The Social Network

I saw The Social Network this weekend (for only $5 before 12:00 noon, weekends at AMC!) and never imagined there was so much to the story of facebook. For those of you unfamiliar with the film, it's adapted from the book The Accidental Billionaires by Ben Mezrich which chronicles the creation of the social networking site. Though I cannot speak to how accurately the film (or the book) portrays real events, the movie tells a riveting story of the controversy surrounding ownership of the idea for facebook, the precarious nature of friendship when intermingled with business, and the ensuing legal battles once contentions arise.

I first want to make it a point that this movie contained very few, if any, redeemable characters and yet it was still thoroughly satisfying. I tend to find it difficult to view a film positively when I can't say the same for it's main character. Not the case with The Social Network. With winning performances delivered all around, this riveting film successfully accomplishes the daunting task of creating an entertaining and enjoyable story played out by a cast composed by some extremely polarizing characters.

A Harvard computer programming student, Mark Zuckerberg (portrayed by Jesse Eisenberg) is one of the co-founders of Facebook. Zuckerberg is the man behind the actual development of the website and all its trademark features. His best friend, Eduardo Saverin (played by Andrew Garfield), is the business man behind the enterprise, as well as the initial source of all Facebook funding. Though Facebook is not the first controversial website to Zuckerberg's name, it is by far the most famous and tendentious. Fellow Harvard students Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss and Diyva Narendra approached Zuckerberg with an idea for an elite social networking site following the model of myspace or friendster. The clincher, however, was that you would need a Harvard email address in order to join the site. After a drunken internet stunt attracts attention to Zuckerberg's programming talents, they enlist his help to transform their idea into virtual reality. Before long, however, Zuckerberg has independently created his own social networking site originally entitled The Facebook, without contributing to or acknowledging the Narendra and the Winklevosses.

Obviously the site grows beyond the Harvard community to include the Ivy Leagues and then all college students, and now admits any user with an email address. Zuckerberg becomes the youngest billionaire in history, but along the way he is sued by the Winklevoss twins and Narendra for stealing their idea and then later by his former best friend Eduardo once business deals go awry. With appearances from Sean Parker (played by Justin Timberlake) who created Napster and a cameo from Bill Gates, the film carries Zuckerberg out of his elite intellectual East Coast hub and over to the West Coast where the behind the scenes action grows increasingly wilder and more expensive. The fast-pace of The Social Network mirrors the speed with which Zuckerberg was propelled to an unprecedented level of virtual fame and fortune.

Told along a compelling time-line, the film doesn't broadcast the complete story in chronological fashion. Rather, the legal repercussions of Zuckerberg's actions before fulling disclosing how they came to be. But the solemnity of dual legal battles with an ex-best friend and fellow Harvard students are cut by hilarious one-liners thrown by the curt Zuckerberg. Though I'll offer you the opportunity to form your own opinion regarding the film's central character, I do think that his portrayal allows room for sympathy, if not a laugh or two at his attitude of such disinterested haughtiness.

Whether you're a Facebook user or not, The Social Network is a story that defines our current generation, not only because it provides the history of the definitive virtual fulcrum for social experience, but also because never before has our world been conditioned for people so young and inexperienced to amass such exorbitant amounts of money off such an intangible, and yet for many of its users, vital product.

Images from Social Network and Digital Trends

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