The Social Network ****

Is it worth $10? Yes

Whether or not Facebook has changed the world for better or worse is debatable. But “The Social Network,” which chronicles the early days of the web giant, is indisputably great as it tells the story of a social outcast and makes him the conduit to bringing people together all over the world.

Aaron Sorkin’s (“The West Wing”) script is based on Ben Mezrich’s book “The Accidental Billionaires” and depositions from two simultaneous lawsuits against Facebook founder/aforementioned outcast Mark Zuckerberg. Played here by Jesse Eisenberg, Zuckerberg is a brilliant kid at Harvard who’s just trying to fit in when he comes up with the idea for Facebook.

But is it his idea? Director David Fincher’s film also includes Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss (both played by Armie Hammer), who earned a $65 million legal settlement after claiming they gave Zuckerberg the idea for Facebook. Eduardo Saverin (Andrew Garfield), Zuckerberg’s best friend at Harvard and a co-founder of the site, filed the other lawsuit after repeated disputes over the company’s direction.

The Winklevoss, Saverin and Zuckerberg perspectives are each given their due, and Fincher shows a mastery of the material as he tells a gripping tale of greed, betrayal, power and billions and billions of dollars.

All the performances are strong, but two stand out. One is Justin Timberlake’s, who plays Napster founder Sean Parker. Oozing charisma, Parker is the spark of the tension between Saverin and Zuckerberg. The other great performance belongs to Hammer, who plays the Winklevoss twins. Watching it, you would never know the same actor is playing both roles, which makes it both a technical marvel and a tribute to Hammer’s acting as he gives each twin his own personality.

How much of the film is true or fictitious only the real people involved know, though Zuckerberg has dismissed the movie as “fiction” and Saverin refuses to comment (it’s part of his settlement that he not speak publicly about the site). Regardless, “The Social Network” is about to become the only story people know about Facebook’s origins, and given the popularity and accolades (expect lots of Oscar noms) Sony Pictures is anticipating, it’s likely to be the only story people know for a long, long time. 

With recent estimates placing the value of Facebook at $33.7 billion, “The Social Network” plays like a time capsule to seven years ago when the world was a more verbally communicative place. Now, ironically, interpersonal communication skills have diminished and been replaced by “Like” and “Share” buttons.

The long-term impact of this is still to be determined, but it’s not a stretch to say Facebook will be looked back upon as the idea that began a new era of human communication. And because “The Social Network” makes the origins of this world-changing idea so compelling, it too is a total success.

Did you know?
Pre-production has already begun on a movie about the founding of Google. The movie is based on Ken Auletta’s book “Googled: The End Of The World As We Know It.”


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