Star cast: Jesse Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield, Justin Timberlake, Armie Hammer, Josh Pence, Rooney Mara, Max Minghella
Plot: Mark Zuckerberg, a Harvard grad student and computer programming genius, builds facemesh.com to take revenge on his ex-girlfriend. After the idea catches on, he gets in funding from his friend, Eduardo, and kick starts Facebook.com. As the website gains popularity, Eduardo and other students from Harvard sue him over the idea of Facebook.
What’s Good: Jesse Eisenberg’s vulnerable portrayal of Mark Zuckerberg; the film’s excellent screenplay and editing.
What’s Bad: Hardly a thing! Probably, the director could have delved a bit deeper into Mark Zuckerberg’s mind; unfortunately, he sticks to a retelling of the reality.
Verdict: The Social Network is an eye-opener for the Facebook addicts and an interesting story of the underdog’s ultimate victory.
Loo break: None
The Social Network is the story of Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg), a Harvard University student and the founder of Facebook.com. It takes us through the creation of the website, how it made Mark a billionaire and made enemies out of his friends.
Mark Zuckerberg is a nerdy computer geek, studying at the prestigious Harvard University. He is generally socially dysfunctional and has only one friend, Eduardo Saverin (Andrew Garfield). He aspires to join the elite student clubs at Harvard. One day, Mark is dumped by Erica Albright (Rooney Mara), a Harvard student he has been dating. Angry and vengeful, Mark returns to his dormitory room and after gulping down beer, creates FaceMesh.com, a website to rate the attractiveness of female Harvard undergraduates. For this, he uses his programming genius and hacks into the databases of different residence halls, downloads pictures and names of female students. The word spreads and within a few hours, the university computer network crashes because of the heavy traffic on the website. Subsequently, Mark is punished with six months of academic probation. He is also vilified by Harvard’s female community, because of FaceMesh.com.
On the brighter side, Mark is presented with a proposal by Cameron Winklevoss (Armie Hammer) and Tyler Winklevoss (Josh Pence), identical twins and members of Harvard’s rowing team, and their business partner, Divya Narendra (Max Minghella), who want Mark to build an exclusive social network website for them. Mark works on the idea of a social network site and develops his own model of a ‘cool’ social network. Consequently, he does not return calls from the Winklevoss twins and asks for more time. In the end, he refuses to meet them at all. Around the same time, Mark approaches Eduardo with the idea of Thefacebook, an online social networking website for exclusive use by Harvard University students, for which Eduardo puts together a thousand dollars. Once online, Thefacebook spreads like wildfire, and Mark becomes a sensation of sorts and even starts attracting some attention from girls! Mark later runs into his ex-girlfriend, who is not aware of Thefacebook’s existence. Stung by this, Mark decides to expand the site to more schools. Eventually, he also recruits new blood in the company and divides the shareholding between himself and Eduardo, the CFO.
In the meanwhile, Thefacebook captures the attention of the Winklevoss twins and Narendra, who believe that Zuckerberg stole their idea and they contemplate suing him for intellectual property theft. Also, a meeting with Sean Parker, the founder of the pirate music site, Napster, is arranged and Mark is totally taken in by his vision of how the site should evolve. Eduardo dislikes Parker, noting his problematic personal and professional history. On Parker’s suggestion, Mark drops “The” from Thefacebook to make it simply “Facebook”. Mark also moves the company’s base of operation to Palo Alto, at Parker’s suggestion, while Eduardo remains in New York for seeking advertising support.
Later, Eduardo is enraged to find Parker living at the Palo Alto house and making business decisions for Facebook. After an argument with Mark, Eduardo freezes the company’s bank account and returns to New York. Mark informs Eduardo that Parker has found an angel investor for Facebook, and that he must come to the new office to sign on the dotted line. In all faith, Edurado signs up, only to find out later that his 30 per cent shareholding was siphoned off to another investor, leaving him with only a tiny percentage. Edurado confronts Mark and announces his intention to sue him. On the same night, Parker is arrested for possession of cocaine during a party thrown on the occasion of Facebook’s 1 millionth member.
Meanwhile in England, the Winklevoss twins become outraged that Facebook has expanded to a number of universities there and decide to sue Mark. Mark then testifies in two lawsuits by his former best friend and college seniors. Finally, Mark’s lawyers reach a cash settlement with all parties concerned.
The seamless screenplay (Aaron Sorkin) is the highlight of the movie. Based on the book, The Accidental Billionaires by Ben Mezrich, Sorkin’s screenplay is excellent in the way it brings out the story of Mark Zuckerberg. He intersperses Mark’s personal life, scenes from his legal depositions and the chronology of the founding of Facebook very well. Although the screenplay moves between the past and the future, the transitions are beautiful, revealing different aspects of Mark’s personality one by one. There is a lot of talk in the film but the intense dialogues, coupled with the excellent performances, make the drama believable and interesting to watch.
Jesse Eisenberg’s portrayal of Mark Zuckerberg is outstanding. He enacts with ease the vulnerability of Mark’s character; sometimes, he is lost, at other times, angry, vengeful or repentant. Jesse brings to life the creation of Mark’s single-minded attention and his doggedness in making Facebook work. Andrew Garfield does well as Mark’s friend-turned-foe, Eduardo Saverin. Justin Timberlake fits well into the shoes of the eccentric Sean Parker. Armie Hammer and Josh Pence are good, sometimes comical, as the Winklevoss twins. Rooney Mara, as Mark’s girlfriend, Erica Albright, and Max Minghella, as Divya Narendra, provide able support.
The Social Network is another wonderful film from director David Fincher, who has given us gems like The Game, Fight Club, Se7en, Zodiac and The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button. He holds the film together and extracts excellent performances from his cast. His sensitive and realistic portrayal of Mark Zuckerberg’s personality should be applauded. He does not overdo the grey areas of Mark’s persona; instead, he leaves it up to the audience to make their own judgments.
Fincher is supported ably in all departments: cinematography by Jeff Cronenweth; original music by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross; and editing by Kirk Baxter and Angus Wall.
All in all, The Social Network makes for a good watch. Of course, the film’s USP is the fact that it decodes the making of one of the most phenomenal Internet websites of our times. This is sure to bring the youngsters to the box-office. However, given the fact that there are only an estimated 20 million Facebook users in India, the appeal of the film to the general population at large will not be immense.