Like a lot of other people this weekend I went to see what everyone’s dubbing The Facebook Movie. I’m still wondering how many people even know what it’s about, and if they’re expecting some sort of interactive Facebook experience when they see it. For people who don’t know, it’s the story of how Mark Zuckerberg created the ubiquitous social networking site and all the people he allegedly screwed over in the process. Jesse Eisenberg (he of hyper-intelligent emo nerdiness) plays Zuckerberg like the smartest douchebag you ever met. I wanted to smack him about thirty seconds into the opening scene, with the engaging Rooney Mara (The American “Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”), and was hoping her character would do it for me. She didn’t, but she did dump him which, for just that conversation alone, I’m sure was thoroughly deserved.
Eisenberg is convincing in the role and by most accounts it’s a good performance, but he failed to make me feel for the character at all. Then again, maybe that’s the point. The film was adapted from the book The Accidental Billionaires by Ben Mezrich, that is reportedly compiled mostly from the point of view of Eduardo Saverin, co-founder and former CFO of Facebook, and most importantly, Zuckerberg’s ex-bff. In the film he’s portrayed by Andrew Garfield, (star of the new Spider Man reboot. Why that is happening at all is beyond me, but that’s another blog for another time) and he does a fine job at creating a sympathetic, believable character.
The film is centered around two lawsuits Zuckerberg is facing, one by Saverin and the other by the Winklevoss twins (an excellent Armie Hammer whose face was digitally superimposed over another actor's to play both parts. Easily the coolest thing about the whole movie) and Divya Narendra (Max Minghella), Harvard students who claim that Zuckerberg stole their idea for a social networking site exclusively for students at the school and turned it into Facebook. I never really understood, and still don’t get, how it’s any different than myspace.com or Friendster.com (remember that?) as intellectual property. Meaning, if those sites can’t sue him or each other, I don’t see how anyone else with a similar site or idea could either. Not to mention that, in the film, they talk about how the Harvard students’ directory pages were online “facebooks” which is where they all seemed to really get the idea, but Harvard wasn’t suing him for anything.
Although, I felt like the characters in the film talked way too much, I have to give screenwriter Aaron Sorkin credit for his mostly sharp dialogue and for building a compelling story out of what were essentially two boring depositions. Also, director David Fincher does a good job at creating a realistic atmosphere of backstabbing, greed and animosity without overdoing it. At its center, however, is a character that remains enigmatic throughout. As he’s presented, Zuckerberg doesn’t seem to be motivated by money, and as much as the film hints at his need to belong, when Napster creator Sean Parker (Justin Timberlake) shows up and introduces him to the sex and drugs side of being an internet rock star, he never seems to be interested in partying, only working on code and expanding the company. Maybe he wants to be connected to everyone, but doesn’t know how to do it any other way. Maybe he’s a calculated business man. Maybe he’s a hurt little boy. We leave the film never knowing.