenplay, Sorkin said he shared that gold statue with Ben Mezrich, whose book, The Accidental Billionaires, provided Sorkin with his source material. And fair enough, but Sorkin still had to imbue all those facts and anecdotes with dramatic structure. Sorkin’s genius was to structure the story around the now famous depositions, giving a ‘battle’ to the story … a ‘battle’ between our characters.

Sorkin also did what Sorkin does best: write spitfire dialogue. Before the first image has even faded in, Marc Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) is philosophising on the substantial number of genius IQs in China and how to distinguish himself among a population of overachievers—that’s not exactly the ‘hook’ Syd Field had in mind. Nevertheless, hook us it does, because as an audience we’re forced to pay attention immediately … and if you’ve seen the film or you haven’t, the rest is history.

Arguably, The Social Network was a hit film because just about bloody everyone is on Facebook; but the recent jOBS arrived with a whimper, and who doesn’t love Apple? And this brings up an interesting scenario, given Sorkin is penning—last I heard—a Steve Jobs biopic. Unlike the pedestrian chronology of jOBS, Sorkin’s planning to structure his take with only three scenes: each scene will comprise the moments (played in real-time) leading up to three infamous Jobs product launches. Suffice it to say, I’m salivating to read and see that unorthodox story play out.

Oh, and I’m on Facebook now. Sometimes I even contribute to the idiocy: I once documented an exhaustive undertaking which proved that no turtles are actually ninjas; I once posted that I was trapped in an elevator; and of course there’s always this gem.

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