The Social Network

Can a film be thrilling when instead of exploding automobiles or grenades or bombs, the only thing explosive is an idea? Do you think you want to see a movie where instead of an ever-increasing body count, what becomes paramount is the rapidly rising number of ‘unique visitors’ or ‘page hits’?

Apparently the answer to these questions is that ideas do explode, and that page hits not only matter, but they can lead to someone becoming a billionaire, and provide enough fodder for a brilliant film that millions and millions will see.

When Mark Zuckerberg played by Jesse Eisenberg says that he got 22,000 page hits in the first two hours his website was online – jaws literally dropped both onscreen and in the audience. This (my) website has been online since the end of last october, and I’ve received only a few hundred more than 23,000 page visits.

The Social Network is a fast paced film and that won’t even begin to give you any idea about how fast the story moves along.  Eisenberg portrays Zuckenberg as both a motor-mouthed geek as well as someone sorely lacking in interpersonal skills. He is not trying to talk his way into the pants of Erica, (Rooney Mara) likely he had already visited that precinct; instead he’s off on a tangent about getting into a Final Club. He’s obsessed with the thought and the status that would come with it. He wants to more than just fit in to the social fabric of Harvard. He wants to hang with the elite, and the privileged. He can talk of nothing else.

He motors along, amazing himself but not Erica with his wit and speed. He does it as fast as you can blink – almost beyond Erica’s understanding of what he is saying to her. Or ours. He comes off as a supremely arrogant, self-centered asshole, which is what Erica calls him as she finally has had enough and storms off.

So what does Zuckerberg do? Later that night, after a few more brews in his dorm room, uh sorry, Kirkland House on Harvard Yard, he trashes her on his blog, and in the course of the rest of that night he designs and builds a web-platform that he calls facemash. This is an online site with the capability of having the page visitors  say (by clicking a Hot or Not Hot button) which Harvard females are hot and which aren’t. His roommate and only friend, as well as the only likeable character we meet in the entire film, Eduardo Saverin (brilliantly acted by Andrew Garfield) provides the necessary algorithm to make the whole thing work.

That’s how Facebook began and that’s how the movie begins. The ‘facemash’ site, however demeaning it was to the Harvard women, took off like wildfire. It spread so quickly that it caused the Harvard servers to crash. Zuckerberg is called in to face some charges from the school’s administration but these seem to be no more of a bother to Zuckerberg than brushing crumbs off his lap.

But this website catches the attention of the fabulous Winklevoss twins. These guys, 6’5″, 220 lbs, and there’s two of them, as they like to say, along with their cohort, Divvya Narendra, have been trying to build a similar site, only a bit more complex as in a ‘dating site’. So they decide to invite Zuckerberg to join them and help them build their creation. Only once Zuckerberg gets a look at their concept, his mind starts going even faster than ever. He stalls and stalls, and ultimately after six weeks, he gives them a no can do – there are problems email.

In a flash we then see the launch of his idea, The Facebook. Zuckerberg’s concept was to take the entire social experience of college and put it online. Did he steal the idea from the Winklevoss twins – they think he did. They end up suing him.

Did the Facebook website become a social phenomenon which would eventually circle the globe? It did.

Did Zuckerberg, who apparently disdained money, at least initially, get seduced by Sean Parker, the Napster guy, here played by Justin Timberlake with an oily yet charismatic fervor, with thoughts of California, Champagne, and all the drugs and women one could handle?

Apparently not the drugs, but the availability of women was certainly on Zuckerberg’s mind. I mean the whole thing got rolling after he was dumped, or more specifically because he was dumped.

So what we have here is a superbly  crafted film – which played beautifully between the past and the present, or said another way – between the creation and the lawsuits that Zuckerberg faced in the aftermath/success of Facebook..

Zuckerberg became the world’s youngest billionaire, The Winklevoss twins got their slice ($65 Million worth), and even Eduardo Saverin got himself back on Facebook after he had been forced out by Zuckerberg and Parker, and the venture capitalists who provided the fledgling Facebook with gobs of money,

I thought Aaron Sorkin’s script was marvelous, the rapid dialogues exciting, the pacing frenetic as well as absorbing. I admire Director David Fincher’s mild gamble of going with young actors and actresses who may have lacked the name recognition often necessary to sell tickets. Only it wasn’t in truth much of a gamble at all.

Fincher could do that (cast a lesser known group of actors ) because Facebook was all the name recognition they needed. As the tagline says, You don’t get to 500 million friends without making a few enemies. That’s about Zuckerberg. But is also about selling tickets. I have a Facebook account, which I rarely use, but I did buy a ticket. Do the math… you don’t need to be a Harvard graduate to see that it looks like they will have a big, big day at the box office with this film. When you add in the fact that it is an excellent movie…the dollars will roll in.

I wonder if the real Zuckerberg, who offered no help whatsoever to the film makers, will take in the film. Of course it is quite likely that of all the people all over the world who are involved with Facebook, he is the one single person more likely than anyone else on the planet who will skip the film.

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