US Release Date: 10-01-2010
Directed by: David Fincher
- Jesse Eisenberg, as
- Mark Zuckerberg
- Justin Timberlake, as
- Sean Parker
- Andrew Garfield, as
- Eduardo Saverin
- Joseph Mazzello, as
- Dustin Moskovitz
- Armie Hammer, as
- the Winklevoss twins
- Rashida Jones, as
- Marylin Delpy
- Dakota Johnson, as
- Rooney Mara, as
- Erica Albright
- Bryan Barter as
- Billy Olsen
Jesse Eisenberg in The Social Network.
There are so many interesting characters in the short history of the personal computer and the Internet that I'm surprised it's taken this long for a movie to be made about one of them. The two Steves at Apple, Bill Gates, Larry Ellison, Steve Case, Larry Page and Sergey Brin are just some of the big names in the industry, any one of whom you could write a movie about. You could even make the argument that some of those names are more worthy of a movie than Mark Zuckerberg. After all, Steve Jobs and Bill Gates changed the world. All Zuckerberg did was popularize (not invent) a new way of communicating. Along the way though, he became the youngest billionaire in the history of the planet and so he becomes the first computer celebrity to get the big screen treatment.
Social misfit and computer genius seem to go hand in hand and Mark Zuckerberg (Eisenberg), is no exception. From the very first scene you can see that his intelligence is only matched by his insecurity. He wants to be popular and he's jealous of those who are.
When he's dumped by his girlfriend he takes his revenge by blogging about what a bitch she is and on the same night builds a web site that features photos of female Harvard students and allows visitors to the site to rate who's hotter of the girls.
This site brings him to the attention of an upper-class, exclusive Harvard club. The club, led by the Winklevoss twins, want Zuckerberg to help them build a social networking site that will, in effect, help them meet girls. Zuckerberg thinks little of them, but likes the idea of a social site and so, with the help of his best (and only) friend's money, he sets out to build Facebook.
While the acting is all decent and the direction and pacing both crisp and fast paced, it is without a doubt, the script that makes this movie. You can pencil Aaron Sorkin in for the Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar right now. The opening conversation between Mark and his girlfriend sets the tone as they bounce around between half a dozen different topics at rapidfire speed and it never lets up. It's smart, technically accurate and funny. It deserves large credit for taking two subjects, business and computers, and making them entertaining and accessible. With his wit and penchant for writing densely packed, fast-paced dialogue, Sorkin should really consider writing a screwball comedy.
The story of the birth of Facebook is interspersed with flash-forwards to two different lawsuits, both against Zuckerberg. One is by the twins who claim that Zuckerberg stole their idea, but that's just business. The other suit is brought by Zuckerberg's best friend, the one who put up the money to get Facebook started and the one whom Zuckerberg tried to push out of the company, and this one's more personal and tells more about Zuckerberg's character than anything else.
If there's anything missing from the movie, it's Zuckerberg's background and family. We never see his parents and we never learn where's he from. You get the impression he's not from money (at least by Harvard standards) and is maybe there on a scholarship, but we're never told for sure. Because of this lack of background, I felt as though we were missing something important in trying to understand Zuckerberg and how he got the way he was.
This is one of those movies that has been getting such great word of mouth and early Oscar buzz that I was almost avoiding it just because I didn't think it could live up to its hype. I was wrong. The Social Network is one of the best movies I've seen this year.
Andrew Garfield and Jesse Eisenberg
I have recently hired half a dozen guys who are in their early twenties. The first thing I notice about them, once we start having social conversations, is just how immature most of them are. Sure, in our early twenties we all thought we had it figured out, but with hindsight we discover we did not have a clue.
With that in mind, how do we criticize Mark Zuckerberg for making bad decisions when he was pretty much a kid, 20, when he launched Facebook. Add his insecurities and ego to the mix and you have a very self centered person. I am not, by any means, picking on him, just pointing out that had he had more time and life experiences, he probably would have done some things a little differently.
The performances are great. Eisenberg has lots of lines and rattles them off at sometimes rapid fire pace. One minute I liked him, and the next I did not. It must be the father in me, but several times I wanted to take him aside and question his actions.
As Scott wrote, it does not give much background on Zuckerberg, but it does not need to. He is clearly jealous of his friend getting into an exclusive club. He cannot even bring himself to congratulate his best friend when he brings him the news. He is obviously immature as he is so easily seduced by Sean Parker. Zuckerberg used his friends, only to get used by Parker.
Saverin is clearly the most sympathetic character in the film. If he made any mistake it was that he did not see the potential of Facebook. If he had, he would have skipped the New York internship, and made himself more available to the company he co-founded. Garfield is definitely the star to watch in the next couple of years. He is Spiderman/Peter Parker in the new reboot of the franchise.
I was also impressed with Armie Hammer. I did not realize that one actor played both Winklevoss twins. Kudos to the special effects for making it look so convincing. Although he plays identical twins, the writing and his performance, create noticeable difference between them. He plays two different characters, and has the films best line as Tyler, the less level headed of the twins. "I'm 6'5", 220 pounds, and there are two of me." He states, when considering how to get back at Zuckerberg.
In my own opinion, the Winklevoss twins did not have a case as their was no written agreement, and the verbal agreement never specified anything exact. Their idea owes as much to MySpace as Facebook does to them. I think Saverin, on the other hand, did as he clearly played a role in the founding of Facebook. Although the film tells what the result of both litigations were, it never states if Zuckerberg and Saverin ever made up. During the deposition they clearly learned much about each other, and I wonder if they spoke again?
It is always the sign of a good movie when the characters interest me beyond the confines of the story. I am not sure how much of this movie is accurate, but the players in this story are very well rounded and ultimately quite real.
Justin Timberlake and Jesse Eisenberg.
The script is very good. Scott I believe you are right about Sorkin getting the Oscar come February. The dialogue is smart and funny. My favorite line was also spoken by one of the Winklevoss twins. The one that was against the lawsuit and says, “It will make us look like those guys in skeleton costumes chasing the Karate Kid around the high school gym.”
The characterization of Zuckerberg seems a bit unfair though. Having seen him recently on Oprah he doesn’t seem at all like the angry, sullen and perpetually scowling person he is throughout this movie. He is also more physically attractive than Eisenberg. Perhaps he has simply matured and/or gotten better at public relations? Still I felt as if I knew all the other characters and what made them tick by the time the end credits rolled except for Mark. Clearly he had a chip on his shoulder but how did it get there?
The lack of family background bothered me. From the opening scene he is portrayed as an arrogant, immature and petulant geek. Throughout the movie he is selfish and emotionally distant. At the very end Sorkin seems to throw him a sympathetic bone - so to speak - when he has the Rashida Jones character (she’s Quincy’s daughter by the way) tell Zuckerberg, “You’re not an ass-hole, you just TRY very hard to be.”
Justin Timberlake does a decent job as Sean Parker, the hard partying and notorious founder of Napster. I could have done with less of this character however. I wonder if the part was expanded for Timberlake. This isn’t his story after all and having the climax involve him at a party that gets raided by the police seemed to take the focus off Zuckerberg.
This is a uniquely American story and it proves that the American dream is not dead. Where else in the world could a young college student create a social networking site and wind up a billionaire by the age of 25?
Photos © Copyright Columbia Pictures (2010)