The Social Network (10/10)
by Tony Medley
Run time 121 minutes.
OK for children.
Mark Zuckerberg refused to
cooperate with this film about the founding of Facebook. The problem for
Mark is that by not cooperating, it was left for his enemies to define
him in a movie that will be seen by far more people than could ever see
him being interviewed on Oprah.
While Zuckerberg (brilliantly
portrayed by Jesse Eisenberg) comes across as a socially-challenged
genius, most of the scienter is taken out of his actions by director
David Fincher, Eisenberg, and writer Alan Sorkin. Eisenberg gives a
performance so captivating that I could sit through the movie again,
just to watch him.
While the book The
Accidental Billionaires by Ben Mezrich is given a “based on” credit,
Sorkin used Mezrich’s reporting notes, but his screenplay was finished
about the time the book was finished.
Since Sorkin didn’t get
Zuckerberg’s cooperation he pieced together how Facebook came to be by
interviewing all the other people involved whom he could contact, as
well as reading depositions and other documents. The way Sorkin tells
the story is Rashomon-lite. Each starts telling about each incident from
his point of view and then the film flashes back to show the actual
The format of the film centers
on a deposition of various parties in litigation between Zuckerberg and
co-founder Eduardo Saverin (Andrew Garfield), and the people who claim
Zuckerberg stole the idea for Facebook from them while they were
all students at Harvard in October, 2003, Cameron and Tyler Winkelvoss (Armie
Hammer and Josh Pence, respectively; Hammer played the main twin in each
shot. For shots that included both twins at the same time, Pence stood
in for the second twin) and cuts back and forth from the deposition to
flashbacks about the incidents to which the deponents are testifying.
Zuckerberg was a 19-year-old sophomore at the time.
Zuckerberg is pictured as a
socially inept genius who created the most powerful social network in
history, an anomaly if ever there was one. Sorkin leaves it up to the
viewers to form their own conclusions as to whether or not Zuckerberg,
although in charge, set out to steal the idea from the Winkelvosses or
fail to honor his arrangement with Saverin, who provided all of the
early financing for Facebook, that Severin would have a 30% share of the
company Zuckerberg. Casting no blame, Sorkin shows it all just
happening. I don’t know anything about Zuckerberg or what happened, but
my impression is that this is a remarkably charitable way to picture
Zuckerberg who, from the facts set forth in this film, does appear to
have stolen the idea and to have dealt unfairly with Saverin.
Fincher, who directed the
remarkable the Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008), shows that
he can keep the pace moving even though this film is mostly talk. It is
also almost terminally vague about many things, like how did Facebook go
from a popular free program to a huge money-maker? What did Zuckerberg
have to add to what the Winkelvosses had, and vice versa? How did it go
from a one-man show to an organization its shown as having in Silicon
Valley at the end of the film?
If there is a heavy in the
film, it’s Sean Parker (Justin Timberlake), who was the genius who
started Napster (the peer-sharing site that ran afoul of the music
industry), but didn’t make any money out of it. While Sorkin treats
Zuckerberg gently, he’s not so gentle with Parker. This is puzzling
since from what I could piece together, it was Parker who had the
know-how and connections with Silicon Valley entrepreneurs to change
Facebook from a non-revenue producer into something that is now worth
$25 billion, according to some estimates. In fact, he became its
President when it was incorporated in 2004, but was forced to leave the
company when accused of cocaine possession, an incident touched upon in
But I still came out of the
movie not knowing what Parker and the Silicon Valley shrewdies did to
make Facebook into a money-maker. Oh, well, this is a movie, probably
the best of the year. Oscars® for Fincher, Sorkin, Eisenberg, and best
movie, at least, are distinct possibilities.
October 2, 2010