I don’t facebook. I don’t tweet. I barely text (I had to learn because it’s the only way my kids want to communicate). I can’t believe that these websites have turned into verbs, and how quickly.
But there is no denying that Facebook is a phenomenon, and The Social Network portrays its rise and trajectory in a smart and stylish way, turning a cultural and technological explosion into dramatic storytelling that grabs our interest and doesn’t let go.
Played as a borderline Asperger’s syndrome sufferer by Jesse Eisenberg, TheFacebook’s founder Mark Zuckerberg is shown right away as extremely intelligent, socially inept and altogether human when he blogs about his breakup with Erica Albright (Rooney Mara). Yet he is inexplicably able to attract one “normal” friend: Eduardo Saverin (Andrew Garfield), a Brazilian finance major at Harvard, where they are both trying to gain acceptance and meet girls. In fact, it is this desire to lash out at Erica that drives the idea of TheFacebook’s predecessor, facemash.com.
This movie was so intriguing that I spent an hour the next day googling (another techno-verb!) the real people and listening to interviews to see how accurately they were portrayed. As Mark Zuckerberg has often stated, it wasn’t quite as exciting and dramatic in real life, but “it’s a movie…they are trying to tell a good story.”
Told both in the present, during which Zuckerberg is deposed in two lawsuits, and interspersed with flashbacks to the events being described, a picture emerges of this idea that catches on like wildfire: connecting with other students online to share information, pictures, and relationship status (because after all, they are trying to meet girls!). At first limited to Harvard email addresses to give it exclusivity to set it apart from Friendster and MySpace, it progressed to include a few hundred colleges before exploding with the encouragement of bad-boy visionary Sean Parker, Napster founder, deliciously west coast rock star sleazily played by Justin Timberlake.
Accused of stealing their concept and developing it on his own by Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss (tall hunky crew-rowing twins ingeniously played by Armie Hammer and Josh Pence with a healthy dose of CGI and blurred photography) and their partner Divya Narendra, Zuckerberg is at turns condescending and wounded, his two-note emotional repertoire.
The movie follows facebook’s (dropping the “the” along the way) leap into venture capitalism, silicon-valley startup offices, treachery, betrayal and the milestone of 100 million users (it is now reported to have over 500 million active users and is annoyingly prevalent at the bottom of almost every website with its own “f” link). Ultimately the lawsuits are settled, people move on, and Mark Zuckerberg is still thinking about Erica Albright, because after all, we all want to be loved, even if we can only be friends.