Punk. Prophet. Genius. Billionaire. Traitor.
The year is 2003, at the most prestigious university in North America.
Mark Zuckerberg is a Harvard sophomore and a genius computer programmer. He’s brash, cynical, and brilliant. After getting dumped by his girlfriend, Erica, Mark downs several drinks in his dorm room. Then he and his best friend, Eduardo Saverin, use a complicated computer algorithm to hack into popular social network FaceMash and re-arrange it into a voting contest about the attractiveness of Harvard female undergraduates.
Concurrently, Mark publishes a spiteful blog about Erica. Both the FaceMash hack and the blog post go viral, with a staggering 22,000 hits in less than four hours. It ends up crashing the entire campus network, angering numerous female students, and gaining the attention of the student affairs office. Mark faces six months of academic probation for his offenses.
Identical twins Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss, both of whom compete on Harvard’s nationally-ranked rowing team, catch wind of Mark’s little hack. They develop the idea for a type of campus-wide social network called “The Harvard Connection” with their associate Divya Narendra. The three men recruit Mark to their cause, and he accepts.
Soon afterwards, Mark approaches Eduardo for an idea that Mark calls “the Facebook,” and Eduardo provides $1,000 for start-up money. Mark builds the website, and it soon becomes insanely popular, spreading quickly to Yale, Columbia, and Stanford, among many others. When Divya and the twins find out, they’re livid, and attempt to bring a university lawsuit against Mark by appealing a breach of student conduct. They take it all the way to the university president himself, to no avail.
Enter Sean Parker, a playboy Palo Alto entrepreneur who founded music download website Napster at the tender age of 19. Once he hears about Mark and his website, Parker can’t resist. Despite the decline and failure of Napster, Parker is clever, ambitious, and ready to move onto something bigger. It looks like Zuckerberg has met his match.
While at a rowing competition in the UK, the Winklevoss twins discover that Facebook has expanded to Oxford, Cambridge, and the London School of Economics. Furious, they file a massive lawsuit against Mark for intellectual property theft.
Meanwhile, Parker has dinner with both Mark and Eduardo, inviting them both to Silicon Valley to participate in their new joint venture. Mark goes all in, but Eduardo is more reluctant. Not trusting Parker, Eduardo voices his frustrations to Mark and freezes the company’s bank account. Mark, in turn, mentions to Eduardo that Facebook has received a generous six-figure donation and that everything will be OK. In the meantime, Eduardo pursues an internship in New York, while Mark moves to California to grow Facebook with Parker’s help.
In the ensuing months, Facebook has become a worldwide sensation. Eduardo makes an unexpected trip to California, where he discovers that he’s been double-crossed and his 34% share in the company has been reduced to a minuscule .03%. Enraged, he confronts Mark and also threatens legal action. Someone’s going down, and it’s not gonna be pretty.
It is virtually impossible to look at Facebook with fresh eyes in 2015. In fact, I bet that while you’re reading this, you’re on Facebook in another browser tab (hey, no judgment here). So it’s hard to imagine life before the addictive, blue-trimmed social network site. Based on that alone, The Social Network is a weird movie.
But it’s also weird because we basically know two major plot points right away:
A) Facebook became an unprecedented success and propelled Mark Zuckerberg to an unthinkable level of stardom.
B) Mark Zuckerberg is an incredible prick.
We don’t know the ending right off the bat, but it’s an interesting film because it’s not just based on a true story, but based upon a real-life website that millions of people use everyday in all corners of the globe. How did an arrogant Harvard dropout become one of the world’s most famous people? How did this seemingly far-fetched idea catch on with so many people? All this and more is answered.
Director David Fincher (Fight Club, Se7en) shows us the intense, unfiltered side of the tumultuous early years of the social networking site that became a global sensation. Helped by Aaron Sorkin’s dynamic script and unwavering performances by Jesse Eisenberg and Andrew Garfield, The Social Network succeeds on a grand scale as a searing drama and a somewhat dark and bitter take on human interaction. It’s neither social commentary nor allegory, but it’s nonetheless extremely effective at its take on this memorable story, and is incredibly compelling viewing despite the underlying themes of betrayal, cynicism, and the sheer unlike-ability of its protagonist.
Critics also took note of this unique cinematic achievement; The Social Network was nominated for eight Academy Awards and took home three (Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Film Editing, and Best Original Score), and the film currently has a 96% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. It also took home the Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture – Drama.
The Social Network ends with titles that inform us of the legal aftermath. Eduardo settled for an unspecified amount of money, and his name was restored as co-founder of Facebook. The Winklevoss twins, who went on to compete in rowing at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, settled for $65,000 and signed a non-disclosure agreement. The social media world was forever changed by these trials and their resulting changes.
And therein lies the greatest irony of this story: that Mark Zuckerberg created a “social” media site despite being an anti-social tool who alienated everyone around him.
The film ends with the final title:
Facebook has over 500 million members in 207 countries; it is valued at 25 billion dollars.
Mark Zuckerberg is the world’s youngest billionaire.
Directed by David Fincher
Produced by Scott Rubin, Dana Brunetti, Michael De Luca, and Cean Chaffin
Screenplay by Aaron Sorkin
Based on the book “The Accidental Billionaires” by Ben Mezrich
Director of Photography — Jeff Cronenweth
Music by Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
Edited by Angus Wall and Kirk Baxter
Starring Jesse Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield, Armie Hammer, Max Minghella, Justin Timberlake, Joseph Mazzello, Brenda Song, Rashida Jones, John Getz, and Rooney Mara
Rated PG-13 for sexual content, drug and alcohol use and language.