There have been a lot of raves for “The Social Network”—David Fincher’s sensational, agile, frightening, yet sometimes comic story of the founding of Facebook and its founder, Mark Zuckerberg. They’re mostly true. I was shocked, appalled, impressed, and always riveted by this unlikely action-packed thriller of algorithms and what seems like Asperger’s on the part of Zuckerberg.
The story: Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) gets dumped by girlfriend Erica (Rooney Mara); blogs nastiness about her out of rejection; sets up site rating (hot/not hot) female Harvard students; and constructs “The Facebook” for Harvard. This spreads virally to other campuses and becomes Facebook reaching one million users (it’s now at 500 million). Zuckerberg becomes darling of Silicon Valley and billionaire. All the while, Zuckerberg is exploiting friends while building his network of “friends” so big that Erica will notice him again. The last scene is of him trying to “friend” her and refreshing her Facebook page. It’s the perfect Hollywood story. The first thing my husband and I said to each other as we were leaving the theater was, “Asshole. Let’s cancel Facebook.”
Then I got home and read beyond the reviews. It turns out, as I discovered in The New Yorker profile of Zuckerberg, much of the premise of the movie is false. The real Zuckerberg had a steady girlfriend the whole time. Oops. He also didn’t care about getting into one of the exclusive Harvard clubs (another motivation in the movie). I wonder what else isn’t true. This new information reduces the emotional impact but I still recommend it. (After all, it is not a documentary.) It’s a tale of our time, Eisenberg is brilliant, Aaron Sorkin’s screenplay is scintillating, and much of it takes place right here on campus.