I’ve always viewed Facebook as one of those interesting creations that begs the question, “Why didn’t I think of that?” Once you experience these things it’s like wondering how you never connected broad daylight with the appearance of the sun. That said my experience with the service is a bit limited. Just the other day someone “tagged me in a note” and, try as I might, I wasn’t sure how to go about doing the same thing. I can tag someone in a picture but saw no way to do that for a note.
For me Facebook was simply a nice extension of the rip-off that was Classmates.com. Here was a service that connected you to a bunch of people you hadn’t heard from in decades (and generally for good reason). For this you paid $30 a year. I always wondered who actually paid for more than a single year. Thankfully I’m glad to say I never paid them a dime.
The Social Network tells the story of the genesis of Facebook and its creator Mark Zuckerberg. I will start by saying that I’ve never seen Facebook as the evolutionary invention that some portray it as including this movie. Classmates was created in 1995—nearly a decade before Facebook—and many other tangential sites also were out there. Zuckerberg surely deserves credit for expanding the concept and providing the key pieces that made it so viral but Facebook’s creation was certainly not in the same realm as, say, inventing the light bulb.
The movie takes us from the earliest moments of inspiration up to the moments before it really exploded as a world-wide phenomenon. It explores the personalities involved and the contentious battles for true ownership of the idea and the resulting company.
Every moment of the movie is fantastic. You feel as if you’re really experiencing all of it. The script was written by the wonderful Aaron Sorkin (who has a bit part near the middle of the film) and so you just know the dialog’s going to be special. Verification of this comes right from the very first words of the very first scene.
We feel like we know virtually every major character inside and out. You can feel the motivations of all involved as if you’re able to step, quickly, into each of their heads. It’s really something to experience. The psychology of each character is very much on display and so well represented but, as noted, the sociology involved in several scenes is amiss. Stereotypes abound but, thankfully, don’t detract from the final product. I just wish the movie could place Zuckerberg at center stage without having to try to present him as being on par with Thomas Edison. Other similar sites like MySpace are mentioned only briefly, and then, only in disparaging ways as if they were all entirely unrelated to Facebook. This choice does detract a bit from the reality in my view. Outside observers looking at MySpace and Facebook would see only minor (albeit obviously crucial) differences between them.
Jessie Eisenberg as Zuckerberg is spot-on. I can’t imagine the producers finding anyone better for the role. We meet Justin Timberlake playing Sean Parker, co-founder of infamous Napster. Who would have guessed this guy could act? And well!
I could have watched this story for hours more and, in contrast with a few recent films, the time here flew by. For me a biopic of this type has to tell me things I had no idea about, make those things interesting and do it in a way that doesn’t feel like a documentary. The Social Network hits all the right notes in this regard. It was so powerful that I really made me think twice about wanting to be a part of Facebook. That’s not so easy to pull off. It’s among the best movies I’ve seen so far this year.