Timely and of-the-moment, The Social Network is a film that's not to be missed. Even if you are not a Facebook user, this story about the creation of the famed social networking website and the subsequent lawsuits that followed is compelling, fascinating and riveting.
With themes of friendship and betrayal that even Williams Shakespeare would be proud of, Social -- directed by David Fincher -- also explores the notion of what constitutes intellectual property.
Anchoring the film is Jesse Eisenberg, who delivers a career-making performance as Facebook's founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg. Eisenberg portrays him as a man who is at once an arrogant asshole, a brilliant visionary and a wounded little boy, spurned by the rejection of a girl that propels him forward.
Screenwriter Aaron Sorkin's razor sharp dialogue is adapted from the book The Accidental Billionaires by Ben Mezrich, as well as his own research, including the actual depositions from the lawsuits.
Since all those involved in the creation of Facebook have different account of how things came to be, the story dramatizes several, telling it from three different viewpoints. This gives the audience the opportunity to live in several different pairs of shoes before ultimately deciding whose they feel most comfortable wearing. However no matter which pair you stand in, it's pretty ugly and ruthless.
The film opens with Harvard student Mark Zuckerberg getting dumped by his girlfriend Erica (Rooney Mara) at a college bar. Back at his dorm, the rejection fuels him to create a website that instantly goes viral and crashes the entire Harvard system. This gets him attention from the Winklevoss twins, who approach him about creating a Harvard-based social networking website.
Zuckerberg agrees to help them, while telling his own friends he has an idea for a website and immediately enlists his college buddy Eduardo Saverin (Anderw Garfield) to bankroll it. Both sides are unaware of the other until Zuckerberg's baby is officially launched and Saverin accidentally comes across a notice from the Winklevoss camp to take down the Facebook site.
That's just the beginning for the betrayals. For Saverin, there are more surprises in store when he finds himself squeezed out of the company when Zuckerberg relocates Facebook to California and invites Napster creator Sean Parker (played by pop star Justin Timberlake) to be part of the company.
Eisenberg, who up until now has played nerds, losers and weak pushovers in films like The Squid and the Whale and Zombieland, takes on his most complicated and adult role to date. Without having any personal access to the real Zuckerberg, the actor manages to create a completely three dimensional portrayal that leaves us simultaneously in awe, chilled to the bone and feeling sorry for him. It's a performance that is sure to garner recognition during awards season. Eisenberg owns the role, making us feel there could not have been any other actor meant for the part but him.
According to the press notes, Fincher shot upwards of 70 takes of the dialogue-heavy scenes. Not just so he could have multiple angles to chose from during the editing process, but so that Sorkin's distinct dialogue would roll off the actors' tongues organically and effortlessly, overlapping each other like it would in real life. In some cases, as many as 200 were needed. During the deposition scenes, the director took actors privately aside, personally drilling it in their heads that they were in the right and the person sitting across from them was the one who wronged them.
That worked paid off. Each side is so convinced -- and convincing -- that they are correct, the audience feels like a member of a jury that must decide who to believe. The decision is not easy as nothing is black and white. And that's exactly what the filmmakers want us to think.
Balzac once said: "Behind every great fortune, there is a great crime." Today, 26-year-old Zuckerberg has a reported net worth of $6.9 billion thanks to co-creating Facebook. Crime may be too strong of a word in the case of Facebook's creation, but then again, that would also depend on which scorned party you talk to. If you have a great idea, but someone else has the actual skills to execute it, can you lay claim to it? That's a discussion that continues long after the movie is over.