‘The Social Network’ — a great film with unlikable characters
If you frequently read my “Throwback Thursday” column, you know that I typically review a movie that I have already seen. It’s usually something I like; a movie that I have seen several times.
However, that is not the case this week. I was scrolling through Netflix over the weekend when I stumbled across “The Social Network,” a 2010 film about the origins of Facebook. I’ll be honest — I’ve always wanted to watch “The Social Network.” It was just something that I wasn’t compelled to see in the theatre and it never showed up on Netflix — until now.
The film begins in October of 2003, when 19-year-old Harvard University student Mark Zuckerberg (the fantastic Jesse Eisenberg) is dumped by his girlfriend Erica Albright (Rooney Mara). When he returns to his dorm, Zuckerberg types an insulting entry about Albright on his blog, ZuckOnIt. Jeez, why didn’t he just get on Facebook and rant … oh, nevermind.
Still angry at Albright, Zuckerberg creates a campus website called Facemash. He hacks into college databases and swipes photos of female students. Facemash allows visitors to rate their attractiveness by choosing one student over another. Facemash gets so many hits in one night that it crashes part of Harvard’s network. Zuckerberg has a hearing and is given six months of academic probation.
But the popularity of Facemash gives Zuckerberg some notoriety. He quickly attracts the attention of twins Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss (a dual role played by Armie Hammer) and their business partner Divya Narendra (Max Minghella). The three have an idea called the Harvard Connection, a social network exclusive to Harvard students and aimed at dating. Zuckerberg agrees to help develop the website, but then disappears. He avoids the three at all costs.
Instead, he approaches his friend Eduardo Saverin (Andrew Garfield) with an idea for Thefacebook, a social networking website that would be exclusive to Ivy League students. Saverin provides $1,000 in seed money, allowing Zuckerberg to build the website, which quickly becomes popular. When they learn of Thefacebook, the Winklevoss twins and Narendra are upset and understandably so. After all, they believe that Zuckerberg stole their idea while keeping them in the dark by stalling on developing the Harvard Connection website.
As Thefacebook begins to take off, Zuckerberg gets contacted by Napster (remember that?) co-founder Sean Parker. Make no mistake about it, Parker is a leech and Justin Timberlake plays the role perfectly. Parker eventually convinces Zuckerberg to move to California and leave Eduardo behind.
The film hops back-and-forth between 2003-04 and a time in the future when the Winklevoss twins, Narendra and Eduardo sue Zuckerberg. There is compelling testimony scattered throughout the film. Do the Winklevoss twins have a case? Did Zuckerberg steal their idea? What about Eduardo? Zuckerberg basically kneecapped Eduardo after he fronted $19,000 to start Thefacebook.
The one takeaway that I had is that none of these guys are very likeable. Eduardo is probably the best of the bunch and it’s pretty clear that he got royally screwed by Zuckerberg.
“The Social Network” is based on the book, “The Accidental Billionaires,” by Ben Mezrich. David Fincher did a masterful job directing and Aaron Sorkin picked up an Oscar for adapting the screenplay. All told, “The Social Network” won three statuettes. Trent Reznor (Nine Inch Nails) grabbed one for his haunting score. It also won for film editing.
On first watch, “The Social Network” is a pretty darn good film. If you are curious about the origins of Facebook, “The Social Network” is a good place to start.
“The Social Network” is rated PG-13 for language, adult themes and some drug use. It’s available from Netflix, YouTube, iTunes, Amazon Video, Vudu and Xfinity OnDemand.
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Chris Morelli is a staff reporter for The Express.