By William Wolf


It was an exceptionally smart choice to open the 48th New York Film Festival with “The Social Network,” the dramatization of the origins of the popular internet site Facebook. The film, directed by David Fincher and starring Jesse Eisenberg as billionaire Facebok mogul Mark Zuckerberg, is the definition of cutting edge. It is very much of the moment stylistically, flashing new technology and dialogue to match, and clearly aimed at a new generation obsessed with the latest forms of internet communication and computer wizardry. Older folks seeing this movie are likely to be startled—and perhaps even somewhat frightened and disoriented—by the new world that has come along to leave behind those who can’t get with it.

Aaron Sorkin has written a lively, highly entertaining screenplay based on Ben Mezrich’s book “The Accidental Billionaires.” We see the lifestyles of students at Harvard in 2003 and their passion for hooking up socially, with the evolving Facebook idea providing an answer for such communication and self-aggrandizement. Who really had the original idea? The story digs dramatically into the controversy and rivalry, with Zuckerberg coming out on top with the credit, the power and the money, but having to settle financially with brothers who claimed they had the idea first, and also having to deal with a pal (Andrew Garfield as Eduardo Saverin) who claimed his share was being unjustly cut. It all makes for emotional fireworks and legal battles.

But smartly, Sorkin’s screenplay emphasizes the perceived personality of the leading character, and Eisenberg is the perfect cast choice, not in terms of judging how accurately he resembles the real person, but with respect to the portrait being created. His budding tycoon is obsessed, self-absorbed, resentful of upper class snobbery, and basically a loner, but he also is visionary and while others recognize the financial potential, he seems more interested in the phenomenon and the triumph. Justin Timberlake plays Sean Parker, the Napster wiz, who is shown to give savvy advice on commercialization of the Facebook idea. Other excellent casting involves having one actor, Arnie Hammer, with the help of movie magic, play both twin brothers Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss, who claim Zuckerberg stole their idea and eventually get a settlement. Rooney Mara effectively portrays Erica, the young woman who dumps Zuckerberg in college and on whom he wreaks mean-spirited vengeance by disparaging her on the internet.

The idea that someone so young could make billions by the age of 24—Zuckerberg is 26 now—is chilling, an indication of how rapidly technology is expanding and how valuable ideas that take advantage of new possibilities can be. One wonders what’s next, and surely plenty of brainpower is being applied to tap into potential.

Whatever the future horizons, the film makes clear that the same old evil--greed—is likely to be at work. As also shown in “Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps,” there will always be new players and manipulations to grease the path to riches.

“The Social Network,” brimming with tension and energy, snappy editing and a score to match, is as timely as it is enjoyable A Columbia Pictures release.


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