Zuckerberg’s Cool Idea

Facebook marked its 10th anniversary this February, a few months before its creator, Mark Zuckerberg, turns 30. It’s not every 19-year-old that changes the world.

The success and background drama of Facebook inspired the 2010 film, The Social Network, available on DVD at Whitehorse Public Library.

While the film recounts true-life events, it’s not a strictly factual account. Instead, director David Fincher and screenwriter Aaron Sorkin highlight underlying themes in the story of Facebook and Zuckerberg.

In an interview with Dylan Callaghan published on the Writer’s Guild of America website, Aaron Sorkin said, “The invention itself is as modern as it gets, but the story is as old as storytelling; the themes of friendship, loyalty, jealousy, class and power.”

Harvard student Mark Zuckerberg (played by Jesse Eisenberg) is a genius with computers, but not that smart with women. In the film, his friend Eduardo Saverin (played by Andrew Garfield) complains, “How do you do this thing where you manage to get all the girls to hate us?”

Zuckerberg distracts himself from the sting of a breakup by coming up with what he calls “Facemash.” Using photographs hacked from the databases of a Harvard club, he invites users to rate female students. This leads to the crashing of Harvard’s network and notoriety for Zuckerberg.

It also attracts the attention of two of Harvard’s most illustrious students, identical twins Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss (played by Armie Hammer and Josh Pence). The Winklevii, as Zuckerberg refers to them, invite Zuckerberg to help them design an online Harvard dating site. Alone with his computer and his sharp observations of the magnetic quality of social connections, Zuckerberg instead conceives of a site that offers a complete social experience, calling it The Facebook. It takes off.

But the success of Facebook leaves damage in its wake, which includes the hurt feelings of Eduardo Saverin, who finances the startup but is manipulated out of stock shares.

The Winklevii aren’t too happy, either. Before long, Zuckerberg is mired in court actions, with plaintiffs claiming billions in compensation.

Aaron Sorkin is noted for his fast, complex dialogue, and in The Social Network he brings clarity and wit to the mysterious world of precocious computer programmers in the throes of creation. Mark Zuckerberg and friends are given almost heroic treatment, which might explain why none of them objected very strenuously to the film once it was released.

Jesse Eisenberg was nominated for an Academy Award for his brilliant performance as Zuckerberg, but director David Fincher credits Andrew Garfield with providing the emotional core for the film. Also, Justin Timberlake plays Sean Parker, the founder of Napster and an ally of Zuckerberg’s — with an element of theatricality that bewitches the Facebook creator.

Fincher devised a technical way for Armie Hammer and Josh Pence to play the identical Winklevoss twins as distinct personalities. He filmed Josh Pence as Tyler Winklevoss, and then digitally superimposed Hammer’s face on Pence in post-production to create Cameron Winklevoss.

The DVD is generous with extras, including a making-of documentary, alternate takes, and more technical overviews than are usually available.

The Social Network is available at Whitehorse Public Library on the DVD shelf.

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