Film Review: The Social Network

The Social Network
About The Social Network (2010)
The Social NetworkDavid Fincher’s The Social Network is the stunning tale of a new breed of cultural insurgent: a punk genius who sparked a revolution and changed the face of human interaction for a generation, and perhaps forever. Shot through with emotional brutality and unexpected humor, this superbly crafted film chronicles the formation of Facebook and the battles over ownership that followed upon the website’s unfathomable success. With a complex, incisive screenplay by Aaron Sorkin and a brilliant cast including Jesse Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield and Justin Timberlake, The Social Network bears witness to the birth of an idea that rewove the fabric of society even as it unraveled the friendship of its creators.

Starring: Jesse Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield, Armie Hammer, Justin Timberlake, Monique Edwards

Directed by: David Fincher

Runtime: 120 minutes

Studio: Sony Pictures

Amazon US Amazon UK IMDB

Review: The Social Network

Like many millions of people, I use Facebook as well as Twitter, but my knowledge of Facebook’s main founder Mark Zuckerberg was somewhat limited. The Facebook IPO was hard to ignore but the story of Facebook’s founding was unknown to me until Mrs B insisted I give The Social Network a try.

The film opens in 2003 at Harvard University where Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) splits up with his girlfriend Erica Albright (Rooney Mara). The break-up prompts him to not only drunkenly blog about her but during one intense night of programming, Mark creates Facemash which is so popular it crashes Harvard’s network. Faced with disciplinary for hacking, Mark’s fortunes seem on the up when he is approached to build a dating website exclusive to Harvard. Soon after, Mark comes up with the idea of Thefacebook and from humble beginnings the network grows. The film cuts between the founding and growth of Facebook in the past and two difficult lawsuits Mark faces in the present – one from brothers Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss (Armie Hammer) and Divya Narendra (Max Minghella), and another from Mark’s former best friend and Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin (Andrew Garfield).

The break-up between Mark and Erica at the outset is pivotal to what follows. Mark comes across as arrogant and condescending, believing his own inevitable success as a Harvard student will allow Erica to see places she would never have been able to based on her own efforts! Mark is a real charmer and Erica understandably dumps him. Mark gets drunk that same night and blogs about Erica, his ramblings about her personality and bra size are picked up by many students much to her humiliation. Mark also chronicles his development of Facemash, a program that takes photos of students from university networks Mark hacks into and puts them side by side so users can pick which one is the most attractive. Having pilfered images from several universities and made the website live, the Harvard network crashes as thousands of students go online to use Facemash. Six months academic probation is Mark’s reward but his achievement has not gone unnoticed. Rowing enthusiasts and brothers Cameron and Tyler, along with their friend Divya approach Mark to build a dating website for them known as Harvard Connection and one that is exclusive to the university. Mark agrees to the work but following his experience of Facemash he has an idea of his own.

Mark pitches the idea of Thefacebook to his best friend Eduardo who agrees to fund the venture. Over the next few months, Mark builds the website, creating thousands of lines of code while rebuffing any attempts from Cameron and Tyler to meet up and discuss their project. One day they get an email from Mark saying he doesn’t believe their website is worth pursuing. Mark is launching Thefacebook so he no longer has time to work with the brothers. The website builds slowly but when Cameron and Tyler learn about it they disagree on what to do. Cameron refuses to sue but Tyler is adamant they should as Mark has clearly stolen their idea. Their efforts to get the university to intervene fall on deaf ears and Mark continues seemingly unopposed. Gradually the film builds up to the two lawsuits Marks faces for his actions but what will the outcomes be for him.

I wasn’t interested in seeing The Social Network when it was first released but now I’m glad I have. Eisenberg is great in the lead portraying Zuckerberg as both a brilliant programmer but also self-serving, especially in his treatment of his friend Eduardo which leads to the two men falling out and Eduardo suing Mark for actions which are simply appalling. For all Mark’s business ruthlessness he is depicted as somewhat fragile at times, especially when it comes to Erica. Though they split up at the start, Mark doesn’t forget her and even though she moves on with her life he still thinks of her at the end. Zuckerberg’s recent dealings in the media will not have changed many people’s perceptions of him that this film will give. He recently sold some of his shares before the price dropped and the day before he married which safeguarded his latest fortune and meant his wife would have no claim on the money should they ever divorce. The Social Network offers a fascinating debate when it comes to the lawsuits. I personally agree with the outcome of both but felt Cameron and Tyler’s lawsuit was a fragile one at times.

The Social Network is a fascinating look into the origins of Facebook and an attempt at getting to the heart of Mark Zuckerberg. While his motivations and loyalties are highly questionable, there is no doubting that he is a very talented man and has made a huge contribution to the world of communication in the last ten years.

Verdict: 5/5

(Film source: reviewer’s own copy)

Follow Dave

Dave Brown

I was born in Barnsley, South Yorkshire, England and have always been a bookworm and enjoyed creative writing at school. In 1999 I created the Elencheran Chronicles and have been writing ever since. My first novel, Fezariu's Epiphany, was published in May 2011. When not writing I'm a lover of films, games, books and blogging. I live in Barnsley, with my wife, Donna, and our six cats - Kain, Razz, Buggles, Charlie, Bilbo and Frodo.
Follow Dave
Pin It

  1. I really liked this movie too! Don't faint. I especially liked the part where he said he wasn't mad at the brothers for suing him because they were 'expected' to get ahead. To win. Also when he skewered them for not contributing one thing to the project but they wanted the money. I thought it was very insightful about class in the US.

  2. I was absolutely satsified with the movie. I expected something worse. It is unbelievable that Facebook has 1 billion users now… Just in a few years. I think it is almost scary.

  3. Yeah, I agree with Coral…and I loved this movie. I'm really in the minority though in that I actually was primarily sympathetic to the way they portrayed Zuckerberg in it, and less to his friend Eduardo and the Winklevai. I agree with Coral's comment re: social class and entitlement…but would add that the Winklevoss' also assumed he'd be willing to play a "beta" role, because to them, there was no such thing as an "alpha" who didn't look like them or have their backgrounds. Bottom line is, you don't hire an alpha to do beta work…unless you're an idiot, or a pair of idiots, in this case. An idea doesn't entitle you to riches, not if you don't have the skill or work ethic to manifest it yourself.

    With Eduardo it was more sad…I saw Zuckerberg trying to pull him along and keep him on board, but Eduardo's ideas *were* bad and he *would* have probably relegated Facebook to a beta idea if Z. had actually listened to him (again the portrayal of Zuckerberg, I have no idea close to reality it is). The reason Zuckerberg's character liked the Napster guy so much was because that guy was a visionary too, and really *got* him as a result…in addition to seeing the true potential of FB. Eduardo, on the other hand, *didn't* get it, *wasn't* really on board with the more ambitious approach, and didn't have the vision or the experience to think big enough. Heck, he wasn't even around when most of the company was being built. So yeah, I actually think he wasn't really the right guy for the CFO role. That's sad, yeah, but it doesn't make Zuckerberg a jerk. It's more a case in point as to why you probably shouldn't go into business with your friends. I think it's right that he got paid off for his early contributions, but he flat-out wasn't qualified for his job.

    So yeah, I saw Zuckerberg as a social retard, and yeah, a 14 year old boy when it came to his interactions with women…but the movie in no way convinced me he was a bad guy, or even particularly unethical in terms of the business side of things. But who knows what the real story was? I'm more responding to the story told by the movie, and the fabulous script by Sorkin.

    1. That's the only problem with the movie, I suppose. We don't know how close to reality it is.

      Mark is left full of regrets at the end about the girl he treated badly but in real life Zuckerberg married this year to girl he'd been with since university.

      I accept that his friend wasn't cut out for the role in the company, he didn't even know how to use FB properly, but still think redistribution of shares in the company was cold. Eduardo and the annoying brothers got settlements in the end and Zuckerberg is a billionaire so everyone won in the financial stakes just not the personal stuff.

Leave a Comment