Tuesday, February 1, 2011

The Social Network - Stroke of Genius

Somehow I didn't get around to seeing The Social Network during its theater run. Lately I've found that I only go to the movies when it's convenient for everyone else despite my own desires. Money is that great hindrance to a lot of fun these days and when you're only working part-time, you have to make sacrifices.

On my birthday, I got the book it was based on - "Accidental Billionaires" by Ben Mezrich. I'm a fan of Mezrich ever since I heard him on Jim Rome's radio show talking about his book that led to the film "21" and when I read this book, I was blown away.

Based primarily on interviews with Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin and others along with a ton of research, it read like a movie with a cinematic feel for background and getting inside his character's minds. It showed how Mark Zuckerberg was motivated by the desire to prove how smart he was and how Facebook affected relationships with him, Saverin and Sean Parker. 

It helped that Mezrich is a Harvard man who could easily capture the vibe of the campus and the secret societies like someone who knows, not someone who just read about it. I got my hands on a copy of the film this weekend and sat down last night to watch it with high expectations. Needless to say, they were all met.

The film's pacing is quick with snappy, witty dialogue and jumping back and forth between the rise of Facebook and the lawsuits. And it works well because 1) this is a movie for our short attention span era, 2) there was plenty of depth and complexity that let you know this wasn't a popcorn film.

Well-deserved Oscar nominee Jesse Eisenberg captured Zuckerberg perfectly from the book - sarcastic, driven, ambitious, selfish but also captivating. But I was more impressed with Justin Timberlake as Sean Parker. If you had told me 10 years ago he'd go from boy band to a serious actor, I would've dismissed you. Yet it's true. Timberlake had that flashy, superstar ego down to a point where you didn't think he was holding his own, but rising to the level of talent around him and making it believable

The score was perfect for nearly every scene, created mainly by another genius in Trent Reznor. It forced the right emotions out of you and at the end, you could almost feel for Zuckerberg in a way you wouldn't have watching the movie.

I've always been a fan of Aaron Sorkin's writing and I knew he'd faithfully adapt Mezrich's story. David Fincher added another notch to his stellar resume (didn't know he made Seven, Fight Club and Benjamin Button) as he carried out a brilliant vision of not just the rise of an empire but it's impact in those crushed by it. There were no villains or heroes, just people around the age of my peers caught up in the pursuit of their American Dream.

That's why it's the most timely movie I've seen in years. I remember catching on to Facebook in 2004 and I've watched it grow from an exclusive site to what it is now. So many of my friends probably have those same reflections. People in the 18-30 range can see themselves in this movie because everyone in this movie is in their age group (Zuckerberg's only 4 months older than me). Older folks who jumped on after Facebook transcended college can find an appeal in understanding the high stakes involved with starting a successful empire.

A film this well-done from directing to writing to acting to score to execution doesn't come along often. With all due respect to the King's Speech, this movie will only grow in importance as Facebook enters its second decade. At the end, I had the same feeling that I felt after Inception. Mind-blown and wishing I could re-enter the experience.

Go see the movie. Then read the book. You won't find a more timely combo of excellence.

(Update: Also read the Time Magazine piece on Mark Z. being named Person of the Year. A good insight into who he is straight from the horse's mouth.)


  1. You'll have to forgive me, but I didn't find JT's performance as great as you did. I've never been a big fan of his (admittedly stemming from being a BSB fan instead of a *NSync fan), but I couldn't tell if I was annoyed by him because it was JT or if I was annoyed by him because his character was annoying...perhaps a little of both.

  2. No apologies needed - although I see your lovely bias there haha. Judging by your reaction to Zuckerberg's portrayal, I'm betting you really didn't like JT as Sean "over-the-top, ruthless, cunning" Parker.

  3. Yes...I think that goes back to what I said this past weekend that I felt sorry for Eduardo because it seemed that Sean Parker said all the same things Eduardo did, but because they were from Sean Parker, Zuckerberg listened.

  4. That's what bothered me. Zuckerberg overlooked friendship and passion for what Sean Parker brought to the table. Maybe Eduardo was too driven by tradition but at least you take care of the ones you start with who aren't trying to screw you.

  5. Exactly!!!! Of course I think it's also very telling that none of the listed Facebook co-founders actually still work at Facebook except for Mark.