Some people have great ideas but lack what it takes to make them something more than a notion in their heads. And some people can take your idea and make it into something you never dreamed it to be. Mark Zuckerberg, billionaire CEO of the social networking site Facebook, according to “The Social Network,” is one of those people.
The movie begins on a date night in a pub near Harvard University. Mark (Jesse Eisenberg) is talking a mile a minute to Erica Albright (Rooney Mara). He talks about the social structure of Harvard and the need to get into a club. Erica attempts to keep up, and in time you can see where this is going. Erica dumps Mark and walks out the door.
Angered by the rejection, Mark goes back to his dorm room and blogs about how terrible Erica is. Then he decides to write a program in which people on Harvard’s network can rate female undergrads. Mark is a whiz of a programmer, but he needs one critical piece of information: an algorithm.
His best friend, Eduardo Saverin (Andrew Garfield), knows the algorithm, which he writes up on a window for Mark. And off goes the program that crashes Harvard’s network.
Mark’s technical prowess gets the attention of twins Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss (both played here by Armie Hammer), two Viking gods on Harvard’s crew team. The twins have an idea for a dating site and need a programmer to write the code for them. They approach Mark, who agrees to do the work.
What follows is a nonlinear story of how Zuckerberg created Facebook. Screenwriter Aaron Sorkin tells the story by using two lawsuits that were brought against Zuckerberg.
Eduardo gives capital to Mark to get Facebook up and running. Mark would do programming on the site while Eduardo would handle finances. Enter Sean Parker (Justin Timberlake), who had invented Napster and wanted on board to help make Facebook bigger.
Eduardo doesn’t trust Sean, but Mark is drawn to him like a moth to a flame. Facebook eventually takes off while the Winklevoss twins stew in anger, believing that Mark stole their idea.
“The Social Network” truly is a must-see movie. David Fincher, director of movies like “Fight Club,” “Seven” and “Zodiac,” gives us the grand tour of how kids can become billionaires.
Sorkin’s script is witty and poignant. He delivers tension as well as moments when you laugh out loud. Together, Fincher and Sorkin give us a vision at once large in scope yet focused on minutiae. You realize this is about money, but maybe not entirely about money.
At one point Sean tells Mark why he invented Napster. It had nothing to do with bringing down the record companies, but everything to do with liking a girl who was into the captain of the lacrosse team. Sean believed that his technological wizardry would cast him as cool and let him get the girl.
Fincher and Sorkin – masters of image and word, respectively – show us that Facebook isn’t only about the Internet. It’s about the interplay of people, including those who created the giant of social networks. It is an important part of the story and makes it an early Oscar contender.
Mike Parnell is pastor of Beth Car Baptist Church in Halifax, Va.
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sexual content, drug and alcohol use and language.
Director: David Fincher
Writer: Aaron Sorkin (based on a book by Ben Mezrich)
Cast: Jesse Eisenberg: Mark Zuckerberg; Andrew Garfield: Eduardo Saverin; Rooney Mara: Erica Albright; Armie Hammer: Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss; Justin Timberlake: Sean Parker.
The movie’s website is here.
Michael Parnell is pastor of Temple Baptist Church in Raleigh, North Carolina. He is married and has two boys. His love is for movies, and he can be found in a theater most Fridays.