The Social Network

Released:  2010

Cast:  Jesse Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield, Justin Timberlake, Armie Hammer, Max Minghella, Josh Pence

Oscar Wins:  Best Writing – Adapted Screenplay (Aaron Sorkin), Best Original Score (Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross), Best Film Editing (Angus Wall, Kirk Baxter)

Oscar Nominations:  Best Picture, Best Director (David Fincher), Best Actor (Jesse Eisenberg), Best Sound Mixing (Ren Klyce, David Parker, Michael Semanick, Mark Weingarten), Best Cinematography (Jeff Cronenweth)

SUMMARY:  In 2003, Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) is a 19-year-old Harvard student who is a whiz at web coding and hacking.  After he creates an extremely popular website that crashes the school servers, Zuckerberg is approached by the Winklevoss twins (Armie Hammer) and their business partner about working on their planned Harvard social/dating site.  Soon after, Zuckerberg tells his friend Eduardo Saverin (Andrew Garfield) about his idea for a social networking site called Thefacebook, which would be exclusive to Ivy League schools.  Saverin provides the startup money for this site, which quickly becomes popular among students.  When the Winklevoss twins and their business partner find out about the site, they accuse Zuckerberg of stealing their idea and complain to the President of Harvard.

Meanwhile, Zuckerberg continues to add schools to the network, and meets Sean Parker, the founder of Napster.  Zuckerberg believes that Parker truly understands what he is trying to achieve with the site, and decides to move the company to Palo Alto (and drop the “The” from the site name).  Saverin, however, remains at Harvard, where he works on business development and tries to find advertisers.

When Facebook hits Europe, the Winklevoss twins decide to sue for theft of intellectual property.  Saverin, who is unhappy with Parker’s influence in the company, freezes Facebook’s bank account, but later unfreezes it when he learns that the company has gained a $500,000 investment deal.  Although he doesn’t realize it at the time, this deal essentially liquidates Saverin’s share of Facebook (while maintaining everybody else’s share), and removes his name from the company masthead.  This leads Saverin to also sue Zuckerberg.

In the end, Zuckerberg settles with both the Winklevoss twins ($65 million in return for a non-disclosure agreement) and Eduardo Saverin (unknown amount and his name restored to the masthead as co-founder of Facebook).  End credits note that Facebook now has over 500 million members in 207 countries.  Facebook is valued at $25 billion, making Mark Zuckerberg the world’s youngest billionaire.

MY TAKE:  Full disclosure:  I have a Facebook page, and I spend a lot of time on the site.  Before watching this film, I knew that there had been lawsuits involving Facebook, primarily over whose idea it actually was.  However, I figured that this was mostly a case of somebody trying to cash in on the money train that is Facebook.  After watching the movie, I’m not so sure.  Basically, Mark Zuckerberg comes off as a pompous (but brilliant) ass who doesn’t care about anyone but himself.  He milks his best friend (Saverin) for the money to start and run the company, then cuts him loose when he no longer needs him (actually, he does more than cut him loose – he pretty much screws him over).  Whether or not Zuckerberg stole the idea for Facebook from the Winklevoss twins is questionable, but it’s certainly very suspicious-looking, and Zuckerberg’s dodgy behavior towards them only furthers that suspicion.  By the end of the movie, I found myself rooting against Zuckerberg, even though I already knew how the story ends:  for now, at least, Zuckerberg seems to have profited massively from his questionable business tactics.

RATING:  A really good movie, and one worth seeing.  It even made me think about deleting my Facebook page in protest.  For about 5 minutes.  Be forewarned:  they talk REALLY FAST in this movie, and you need to hear most of it to get the whole story.  Don’t watch it if you’re sleepy or in an environment where you can’t concentrate.

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