My fiancee and I were fortunate last night to see an special advance screening of the new Facebook movie, “The Social Network,” billed as the film that Facebook doesn’t want you to see. It’s a great teaser and it’s true. Based on a book by Ben Mezrich, who also wrote “Bringing Down The House” about the bad boys and girls at Harvard who figured out how to use their brains to beat the house at the casinos of Las Vegas. That book was made into the film “21.”
This film is more about the genesis and probably tougher on the kids in Crimson who started what they called “The Facebook.”
The screenplay was written by the excellent Aaron Sorkin, who takes his fast and smart dialogue he used on “The West Wing” and turned it up to warp speed. These brilliant students like co-founder Mark Zuckerberg and his best friend and co-founder Eduardo Saverin don’t just think at a million miles a minute, they speak that way too. In the beginning they just wanted to be cool. Little did they know the hazards that lie in their respective futures. And little did they know they’d go from being best friends at Harvard to archenemies in the cut-throat business world.
The movie, which takes place frequently at Harvard, was actually filmed at Boston University (which is a victim of a quick verbal insult – talk about biting the hand that feeds you) and Wheelock College. The filmmakers begin with the birth of Facebook from a night in a dim dormroom where Mark uses Eduardo and a formula he’s familiar with. This computer hacking technique gives them access to photos of woman at every house on campus and the ability to create a tiny version of the current Facebook.
This “Mashbook” which allows all Harvard students to scrutinize and compare women catches the attention of a couple of big, rich men on campus who are trying to create a social dating site called “Harvard Connection,” which leads to a partnership with more partners, or more importantly INVESTORS!!!
And so we’re up and running. In a big way. Mark decides to expand the Harvard early-version of Facebook to other Ivy League campuses. But along with the great big ideas come also the dirty little lies. Mark lies to Eduardo about his association with some of his partners. Mark lies by not keeping the “investors” in the loop. Finally, after meeting the founder of multi-millionaire founder of Napster, Sean Parker, played with great flourish and deviousness by an ultra-confident Justin Timberlake. Mark finally yields to Sean’s suggestions to move to California, along with all of the other partners in this growing endeavor. In other words, the web is growing more and more tangled as Mark continues to take more and more initiative without the initiative or consent of his partners.
And that’s when the problems begin. As the company gets bigger and the zeros multiply, the lawsuits against a nationally flourishing Facebook stack up. The original “Harvard Connection” twin crew members and investors sue Mark Zuckerberg. And here’s where the actor playing Mark, Jesse Eisenberg really starts to show his range. The scenes during depositions with room after room after hilarious. It’s evident to everyone that Mark is the smartest person in the room, with or without the law degree. Eisenberg may play the part nerdy at times, but it’s soon clear he is a creative genius with an obsessive streak for greatness. Others who excel are Mark’s college buddy Eduardo Saverin, who as brilliant if not as crafty or zealous as his buddy Mark. And I would be remiss, if I didn’t give big kudos for Trent Resnor for his incredible soundtrack. It sets just the right tone for this tale. Smart, evocative words and music.
In the end, when all the cards come tumblin’ down and all the lawsuits (for now) settled, it almost seems like the days of the first “Wall Street” film, when the means didn’t matter, just the end. And greed is good. Everybody gets big-time settlements or payoffs and Mark Zuckerman remains still, the youngest billionaire in the world.
This is a film that raises many hard questions. For instance: When all is said at done and the billions are made, does loyalty matter in business? Does friendship and creative control matter?
Or is it just cash that is king in the hard, cold world?