I finally made it out today to see the acclaimed drama THE SOCIAL NETWORK, although I have seen so many previews and interviews that I almost felt as if I had already seen the film itself. Based very loosely on an account of the rise of Facebook, THE SOCIAL NETWORK gives a slanted but extremely entertaining view of the life at Harvard in the early part of this decade when competing computer geeks attempted to create social internet sites for their campus. Directed by David Fincher, who gave us provocative fare like SEVEN, FIGHT CLUB, and THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON, this film was written by Adam Sorkin of WEST WING fame. The director and writer have assembled an almost perfect cast of young men to play both the nerds and elites of Harvard undergrad life.
And the picture of the priviledged, often snobbish enclaves at one of the top Ivy schools is often scathing in its look at old money, entitlement, and rampant ambition. Jesse Eisenberg stars as Mark Zuckerberg, a brilliant, self-absorbed computer whiz who may be somewhat autistic in his social skills (he seriously lacks them). His performance is so on spot that he is sympathetic, annoying, and downright ridiculous all in one scene. Sorkin sets up his screenplay by cross-cutting among two trials against Zuckerberg from fellow students who claim he stole the Facebook idea from them, and the writer cleverly never tells us exactly what happened in the creation of the new site. But we do see friendships betrayed, millions lost, and billions gained. Perhaps the strongest performance comes from Andrew Garfield as Eduardo Saverin, an idealistic but naive young man who worships Zuckerberg for his computer skills and funds the initial site. Garfield's enlightenment about the world of business and being taken by his best friend is almost heart-breaking and deserves attention at Oscar time. Justin Timberlake perfectly embodies Sean Parker, the huckster founder of Napster who lures Zuckerberg to Silicon Valley and steals much of the company away from Saverin.
Sorkin and Fincher keep the action and social satire moving so quickly and smoothly that we hardly realize we are also being hustled. Who and what are we to believe about these people? One thing's for sure: be careful who and what you post on Facebook.