Jesse Eisenberg in The Social Network

The Social Network


When I started this website, Facebook was just starting to be a blip on everyone’s radar. At that time, anyone stepping into the arena we call social networking was seen as MySpace’s prison bitch. If you need to be reminded about what MySpace is, you can Google it. It used to be big.

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If this movie is accurate, then Facebook is indirectly the result of Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg), then at Harvard, getting dumped by his girlfriend, Erica (Rooney Mara). As a result, he goes home, starts to drink, writes a nasty blog post about her and proceeds to create FaceMash, a website that lets his fellow Harvard students rate the hotness of women on campus. By four A.M., Zuckerberg is a pariah with every pair of X chromosomes at Harvard and the campus network has been brought to its knees.

The dual facts that he wrote it in one night while shitfaced and that it managed to crash the university network that same night attract the attention of the Winklevoss twins, future Oympians in rowing Cameron (Armie Hammer) and Tyler (also Armie Hammer), plus their business partner (Max Minghella), who want him to create a social network for Harvard. Zuckerberg quickly agrees, either because he likes the challenge, it will get him in tight with two members of the jock fraternity or it will help him rehab his reputation with the female half of the student body.


Zuckerberg then proceeds to blow off the Winklevoss’ project and, with the help of this friends Eduardo (Andrew Garfield) and Dustin (Joseph Mazello), create the beginnings of what we now know as Facebook. Needless to say, when it goes online and their “Harvard Connection” does not, the Winklevoss twins are not pleased.

The entire story is told in an interconnected series of flashbacks during not one, but two depositions for lawsuits against Zuckerberg and Facebook. One involves the “Winklevii,” as Zuckerberg calls the twins, and the other Eduardo, who’s suing because he was marginalized at Facebook after Zuckerberg met Sean Parker (Justin Timberlake), the founder of Napster.

Parker, it appears, finds that the true way to Zuckerberg’s heart is to agree with him and do things his way. The new partner manages to drive a wedge between the two co-founders and lure Zuckerberg out to the Bay Area.

I’m of two minds about The Social Network. There’s no denying that the quality of filmmaking on screen here is top drawer. The performances are first rate and movie tells a compelling story that seems a lot shorter than the film’s two hour running time. As drama, it deserves the high praise it has received. The real problem is whether or not that story is true.

The film starts out playing loose with the facts. The FaceMash website that Zuckerberg created was for rating both men and women, and people were most upset that their photos were used without their permission.

In a more general sense, I have my doubts about the film’s character of Mark Zuckerberg. He’s an almost sociopathically unpleasant person, who seems totally oblivious to the effect he has on other people. Eisenberg’s robotically unblinking performance reminded me of Star Trek’s Commander Data, if someone had installed a “snotnosed punk” algorithm. The hardest thing to believe is not that this Mark Zuckerberg lost all his friends, but that he had any in the first place.

Then there’s the Winklevoss twins. Why did they take so long to sue Zuckerberg? Is it because they pursued other avenues first and lawsuits take a long time to get off the ground? Or is like it shown on screen, that one of the brothers didn’t think it was something that “gentlemen of Harvard” would do? I find that hard to swallow, but I guess stranger things have happened in real life.

So what is responsibility of filmmakers when portraying actual persons? It’s one thing for screenwriter William Goldman to pretty much make up anything he wanted to about Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, since at the time they had been dead for about 70 years and were of no real historical significance. He could have shown them as goat-raping transvestites, and no one living would have been harmed.

Mark Zuckerberg is very much alive and the creation of Facebook, like it or not, is of huge cultural and economic significance. No one denies that, with real events, some creative license needs to be taken, but I think Zuckerberg, the others involved and the audience deserve better than the hatchet job I think this film was.

So my star rating for this movie is a weighted average. for the filmmaking but barely for its fidelity to the factual story it purports to dramatize.

1 thought on “The Social Network

  1. Retro Hound

    Zuckerberg has said that he’s still with the woman that supposedly dumped him in the film. Who knows what else is wrong.

    Goldman said that after talking to a one of the WWII vets he wrote about in A Bridge Too Far and finding out how the humble man felt about the words put into his mouth, Goldman decided to never write about anyone living again. My, that sentence is cumbersome.


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