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Dormroom Billionaire

The Social Network

Everyone already knows how big Facebook is today. The website’s addictive nature, privacy problems, massive influence, it is all common knowledge. So the idea of “Facebook: The Movie” did not initially sound like the most interesting project talents like writer Aaron Sorkin and director David Fincher should be investing their time in.

But The Social Network is much more than a movie about a website. Indeed, Facebook itself is hardly seen in the movie. The filmmakers instead focus on the real-life drama that surrounded the website’s development.

Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) is the genius who co-founded Facebook with the help of fellow Harvard students. He is involved into two legal battles, one with his best friend and one with three other students who say they came up with the idea for Facebook. As the film travels back a few years, it shows how these people got to the point of suing each other.

After his girlfriend dumps him, Zuckerberg gets drunk and starts a website called “FaceMash,” which takes pictures of female students from Harvard dorm face books and lets browsers pick who is the most attractive. The page is quickly shut down, but lasts long enough for Zuckerberg to attract the interest of some other students looking to create an exclusive social network for Harvard students. Zuckerberg starts working for them, but finds himself developing an idea that eventually becomes Facebook.

None of that sounds particularly interesting, but Sorkin’s script is so full of witty banter that it is riveting. Of course this is enhanced by the Fincher’s excellent direction, which always puts the camera exactly where it should be. Even the soundtrack by Nine Inch Nail’s Trent Reznor makes it clear that these are not simply nerds who spend all their time in front of computer screens, but the rock stars of our time.

Despite all his intellect, Zuckerberg ironically has trouble connecting with people. Eisenberg’s performance is wonderful in that it makes Zuckerberg somewhat sympathetic, while also a huge jerk. He handles Sorkin’s dialogue with ease and puts an end to any debate of whether he is the indie Michael Cera.

The rest of the cast, including new Spider-Man Andrew Garfield as Zuckerberg’s best friend Eduardo Saverin, ably performs. Justin Timberlake is great as Sean Parker, the creator of Napster and apparently the coolest guy in the world of Internet entrepreneurialism. Also worth noting is Armie Hammer, who plays the Winklevoss twins, two amusing stereotypical Harvard men.

In some ways, The Social Network is old fashioned. It is a classical tale of a rise to power, full of greed, lust, and betrayal. That it is able to make an interesting, accessible story about subjects as complex as computer programming and depositions is remarkable.


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