By Marc Glassman
The Social Network
David Fincher, director
Aaron Sorkin, script based on the book The Accidental Billionaires by Ben Mezrich
Starring: Jesse Eisenberg (Mark Zuckerberg), Andrew Garfield (Eduardo Saverin), Justin Timberlake (Sean Parker), Brenda Song (Christy Lee), Max Minghella (Divya Narendra), Rooney Mara (Erica Albright), Armie Hammer (Cameron Winklevoss/Tyler Winklevoss)
There may be a million nerds trying to make the next big score in the New Technologies’ bold frontier but there’s only one Mark Zuckerberg. He’s this generation’s Geek Poster Boy, the new Bill Gates. Abrasive, socially inept and awesomely intelligent, Zuckerberg went from being a typical Ivy League campus loser—no club, no girlfriend—to the hottest thing in town. Town? How about the World?
Columbus may have discovered America and Darwin apparently figured out Evolution but there’s no doubt that Zuckerberg invented Facebook. Now he doesn’t have to laugh his way to the bank; the 20-something genius can pay others to do the guffawing for him. Zuckerberg is the youngest self-made billionaire in the world.
As The Social Network, David Fincher and Aaron Sorkin’s immensely entertaining film quickly establishes, Zuckerberg was always his own man. Breaking up with girlfriend Erica—a virtuoso scene of increasingly barbed repartees—Zuckerberg, then a Harvard undergrad did something typical: he got drunk. But being a clumsy, brave and quite inebriated genius, he decided to do something wildly inappropriate while continuing to down brewskies.
Hacking into supposedly secure sorority sites, he uploaded images onto a new site and invited everyone to answer the question: Who’s Hot? Who’s Not? (One who was not, of course, was Zuckerberg’s ex, Erica.)
With the help of roommates and pals, especially Eduardo Saverin, Zuckerberg’s site went viral overnight, making him a campus pariah to women and Harvard’s administration, but a hero to a lot of guys. Among those were the athletic, entitled rich boys the Winklevoss twins and their buddy Divya Narendra.
The Social Network charts Zuckerberg’s rise from obscurity to global domination—at least as far as Facebook is concerned. Much of the film is taken up with lawsuits brought against the young inventor by old Harvard friends and colleagues Eduardo Saverin and the Winklevoss Brothers.
The Brothers claimed that Zuckerberg took their money for a project called “Harvard Connection” and spent it to develop Facebook. Saverin’s legal assertion is similar: the inventor took his money until Facebook was established and then dropped him.
While the film is structured around those cases, Fincher creates his trademark virtuoso scenes, using the film’s most impressive “character actor” Justin Timberlake. As Napster co-inventor Sean Parker, he is the sophisticated scene-maker who gets Zuckerberg to abandon Boston—and Saverin–for L.A. and the high life.
The film is at its best when Timberlake’s Parker seduces Jesse Eisenberg’s Zuckerberg into embracing California’s hedonistic lifestyle. Eisenberg is brilliantly cast as Zuckerberg: he internalizes the character, offering enough personality to keep viewers interested without placing the Facebook genius as a hero or villain.
That’s the central issue of the film: who is Zuckerberg? While we’re vastly entertained by the young inventor’s rise to the top and kept in suspense regarding the outcome of the lawsuits against him, we never get to understand what makes Facebook’s genius tick. Should we be cheering Zuckerberg or be appalled at his “me first” attitude?
Fincher and Sorkin never tell us. And the film is the better for it. The Social Network is as slick and easy-to-embrace as Facebook. See it—and enjoy it—but don’t expect to understand what makes Zuckerberg run.