The Social Network represents the type of wide theatrical release that we rarely see these days. It’s smart, brilliantly written, and tells a story that is incredibly absorbable. It’s a miracle of sorts, as computer programming and big-time advertising deals aren’t exactly things that are accessible to the everyday person. Screenwriter Aaron Sorkin, working from the book “The Accidental Billionaires” by Ben Mezrich, brings the story full circle in one of the most engrossing dramas in years. Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg is the youngest billionaire in the world, and if the film is any indication, he didn’t just luck into it.
The story alternates between a courtroom sequence taking place in the present day and the events that transpired from 2003 on to bring it about. Jesse Eisenberg plays Zuckerberg, a shy, socially awkward Harvard student who, one night while drunk and dejected, creates a site called facemash.com. It allows users to see side-by-side photos of Harvard co-eds and decide which one is hotter. The site goes viral and shuts down the university network. Zuckerberg sees the possibilities, and brings his friend and roommate, Eduardo (Garfield), in to be CFO of his new project: The Facebook. The problem: another group of Harvard students had already hired him to program something similar. Cue the courtrooms. The rest is history, as Facebook is one of the biggest sites in the world.
Moving at a breakneck pace and always emotionally involving, The Social Network is exceptional filmmaking. The fact that it’s an amazing story helps, but director David Fincher and writer Sorkin give the film a tenuous and sinister vibe as the site becomes bigger and more and more people want a piece. Ugly decisions are made and not everyone emerges unscathed. The matter-of-factness along with cruel ironies really make the viewer think, then think again about just how much we’re willing to share with a world in which very few people who view the information actually know us. Facebook users are not viewed as suckers, but the tables can be turned and they can be viewed as voluntary submitters of content for a worldwide facemash.com.
Jesse Eisenberg is flawlessly cast as Zuckerberg. He has no interest in partying or living up the Silicon Valley lifestyle, but he’s also deadly confident in his skills and determination. The supporting cast is similarly impressive, particularly Justin Timberlake as Sean Parker, a co-founder of Napster. Parker is an opportunist, smart, cold, and sophisticated. Timberlake nails the part. Andrew Garfield is also fantastic as Eduardo, who would go on to become part of the suit against Zuckerberg.
It’s been widely publicized that Mark Zuckerberg isn’t in favor of the film. Unless the events depicted are patently false, I’m not quite sure why. He’s portrayed as a determined young computer genius who will stop at nothing to achieve his goals. At the same time, he is a wiseass and verbal sniper. It’s tough to have one without the other when you’re a young entrepreneur trying to build your dream. The Social Network is a film for now, even if in the realm of computer time 2003 seems like a lifetime ago. It’s riveting entertainment, and a must-see.
Studio: Columbia Pictures
Length: 121 Minutes
Rating: PG-13 for sexual content, drug and alcohol use and language.
Theatrical Release: October 1, 2010
Directed by: David Fincher
Written by: Aaron Sorkin. Based upon the book “The Accidental Billionaires” by Ben Mezrich.
Cast: Jesse Eisenberg, Justin Timberlake, Andrew Garfield, Joseph Mazzello, Armie Hammer