'Social Network' appeals to Facebook crowd

Up until the dot-com bubble burst at the close of the roaring '90s, it seemed as if every month introduced us to a new wunderkind about whom a film could have been made. Jerry Yang and David Filo invented Yahoo! Jeff Bezos gave us Amazon. Marc Andreessen wrote Mosaic, the first web browser. And before all of them was Dan Bricklin, whose VisiCalc turned an impractical hobby machine into the ubiquitous PC we know today.

In the decade since, however, there have been few technical revolutions and even fewer cultural shifts — with one exception: Facebook. For those not counted among the site’s legion of members, Facebook is a "social network" that lets ordinary people instantaneously communicate extraordinary introspects ("Just noticed the FedEx guy is a lefty") and stop-the-presses news ("Jumpers, my cat, is constipated today") to their friends.

Mark Zuckerberg is Facebook’s co-founder and the subject (or rather the target) of the new film " The Social Network ."

Historically, tales of technological geniuses haven’t appealed to anyone outside of the pocket-protector crowd ("Pirates of Silicon Valley," which documented the rivalry between Microsoft’s Bill Gates and Apple’s Steve Jobs, crashed). What’s different here is that Facebook is less a revolution in technology than it is in communications. Five hundred million people already knew that, but is it great drama? I’ll come back to that.

"The Social Network" is based on Ben Mezrich’s book, "The Accidental Billionaires" (which Zuckerberg calls "fiction") and follows the development of the website through legal depositions from the two high-profile suits against the co-founder.


In one case, the Winklevoss twins (or "Winklevi," as Zuckerman sardonically refers to them) claim Zuckerman stole their idea. In the other, Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin insists he was forced out of the company. Remarkably, the film's not as dry as it sounds.

Jesse Eisenberg nails Zuckerberg’s legendary pedantry, and by the end of the movie, even without having met this Andy Kaufman of programming, we conclude he is a royal jerk (the film is less kind with words).

Justin Timberlake is another matter. The pop phenom shines as the Svengali-ish Sean Parker, who’s Napster nearly drove the record companies out of business.

"The Social Network" is a classic geek tragedy filled with ambition and betrayal that some are calling the best film of the year. It’s not, but it’s one of them.

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