SOCIAL NETWORK, starring Jesse Eisenberg

Everyone is raving about this movie. I’m just scratching my head.  Sure, it’s well put-together and nicely acted. Yes, the script is tight and smart. But “Best Movie of the Year”? Really?

The Social Network is about college kids partying too hard and getting mad when one of them hits the mother lode and leaves the rest of them behind. It’s about the rise of Facebook. It’s about the lawsuits brought against Mark Zuckerberg, the World’s  Youngest Billionaire by some non-billionaires who want some of his money.  

The story:

Harvard kid Mark Zuckerberg (played very well by Jesse Eisenberg) is dumped by his girlfriend because he thinks conversation on a date is supposed to be Edgy and Smart instead of Sweet and Companionable. He thinks their relationship is a contest of who has the fastest and most cutting conversational come-back.  When she walks out, he doesn’t examine himself to see if he is the blankety-blank she says he is, but instead proves that he is by blogging bad things about her, including some personal vital stats. Not satisfied with hurting just one woman, he decides to diss girls in general by comparing them two-by-two in an exercise of Mass Subjectification of Women that is instantly so  outrageously popular that it crashes the Harvard servers.

Zuckerberg gets called on the administrative carpet for hacking through Harvard cyber-security, but gets the attention of the Winklevoss twins (kid you not, their real name is Winklevoss), a couple of rich Harvard rowing stars who want to start a social network to link the Harvard student body. They ask Zuckerberg to write the program for them, and then they go back to the rowing tank to work on their Olympic aspirations. Weirdly, they meet Prince Albert of Monaco.

The social site the Winklevosses envision would be different from MySpace because it would allow users to manage who sees their information. Exclusivity is the name of the game, which makes sense: we’re talking about Harvard, after all. Zuckerberg jumps on board, then decides he wants to play this game by himself, gets The Facbook up and running in a few short weeks and completely cuts the Winklevi (his term) out of the loop. They sue.

The movie goes back and forth between the legal depositions and the development of Facebook from a little Harvard-only social network to the behemoth we all know, love,  and use daily (okay, several times daily). The Winklevosses want a cut of the pie, and Eduardo, Zuckerberg’s former friend and original Facebook CFO (who gets cut out of the deal along the way) wants his share in the company back. In between there is a lot of college nonsense (including hazing and chicken “cannibalism”) and a lot of young men and women partying too hard–some of them fornicating in public toilet stalls. 

Justin Timberlake makes a great villain as Napster founder Sean Parker. Parker is on the take in every way, but he does have the smarts to point out that, for the savvy capitalist, it makes sense not to sell to the first bidder if your company might go global and eventually be worth A Billion Dollars.  

Given, no one wants to be the dumpee in an ended relationship, but am I supposed to feel sorry for a 26-year-old billionaire because a girl dumped him at 19 and won’t friend him back? Wasn’t everyone dumped at 19? No one wants their intellectual property to be heisted, so maybe it’s the Winklevoss Twins I’m supposed to feel sorry for with their Harvard educations, their Olympics, and their Family Money.  I actually did feel pity for the hard-working Eduardo, who ends up soaking wet, forgotten, and dismissed, but am I really to believe that it matters whether someone does or does not gain admittance to a Harvard “final club”?  Am I to wince with pain  (or, alternately, feel some sense of civic justice) when a man with a Billion Dollars has to write a few checks?

The ending is emotionally unsatisfying. There is Mr. Zuckerberg writing checks and pining over a girl he didn’t appear to really like all that much.  I’m thinking that if you asked Mr. Zuckerberg (now 26), he’d tell you that being the world’s youngest billionaire is not as lonely and/or depressing as the movie would have us believe.   

Very good acting. Great writing.