Never a dull moment in 'Social Network'

Posted: Thursday, October 14, 2010

Without much thought, you know what I did before I wrote this sentence? I logged onto Facebook. I confirmed a couple of friend requests, and checked out the picture my fiancée had tagged me in (flowers I sent her in New York earlier today). It took me a minute to appreciate the irony there. I was delaying for a few more seconds writing the first sentence in my review about the Facebook movie... by spending time on Facebook.

In case you are one of the remaining few on the planet not on Facebook, I have good news for you: it doesn't matter. The proof is my mother, who surprised me the other evening by announcing she was coming with me to watch David Fincher's new drama, "The Social Network." This was surprising because she usually is fast asleep by the time the 7 o'clock movie starts, and because she has to date shown zero interest in Facebook. To be fair, she did not realize until halfway there that Michael Cera was not in the movie, but Jesse Eisenberg is close enough. "The Social Network" is a full two hours long and not only did my mother stay awake, she was genuinely impressed.

Eisenberg plays Mark Zuckerberg, who you likely have heard by now is the inventor of Facebook (apparently originally called "The Facebook"). Fair or not - unfair and untrue if you listen to the real Zuckerberg - screenwriter Aaron Sorkin (working from the book, "The Accidental Billionaires," by Ben Mezrich) paints Zuckerberg as a socially inept genius.

"The Social Network" opens at Harvard University in 2003 with Zuckerberg on a date that would make even Roger Lodge cringe on "Blind Date." He and his girlfriend (Rooney Mara) are drinking beer in a crowded pub and the conversation is mostly Zuckerberg passively aggressively ranting at about a million words per minute. She tries to be a good sport, but he twists everything she says around and seems hell-bent on picking fights over what he perceives to be insults. Finally, she has had enough and breaks up with him on the spot. Zuckerberg realizes he has gone too far and tries to backtrack, but he is screwed.

He is so distraught that he literally runs back to his Harvard dorm. He is Mark Zuckerberg, so he cracks open a beer and begins to blog. Oh, and he writes computer code, too. By 2 a.m. he is drunk, his blog is comparing his ex to farm animals, and he has successfully crashed the Harvard computer network.

This stunt opens the floodgates to Zuckerberg's extraordinarily fast rise to stardom and billionaire status. Twin brothers (Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss, played by Armie Hammer), both members of an elite fraternity-like group Zuckerberg is dying to be in, decide to bring Zuckerberg in on a project they have been tinkering with (think Facebook, except only for Harvard). Zuckerberg's best friend, Eduardo (Andrew Garfield) is unaware of the brothers, but agrees to partner with Zuckerberg on his own project: The Facebook. These things happen simultaneously and in the end there are two lawsuits, both filed against Zuckerberg. One by the brothers and one by Eduardo. Thankfully, Sorkin's script weaves the storyline together with snippets of the two depositions and amazingly the timeline is never confusing.

There is jaw-dropping betrayal. There is endless sarcasm and cynicism coming mostly from Zuckerberg. There is Napster founder Sean Parker (Justin Timberlake) weaseling his way into an ownership stake of Facebook. And there is never a dull moment.

In the end, even the world's youngest billionaire finds himself doing what we have all done more than once: waiting for that special someone to approve your friend request on Facebook.

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