“Facebook me” – we hear this phrase relentlessly, possibly without knowing its origins. David Fincher’s long-awaited film The Social Network explores the events that led to the creation and growth of the most frequented website on the Internet. It follows Mark Zuckerberg (played by Jesse Eisenberg) and his friends from their Harvard origins to their recent struggles involving several intellectual property litigations.
The Social Network begins with Zuckerberg speaking to identical twins, the Winklevosses (both played by Armie Hammer), about building a site called the “Harvard Connection,” a dating site that would help girls find Harvard men. After this meeting, Zuckerberg is struck with inspiration for a social networking site, “The Facebook.” Throughout the process of building up his website from scratch, his close friend Eduardo Saverin (Andrew Garfield) finances this endeavor. However, when Facebook goes public, the Winklevosses believe Zuckerberg has stolen their intellectual property and sue him for millions of dollars.
Zuckerberg also meets Sean Parker (played by Justin Timberlake), the inventor of Napster. Parker greatly influences Zuckerberg to the benefit of Facebook but to the detriment of his friendship and partnership with Saverin, who is forced to sell his stock and leave the company at Parker’s request. The film proceeds in a retrospective fashion, jumping back and forth between the initial birth of Facebook and the lawsuits that Zuckerman faces.
Besides for framing the film, the lawsuit scenes interspersed within the rest of the film cause a build-up in anxiety, as the audience has trouble focusing on anything other than the eventual outcome of the cases. The anxiety has a detrimental rather than suspenseful result, dampening and even eliminating what joy and surprise the audience might have felt alongside the actors during the other scenes. Furthermore, its stalling of the action seems to draw out the film. Though such back-and-forth flashes may have made more sense once the legal aspects became intertwined with the plot itself, this was not necessarily the case. From the very opening scenes, the audience is not released from the grips of an emotionally draining trial under which lies an tone of worry and distress that overshadows all of the drugs, sex and happiness.
In addition, the audience finds it almost impossible to relate to Zuckerberg due to his portrayal as a socially awkward a–. This leaves the audience in a strange position of needing to root for someone else, most notably Saverin after Zuckerberg carelessly belittles his accomplishments out of jealousy. The negative portrayal of Zuckerberg adds nothing to the film besides the tedious exercise of making the audience unhappily support an unlikeable character. In addition, The Social Network fails to deliver the joyride promised in the trailer. This film does not simply depict the excitement that accompanies the creation of a phenomenon but also the litigations and emotional turmoil that arise when millions of dollars are on the line.
Several film critics have questioned the film’s authenticity. Zuckerberg himself has commented that the film created many filmic yet unrealistic motivations for the characters, who seem as if they “can’t wrap their head around the idea that someone might build something because they like building things.” Major parts of the film seem to be cinematic interpretations of real life, whereas other tiny details are frighteningly accurate. Zuckerberg, for example, has commented that he owns every shirt and sweatshirt Eisenberg wears in the film. Also, a fun fact for special effects junkies: two completely different people actually did play the Winklevoss twins. During post-production the special effects team replaced John Pence’s face (the one not seen in the film) with that of Hammer.
Overall this film is a testament to our age and how money and power can sully the closest of relationships. It is also tribute to inspiration and the endless possibilities that emerge from the human imagination. Not only was The Social Network better than expected, but it also revealed surprising depth for a story that explained and humanized an everyday part of our daily lives.