Saturday, October 16, 2010

The Social Network Review

Like most people, I have a Facebook profile. I signed up back in January 2007 and used it as an extra means of communication between friends and colleagues, to chat with them as an alternative to email, to plan various events, and yes, to check if that random cute girl was listed as "single." With the way online culture was (and still is) rapidly evolving, a social networking site the likes of Facebook simply made sense. One thing I never bothered looking into, however, was the origin of the site.

Now, about three and a half years after signing up, The Social Network has been released to theatres. Directed by David Fincher, The Social Network dramatically tells the tale of how the most successful social networking site in the world came to be.

It's 2003 and Harvard student Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) has just broken up with his girlfriend (Rooney Mara). Pissed off and getting just a little drunk, he hacks into several Harvard databases and creates a site called FaceMash where students can go and rate between different girls as to which is hotter. The site is a success and crashes Harvard's servers, all in the same night, and while this generated a great deal of on-campus notoriety for Zuckerberg, it brought him to the attention of the Winklevoss twins (Armie Hammer) and their friend and business partner Divya (Max Minghella). They enlist Zuckerberg's aid in creating a Harvard dating site, which Zuckerberg agrees to but continually delays, creating his own site on the side with help from his best friend, Eduardo Saverin (Andrew Garfield).

As Thefacebook launches and instantly becomes successful on campus, the boys look to grow the site, and interestingly enough Sean Parker (Justin Timberlake), the inventor of Napster, becomes involved as an adviser and ultimately plays a role in forcing Saverin out.

The Winklevoss twins accuse Zuckerberg of theft of intellectual property and Saverin sues for damages, and Fincher uses these lawsuits as the means for telling the story of The Social Network. Multiple lawsuits are contrasted with the telling of the sites origins and Zuckerberg's interactions with everyone involved.

The Social Network is based on the book The Accidental Billionaires and the real Zuckerberg, nor anyone from Facebook itself, were consulted. With that in mind, I've taken the drama presented in the film with a grain of salt as, let's face it, it's a movie and movies are meant to entertain. Zuckerberg is portrayed as a completely insensitive jerk who uses, and to a degree, is used during the creation and success of Facebook. Having never looked into the site's history before, I admit I found it rather interesting that the guy who made Napster was involved, but I must admit that I found the film very powerful in the portrayal of the dynamics of the people and the way that business screwed them all. Loyalties are divided, friendships ruined, and so much of the problems faced are petty and juvenile and I found myself easily empathizing with this (thanks corporate world!).

Without question I found the acting in the film very, very strong. Given the culture and people I typically associate with, Zuckerberg was very identifiable for me, an easy character to understand and to a certain measure, relate to. Same goes for Saverin, and I felt quite sorry for him and what he went through. The cast overall did an excellent job fleshing out the dramatic humanity of the characters, and The Social Network is the single most character driven film I recall watching this year.

Without hesitation I can easily recommend The Social Network, as given its content it's a film that just about anyone can enjoy. And for me, here and now in October 2010, I barely use Facebook anymore and haven't used it extensively for several months. Why? Because I find that instead of accessorizing the social process it began to replace it, which I don't agree with, and the irony of the greatest social networking site in the world destroying the friendship of it's original founders was not lost on me.

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