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The Social Network:’ The film that defines a generation

Alex Kilpatrick | Monday, October 4, 2010

Highly lauded as the film that defines the past decade, “The Social Network” meets, if not rises above, expectations. David Fincher’s film tells the story of Facebook’s founding, adapted from Ben Mezrich’s 2009 nonfiction novel “The Accidental Billionaires.”

The drama not only represents the online phenomenon with strikingly honest theatrics, but much of the movie contrasts the social aspects of college with the narcissistic, albeit ingenious, misanthrope that is the social network’s founder Mark Zuckerberg.

Well portrayed by Jesse Eisenberg, Zuckerberg’s character is depicted as ironically lonely and shy but cocky at the same time. In spite of his best efforts to connect with the college social scene during his Harvard years, he finds himself incapable of maintaining any close personal friendships, instead uniting hundreds of millions of individuals in 207 countries using 70 languages.

The film is appropriately set to propulsively chilling background music by Nine Inch Nails founder Trent Reznor and music producer Atticus Ross. The soundtrack drives the movie with the pair’s eerie musical energy without distracting from the plot and character development.

Fincher manages to develop his complex characters in such a way that the audience is unsure of many of the characters’ likeability throughout the course of the movie. Zuckerberg’s friend and roommate Eduardo Saverin (played by British actor Andrew Garfield) sways the audience’s sympathies as the Facebook lawsuit’s intelligent but likeable victim, emotionally appealing to viewers in contrast with Zuckerberg’s often appallingly cold misogynistic nature.

It’s made clear from the beginning that one specific social resentment led Zuckerberg to start the website that led to his billionaire status. The film opens with Zuckerberg getting dumped by his girlfriend Erica (played by Rooney Mara), at a Harvard undergrad bar in the fall of 2003, who sharply claims that going out with him is “like dating a Stairmaster.”

Feeling angry and rejected, Zuckerberg takes revenge by hacking into the Harvard network and inventing Facemash, a website that allows students to vote on which Harvard girls are most attractive and crashes the university’s system with 22,000 hits in two hours.

The site attracts the attention of elite Harvard rowers and identical twins Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss, portrayed by unrelated actors Armie Hammer and Josh Pence with the help of computer wizardry. For the shots where both faces can be seen on the screen, Hammer’s face was digitally superimposed onto Pence’s body.

The Winklevoss twins enlist Zuckerberg to help work on Harvard Connection, an online dating service they would like to start. Simultaneously, Zuckerberg asks his best friend Saverin to fund and help with the business details of a new site, “thefacebook,” the raw beginnings of the social network that we all know and love today.

Much of the film takes place around the founders’ conflicts over intellectual property and the lawsuits that arise from the power struggles, brought against Zuckerberg both by the Winklevoss twins and by Saverin. The struggles over power are what drive the movie and many of the central characters, while the audience attempts to discover what truly motivates the calculating mastermind behind the largest online social network and the world’s youngest billionaire.

Napster co-founder Sean Parker (convincingly portrayed by Justin Timberlake) is introduced halfway through the movie as Zuckerberg’s paranoid mentor, who contributes and eventually involves himself in the Facebook business but also resolutely divides the friendship between Zuckerberg and Saverin. Timberlake does an excellent job of depicting his character as strongly dislikeable.

As for Zuckerberg’s opinion of his own depiction in the film, he said, “I just wished that nobody made a movie of me while I was still alive,” according to CNET News. In a recent interview on The Oprah Winfrey Show, when asked about the movie, he replied, “A lot of it is fiction, but even the filmmakers will say that. They’re trying to build a good story … [And] this is my life, so I know it’s not that dramatic. The last six years have been a lot of coding and focus and hard work.”

Whether or not the movie is entirely authentic to the true events surrounding Facebook’s founding, the film seems honest, which is what makes it a well-made drama. The dynamic character development, impeccable script, excellent direction, appropriately chilling soundtrack and fine acting all around are what makes “The Social Network” the defining film of the Millennial Generation.