The Social Network is a film that will jolt you back to reality from the cyber-bubble so many of us live in. This clever, witty and somewhat scary portrayal of the beginnings of Facebook is worth watching whether you are addicted to it or a technophobe.
The film begins with Mark Zuckerberg sitting in a bar with a girl he is dating. From the start we are hit by how socially awkward this guy is and how he suffers from a severe case of foot-in-mouth. As he speaks, we recognise how desperate he is to fit in, to stand out, to no longer be jealous of the people around him at Harvard.
The lady in question, Erica Albright, finds his obsession with standing out too much, he is aggressive, disgruntled and plain rude to her. She finishes with him then and there in the bar and as she leaves she says:
“You’re going to go through life thinking that girls don’t like you because you’re a tech geek, and I want you to know from the bottom of my heart that that won’t be true. It’ll be because you’re an asshole.”
Like most boys in this situation, Zuckerberg gets drunk but unlike most boys he is a computer whiz, so turns to his blog. The drunker and angrier he gets, the ruder he becomes towards Erica on his blog and starts hatching ideas. What better way to get his own back on one girl than to put all women at Harvard in an awkward situation?
He hacks into the databases of the halls of residences at the university and with the pictures of the girls and an algorithm supplied to him from his roommate Eduardo Saverin, he sets up Facemash.com. The idea is that male students pick the hottest from a picture of two girls.
Within hours the network is going crazy and Zuckerberg becomes notorious and catches the eye of Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss, two well-connected popular students who come to him with an idea. That idea is Harvard Connection, but instead of helping them, Zuckerberg starts work on TheFacebook, which would later become Facebook.
And then we all kind of know what happened: Facebook started growing, Sean Parker (the guy who invented Napster) got involved, the Winklevoss brothers claimed he stole their idea, Facebook kept on growing and Zuckerberg lost yet more friends on the way (including his only friend, Eduardo Saverin), and Facebook took over the world with over 500 million users.
The film, written by West Wing writer Aaron Sorkin is based on Ben Mezrich’s 2009 non-fiction book ‘The Accidental Billionaires‘ and is directed by David Fincher (Fight Club). They have chosen to present it as a court room drama, so between every scene we return to the pre-court cases of Zuckerberg vs. Sarverin and Zuckerberg vs. the Winklevoss’. It adds drama and takes you momentarily away from the endless computer screens and parties, that are the only other two things we see in the film.
Zuckerberg’s character, played by Jesse Eisenberg, is not likeable. In fact, it even made me consider my use of Facebook. He undoubtedly is a genius,but his social graces leave a lot to be desired. Eisenberg creates an introverted, patronising and troubled young man to perfection. His attitude towards women is somewhat shocking and it is demonstrated well in the film, with the women either being easy or bitchy.
Timberlake shows us once again that he no longer just a pop singer, but a talented actor who plays the charismatic and slightly controversial Parker wonderfully, so that we, the viewer, are drawn to him as much as Zuckerberg is. The rest of the cast, including Andrew Garfield (Eduardo Saverin) are equally as good and help you to forget that really all you are watching is a film about a social networking service.
But it is not just the actors. The script is sharp, witty and fast-paced. The direction is excellent, as is the cinematography. It is no wonder that this film has an extremely high 97% on the aggregate review site RottenTomatoes.com.
On the surface The Social Network tells the story of one of the most bitter and well-documented cases about intellectual property of the internet age and the invention of a website used daily by millions. However beneath that it is about some very simple, very human actions and emotions: ambition, desire for the opposite sex, envy, loyalty and friendship. It is compelling, amusing, fascinating and most importantly it teaches us that whatever we do, do not get on the wrong side of a computer geek. They may just create one of the world’s most visited websites.