"The King's Speech" is about manners and class, and a protagonist who suffers acute psychological pain at being miscast for royal challenges in mid-20th-century England. Flash forward to "The Social Network," which is about ethics, class and money in 21st-century America. It begins at an elite university where the protagonist is intellectually brilliant, but is as flawed in his communication skills as the speechless king of England. Zuckerberg's world, circumscribed by Harvard Yard, initially separates the rich and privileged from the vulgar middle class, too.
If the 19-year-old college sophomore has a problem communicating with girls, he also has a problem with the social stratification at Harvard. The Jewish boy's arrogance is grounded in a sense of social inferiority, and it's an irony of the movie -- reel life, not real life -- that Facebook, the social network, was created by a man who can't strike a comfortable intimacy with women.
In the movie scenario, the young Zuckerberg ruthlessly takes on the handsome and old-money Winklevoss twins and steals their idea. He expands their idea and becomes a billionaire, but he can't compete in ethical civility and athletic attractiveness on their decidedly uneven playing field. Facebook becomes a great equalizer, but its originator is never at home with himself, whether hiding in a hoodie at Harvard or trying to look like a serious billionaire in his lawyer's office while being deposed to answer lawsuits. One reviewer describes him as a "functional prince of dysfunction."
He's as exaggerated as the celluloid interpretation of William Randolph Hearst in "Citizen Kane," but "The Social Network" illuminates through a portrayal of one personality the changes in how we all communicate. The traditionalists have lost the high-tech in-your-Facebook struggle to control virtual reality. The director, David Fincher, also directed "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," an imaginative tale about the clock set to moving backward. This time, he's obsessed with fast forward. Which of these movies you root for Sunday night will probably depend on what medium you use to send your message.