Microsoft visionary Bill Gates once said, “As we look ahead into the next century, leaders will be those who empower others.” And that’s why this astute tale about brilliant Facebook co-founder/CEO Mark Zuckerberg is so fascinating.
Cleverly adapted by witty Aaron Sorkin (“The West Wing,” “Charlie Wilson’s War”) from Ben Mezrich’s non-fiction best-seller “The Accidental Billionaire,” perceptively cast and inventively directed by David Fincher (“The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” “Zodiac,” “Fight Club”), the compelling drama centers on a contentious courtroom conflict between frustrated 26 year-old Zuckerberg and three of his Harvard cohorts over ownership of the Facebook idea. Like “Rashomon,” each justifies and validates in his contradictory deposition his recollection about how it all began and grew into a worldwide, culturally defining phenomenon.
From the first insightful scene, set in the fall of 2003, it’s obvious that brash, neurotic, socially inept Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) yearns for acceptance. Dumped by his girlfriend, Erica Albright (Rooney Mara), he drunkenly hacks into the university’s computers to trash her on-line and creates FaceMash, in which two women’s photographs are displayed and viewers are urged to choose which is “hotter.” FaceMash instantly goes viral, crashing the system, but not before it’s noticed by two upperclassmen, the WASPy uber-entitled Winklevoss twins (Armie Hammer, Josh Pence), who recruit him to design a Harvard dating website. But Zuckerberg thinks bigger and, bankrolled by his Brazilian-born best-friend/roommate Eduardo Saverin (Andrew Garfield), invents Facebook. Then ruthless Napster entrepreneur Sean Parker (Justin Timberlake) diabolically comes on the scene, bringing in investors to elevate and, perhaps, exploit the fledgling phenomenon to an astonishing level. (If Facebook were a nation, it would now be the third largest country in the world, more than 1.5 times as populous as the United States.)
While the Facebook communication concept revolves around computer technology, the enthralling story it has spawned delves into humanity to the core, involving loneliness, loyalty, friendship, greed, envy and betrayal. On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “The Social Network” is a provocative, tantalizing 10, never quite delineating the truth.