By Karl J. Paloucek
It wasn’t all that long ago that we lived in a world without Facebook. But as with all things in the information age, change happens rapidly, and the difference between being at the vanguard of change and just behind it can not only be razor-thin, but it can also be enough to sever friendships that should have lasted a lifetime. In essence, this is the story of The Social Network. Oscar nominee Jesse Eisenberg stars as an unbelievably arrogant Mark Zuckerberg in the story of the socially awkward rise of Facebook, the most successful social networking site on the planet.
The film tells the story of the people and the events that precipitated Zuckerberg’s creation and the fallout that resulted from it. From his early days as a Harvard-based entrepreneur, we’re shown a Zuckerberg who’s a combination of will to succeed, incredible intellect and staggering amounts of chutzpah. Interspersed throughout the narrative are scenes of testimony as his former friends and associates line up against him, vying for their intellectual property rights or stakes in the enterprise that they had helped him to build.
Regardless of the accuracy of Eisenberg’s portrayal of Zuckerberg — and there’s understandably a good amount of conjecture about the facts as presented — we’re shown this character whose ambition, savvy and hubris know few bounds. He isn’t afraid to bite the hand that feeds him, as he does when he turns on his best (only?) friend, Eduardo (Andrew Garfield), who first gave Zuckerberg the seed capital to get “The Facebook” up and running. He’s basically a pretty miserable guy whose mission in life is the relentless promotion and growth of a website for bringing people together even as he alienates those closest to him as he does it.
And that’s what’s so right — and at the same time disturbing — about this film. In the Internet age, guys like Zuckerberg and Napster cofounder Sean Parker (portrayed brilliantly here by Justin Timberlake) maintain pop-star status as young people who are capable of touching the everyday lives of the masses and altering the fabric of society. Director David Fincher may be telling a cautionary tale to some extent, but it’s doubtful that it will be seen that way by the Internet generation. Success is typically viewed as an admirable ambition in our society, and the collateral damage to the relationships as represented in The Social Network is likely to be perceived by many as an acceptable loss. That said, it’s an undeniably engaging story, and one that touches more people immediately than likely will ever see it.
Nominated for eight Academy Awards — including Best Picture, Best Director and Best Actor — “The Social Network” is now showing on Video On Demand. Check your cable system for availability.
© 2011 Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc. All Rights Reserved.