Movie Review: “The Social Network”
“The Social Network,” along with “Inception,” is one of my most anticipated films of the year, and turns out to be equally phenomenal. A controversial cultural phenomenon, Facebook has revolutionized the way people connect and communicate on a global (and personal) level.
David Fincher (“The Fight Club,” “Se7en,” “Zodiac,” “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”) and Aaron Sorkin (“A Few Good Men,” “The West Wing,” “Charlie Wilson’s War”) have teamed up to tell the story behind the founding of Facebook and the meteoric rise of its founder, Mark Zuckerberg. Clear direction, brisk script, snappy dialogues and canny acting make this fact-based fiction, pieced together from depositions of two lawsuits, a compelling character study and social experimentation.
In 2003, 19-year old Mark (Jesse Eisenberg) is inebriated and upset. He has just been dumped by his girlfriend, Erica Albright (Rooney Mara), in a bar, and he can’t get into the most exclusive, final clubs at Harvard. In his dorm room, he spitefully blogs about Erica and hacks into the school’s directory of houses. The result was facemash.com, a website that rated the hotness of female students. It resulted in 22,000 votes in two hours and crashed the university network. All of a sudden, Mark, a genius, nerdy techie, becomes one of the ‘cool’ kids on the block. Never mind that he gets grilled by the ad board and receives six months of academic suspension.
Mark’s notoriety draws the attention of twin rowing athletes and future Olympians, Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss (Armie Hammer and Josh Pence), and a partner Divya Narendra (Max Minghella). They approach him to do programming work on an online dating site called Harvard Connection (later changed to Connect U). Meanwhile, a light bulb goes off; their conversation about the concept of the site becomes the inspiration of his own site.
Mark turns to his best friend, Eduardo Saverin (Andrew Garfield), for assistance on the business end as co-founder and CFO. Eduardo is onboard and bankroll the future company with $1,000 of seed money. Bidding his time for more than 40 days, Mark works tirelessly – on his own project – and appears to have neglected the Harvard Connection site. His site is shortly known as The Facebook, where Harvard students can post their profile and pictures, and exclusively connect with one another. “Facebook me” or ‘friend’ me becomes the hottest invitation on campus. It’s also interesting to see how the “relationship status” (who’s hooking up and breaking up) comes about. Realizing that Mark has taken their initial idea and spins it around into something of his own, the Harvard Connection trio fume and pursue legal actions.
Like wildfire, The Facebook’s expansion is inevitable. Ivy-league schools, and soon other universities are onboard. Conflicts soon ensue. Eduardo, thinking like a “normal” businessman, attempts to garner advertisers’ money to further fund the site. In the meantime, it just so happens that Sean Parker (Justin Timberlake), the nearly broke founder of music-sharing site Napster (sued by the music industry), finds The Facebook by accident and connects with Mark. The two find themselves on the same wild wavelength, with Mark looking up to Sean as the more experienced business partner.
Sooner than later, at Sean’s suggestion, Mark moves his company to Palo Alto, Calif., where the movers and shakers of leading edge technology and venture capitalists reside, for the summer. He recruits the brightest and craziest interns through programming competitions and rounds of beer shots. Eduardo, however, remains in New York for an internship in the beginning, while willingly putting up $18K for the business.
When an angel investor, Peter Thiel (Wallace Langham), co-founder of PayPal, invests $500K in the company, everything is moving like a speeding bullet train. While Mark and the other co-founders, publicist Chris Hughes (Patrick Mapel) and programmer Dustin Moskovitz (Joseph Mazzello), steadfastly maintain their respective stocks in the company, Eduardo finds himself blindsided and left behind. His shares (originally 30% when he co-founded the company) are so diluted and dwindle down to virtually nil, and his name removed from the masthead.
For all intents and purposes of the film, Eisenberg is on the mark. His mind and mannerisms depict Mark’s brilliance, arrogance and irreverence like one-of-a-kind wunderkind that he is. It’s enough to make me ponder – if Mark didn’t have that kind of temperament and acted the way he did, would he ever become “The Mark Zuckerberg?” It’s probably true that “you don’t get to 500 million friends without making a few enemies.” Garfield’s portrayal of Eduardo, as the more logical and rational one (by ordinary standard), is sympathetic. On a side note, after Tobey Mcguire is out of the picture, I wasn’t looking forward to Garfield being ‘Spidey’ in the upcoming reboot of “Spiderman,” but I certainly am now. Timberlake portrays Sean with smugness and obnoxiousness convincingly.
“The Social Network” is a story about a socially inept kid sitting on a sideline, striving to fit in and wanting to be popular. It’s a story about friendships, loyalty, distrust, betrayal, ambition, invention, connections, opportunities and success beyond any imagination.
Mark Zuckerberg, at the age 26, is the most famous face of generation Y and the youngest billionaire in the world. It may take another lifetime to see another Zuckerberg, if ever. In the end, he settles with the Winklevoss duo for 65 millions. Saverin receives an undisclosed sum of settlement and has his name reinstated as co-founder. Later on he reportedly ends up owning 5% shares.
The Facebook, or now is simply known as ‘Facebook,’ is valued at 25 billion. From zero to 1,000 to 1 million members, it has grown exponentially into 500 million members in 207 countries.
Copyright (c) 2010. Nathalia Aryani.
Nathalia Aryani owns a movies blog, The MovieMaven (http://themoviemaven.posterous.com), and can be reached at email@example.com.
Nathalia Aryani is a Rotten Tomatoes-approved film critic (rottentomatoes.com/critic/nathalia-aryani). She has a movie blog, The MovieMaven (sdmoviemaven.blogspot.com). Twitter: @the_moviemaven. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.