As long as movies with the “based on a true story” tagline are made, screenwriters will focus more on entertaining audiences than reporting the concrete facts. So perhaps the characterizations and events portrayed in The Social Network, the first movie about Facebook, should be taken with a grain of salt.
But regardless as to whether audiences believe everything they see on screen, The Social Network tells a gripping story about an idea that evolved into a cultural phenomenon, and is the must-see movie of 2010.
The Social Network is the story of Mark Zuckerberg (played by Jesse Eisenberg), the creator of Facebook. As the movie makes clear, Zuckerberg’s life is somewhat of an anomaly. The man founds the world’s most distinguished and addictive social tool while embodying haughtiness and gauche in his personal relationships.
In just the first scene of the film we see Zuckerberg’s intellect, as well as his social ineptitude: He is sitting at a bar, keeping poor posture, timidly drinking a beer with his girlfriend (Rooney Mara). Then he begins bombarding her with questions in a condescending manner, belittling her intelligence, prompting her to dump him.
The way Zuckerberg treats his girlfriend only offers a glimpse of his egotistical aggression to be revealed later in the film. On his rise to the top of the business spectrum, Zuckerberg forcefully isolates himself from those who help him the most. These victims include twins Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss (both played by Armie Hammer), who propose to Zuckerberg the idea of HarvardConnection, a social tool exclusive to Harvard students. Zuckerberg agrees to help them start the website, but soon he becomes elusive to their emails and meetings.
Soon enough Zuckerberg teams up with young entrepreneur Eduardo Saverin, TheFacebook is created, and the Winklevosses are left in the dust. Bitter and deceived, the Winklevosses sue Zuckerberg for stealing their idea.
Additionally, Saverin, who some would say was Zuckerberg’s only friend, was betrayed. As the idea of TheFacebook expanded, Zuckerberg’s friendship with Saverin weakened. Zuckerberg makes a key connection to Napster founder Sean Parker (Justin Timberlake). Parker convinces Zuckerberg to drop the “The” from TheFacebook, and that suggestion is just one of many things that impresses Zuckerberg.
As Parker and Zuckerberg begin to see eye to eye, Zuckerberg begins nodding off to Saverin’s suggestions. Saverin wants to climb his way to the top, while Zuckerberg and Parker want to sprint. When Zuckerberg dilutes Saverin’s shares to almost nothing, things get very real: Zuckerberg is sued again—this time by Saverin—for all he is worth.
The film centers on Zuckerberg’s personality, rise to fame, and the lawsuits he is forced to encounter.
Jesse Eisenberg, known for his lead roles in Zombieland and the criminally underrated Adventureland, brings the heat as Zuckerberg. He may be starting his career, but it isn’t presumptuous to say that The Social Network is one of the finest films Eisenberg will ever star in. He is truly firing on all cylinders, getting Zuckerberg’s caustic coldness and social anxiety down to a science. Eisenberg may have other roles that are nearly perfect as this one, but anybody who sees this film will recognize you can only catch lightning in a bottle once.
Being the pop star Justin Timberlake is, it’s no accident that his charismatic flamboyance translates perfectly to the silver screen. His performance as Sean Parker looks almost effortless because Parker, like Timberlake, is known for being a playboy in real life.
David Fincher, who, despite directing classics such as Seven and Fight Club, proves to have plenty of fuel left in the tank. Longtime screenwriter Aaron Sorkin, known for his ability to create snappy, razor-sharp dialogue will spellbind audiences with his clever script. At a run time of 120 minutes, it’s all killer, no filler.
It seems that nearly everything about the story of Facebook has been said, but I’d be hard-pressed to believe that The Social Network is the final word of Zuckerberg’s rise to global dominance. There’s no question in the future, there will be more attempts, on and off the screen, to tap into Zuckerberg’s psyche. But presently we have this film, and whether it’s completely factual or not, it’s definitely a film worth watching.