Review - The Social Network

The Social Network (2010), PG-13, 120 minutes – In The Social Network (the story of how facebook came to be) Jesse Eisenberg takes on yet another geek role. Only this time around he isn’t the quiet pushover, but instead a quick talking, driven, ‘I’m smarter than you and not afraid to show it’, Harvard student (facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg. Just as I was afraid that the likeable Eisenberg was going to be stuck in a typecast rut, he shows us the other side of the coin. A geek who is typically socially challenged, but is highly confident in his knowledge and abilities and enjoys showing them off when he can. Eisenberg is easily the star of the film and not just because he’s the main character but because his portrayal commands attention.

The film kicks off with Zuckerberg conversing with his girlfriend Erica Albright (Rooney Mara) over a couple of beers. What should be a casual conversation about his attempts to join one of Harvard’s social clubs turns into an argument that leads to Erica dumping him. He doesn’t just go home, he runs, cracks open another beer and starts blogging. Not only does he degrade Erica, he starts hacking into school networks and programming a website he calls facesmash.com where people are shown two pictures of female students and can then pick which one they think is hotter. The site then randomly generates another pair of pictures. He does this with the help of one of his friends Eduardo Saverin (Andrew Garfield), whose algorithm he uses for part of the site. The site pulls an insane number of hits and crashing the Harvard servers. This gets the attention of the administration as well as a set of twins, the Winklevosses) who are in one of the social clubs the previous night’s argument started over. The Winklevosses try to recruit Zuckerberg to help them program/launch their idea for a social networking website that would be exclusive to Harvard students. Zuckerberg agrees and over the next couple of weeks he works night and day on the idea while ignoring and avoiding the Winklevosses whenever possible. With some financial backing from Saverin the site launches and begins its viral expansion across campus. That’s pretty much the basis for the film of this real life story – the Winklevosses sue Zuckerberg with stealing their idea, then later Saverin also sues as his ownership is diluted to virtually nothing. Thrown in for good measure is the advice and social influence of Napster creator Sean Parker (Justin Timberlake).

It’s really amazing that when the film is over, you find yourself feeling bad for Zuckerberg even after the things he has done (both justified and not) while becoming the world’s youngest billionaire. This is because of Eisenberg’s portrayal – insanely driven, not waiting for anyone, making his own way. It may have been another ‘nerdy’ role, but here’s hoping The Social Network opens up other challenging roles for Jesse Eisenberg in the future. The latest effort from David Fincher is definitely worth a watch.

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