Sunday, October 3, 2010

The Social Network

I am one of the 500 million who have a page on Facebook – along with my dad, former bosses, countless co-workers and just about everyone I ever went to school with. Yet, I wasn’t eager to see The Social Network. I envisioned sitting there watching people stare at computer screens and talk endlessly about computer stuff and to me that didn’t sound interesting. Director David Fincher (Se7en and Fight Club) and writer Aaron Sorkin (The West Wing) took the action away from the PC and focused on the people and that made all the difference.

The film follows Facebook founder (or rather co-founder) Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) as he came up with (or stole) the idea for Facebook. After getting dumped by his girlfriend, he goes home, blogs about it and hacks into a bunch of Harvard computers to create “FaceMash” where people get to vote on which Harvard girls are hottest.

This attracts the attention of twin rowing crew members Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss (Armie Hamer Jr. and Josh Pence). They have an idea for a social networking site for Harvard undergrads and they want Mark to create it; but, Mark has other ideas. He and his best friend Eduardo Saverin (Andrew Garfield) start Facebook. Mark has the mind and Eduardo has the money … that is until the site really starts taking off and draws the attention of former Napster co-founder Sean Parker (Justin Timberlake).

The movie volleys back and forth between flashbacks and two lawsuits that Zuckerberg is fighting, one from the Winklevoss boys and the other from his former best friend, Eduardo.

I wonder how the real Mark Zuckerberg feels about his portrayal by Jesse Eisenberg. He comes off like a condescending, insecure jerk most of the time, someone who had no problem screwing over a friend. However, the film does a good job of chronicling how quickly the site grew and how the principals really weren’t prepared for it.

This movie relies heavily on dialogue and what elevates it is that the dialogue is crisp and it works. It’s at times funny and even sad but it is always revealing, especially when it comes to Zuckerberg. His hurt, his rejection, his resentment come through often in a throw-away line. He doesn’t mean to be giving so much away and even if he isn’t aware of it, those around him (particularly his ex and Saverin) are.

Timberlake’s Sean Parker appears to be the personification of excess and temptation who played a critical role in breaking up the initial Zuckerberg/Saverin partnership. By painting a flawed and insecure Zuckerberg and focusing on his relationships and how they run their course, Fincher has created a compelling film.

Do I think it’s “the best film of the year”? No, but if you are one of the Facebook family, it might be worth checking out.

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