The Social Network, a film dramatisation of the founding of Facebook, by David Fincher

29 October 2010

A scene from The Social Network, a film by David Fincher

A scene from The Social Network, a film by David Fincher.

The Social Network (trailer), directed by David Fincher, is based on Ben Mezrich’s book The Accidental Billionaires, which he penned with the help of Eduardo Saverin (Andrew Garfield), one of the co-founders of social network Facebook, who later fell out with CEO Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg).

Bookended between numerous litigation sessions in lawyers’ offices, The Social Network pieces together the early days of Facebook through a series of flashbacks. The story focuses mainly on the roles of Zuckerberg and Saverin in creating the network, and how they dealt with raising money and profile, while fending off people claiming they had stolen the Facebook idea from them.

After his girlfriend, Erica Albright (Rooney Mara), ends their relationship, Zuckerberg, a technically brilliant but emotionally cold Harvard University computer science student, hastily builds Facemash. It’s a hot-or-not style website that compares female Harvard students with each other. Zuckerberg sources the photos Facemash needs by effortlessly hacking the databases of Harvard’s colleges.

Although Facemash is quickly shut down, word of Zuckerberg’s programming and hacking skills spread, and he’s soon approached by twins, and fellow students, Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss (both played by Armie Hammer). They have an idea for an exclusive Friendster/MySpace clone, but want to restrict membership to only those with Harvard email addresses.

They ask Zuckerberg to help, but after agreeing he instead creates the first version of Facebook, then called The Facebook. His friend and roommate, Saverin, puts up one thousand dollars to cover web hosting in return for a thirty percent share in the venture, and role of CFO.

The Facebook proves a hit with Harvard students, and other universities in the US and Britain are soon admitted to the fold. Meanwhile Napster founder Sean Parker (Justin Timberlake) hears about The Facebook and arranges hefty financial funding for Zuckerberg. Saverin however sees Parker as a threat to his influence, which quickly becomes a source of tension between him and Zuckerberg.

Any dramatisation about an organisation as ubiquitous as Facebook is certain to be of interest to a large number of people. Unlike many highly anticipated films that might play on the hype surrounding their subject matter though, The Social Network does not create false expectations.

Facebook made clear before the film’s release that neither they, nor Zuckerberg, had any involvement in the production of The Social Network. And while Zuckerberg does not present as a villain per se, his portrayal by Eisenberg is far from flattering.

Facebook has certainly had a controversial history (are stories of the early days of Friendster and MySpace anywhere near as colourful?) and it seems every other week brings news of another alleged privacy breach, or a new court action of some sort. Is it therefore a portent of things to come that the final scene plays out in a lawyer’s office?

Originally published Friday 29 October 2010.


, , , , ,