The opening sequence is an instant classic. It's 2003 and the story situates us in The Thirsty Scholar, a campus bar at Harvard. Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) is having a drink with his girlfriend Erica Albright (Rooney Mara). She proceeds to break up with him after he insults her intelligence and seems completely self-involved and ignorant to anything she has to say. On exit she proclaims "he would always tell himself that girls didn't like him because he was a nerd. But girls will never like you because you are an asshole." For most of the entirety of the film, we struggle to find reasons to not call Zuckerberg an 'asshole'. The opening credits appear over a number of shots of Zuckerberg walking angrily back to his dorm at Kirkland House following his dumping. What seems to be a pretty standard montage was initially planned to be one long take utilizing multiple cameras that would later be stitched together. But it stands as it is, and it is one of the least imaginative sequences in the film. Back in his dorm, while intoxicated and at the same time blogging his emotions in an open forum, Zuckerberg hacks into the Harvard database and accesses the various resident archives and downloads pictures and names. He creates a website he calls FaceMash utilizing an algorithm supplied by his best friend Eduardo Saverin (Andrew Garfield), that asks students to rate the attractiveness of a pair of female Harvard undergraduates. His distasteful creation, which received a high abundance of traffic for a single night, results in his punishment of six months academic probation after the immense traffic causes parts of the Harvard network to crash. He is vilified by most of Harvard's female community but draws attention from the identical Winklevoss brothers, who approach him to work as a programmer for their idea of a website called Harvard Connection. Spawning from this, Zuckerberg approaches Saverin and proposes they become partners in the creation of a website exclusive to Harvard students, where they can upload photos and display personal information without the threat of privacy invasion, known as 'Thefacebook'.
Saverin funds the project with an initial thousand-dollar transfer. Once it is released, Thefacebook becomes immediately popular amongst the student body, prompting the Winklevoss brothers and their business associate, Divya Narendra, to discuss suing Zuckerberg for intellectual property theft. Later, as the website begins to expand into other states and then worldwide, Zuckerberg arranges a meeting with Shaun Parker (Justin Timberlake), the founder of Napster. When Saverin is skeptical of working with Parker, noting his troubling personal and professional history, and remains in New York when Zuckerberg and his team move to Los Angeles, he winds up completely pushed out of the operations. Zuckerberg takes on Parker's advice, drops the title of the site to simply 'Facebook', drives the company into Billionaire waters and awaits the celebration of 1 Million site members. Both Saverin, who is reduced to less than one-tenth percent share of the company, and the Winklevoss brothers file lawsuits against Zuckerberg and Facebook, and the film crosscuts these testimonies with the 2003-04 conception of the website, often starting some of the dialogue as spoken by Zuckerberg himself, and concluding it as part of a orated account by the prosecuting or defending legal representatives in the deposition. Fincher's film is effortlessly engaging and the dual time-lines are seamlessly combined, and after the initial confusion of differentiating the different periods, it is remarkably easy to follow.
At exactly 120 minutes, the films' ability to entertain never wavers. Brilliantly capturing the rebellious fun of college life, and the growth of multimedia obsession in the middle of the decade, it is all timed to perfection and tautly constructed. With never a dull moment, every minute is completely absorbing, and never fails to leave you in either guilty hysterics or shaking your head in distaste at Zuckerberg's antics. While Zuckerberg seems to be the most conniving, self-indulged person you never hope to cross paths with in your life, you still can't help but feel a bit sorry for him. It really seems like he is incapable of controlling his maniacal personality, but he is driven by his intellectual superiority, and seems to be borderline autistic. But ultimately we start to side with Saverin in the deciding legal battles, as he seems to be the only one that possesses any real humanity. We realize that while he worked hard trying to find advertisers to monetize the site, Zuckerberg was wasting away Saverin's donated money in Los Angels funding parties with Shaun Parker, who was riding the success of Facebook after his prized music-download site Napster was shut down. Much like Zuckerberg was, we are also seduced by the business flair and likable aura of Shaun Parker, but his out-of-control rambunctiousness finally makes him aware that he could once again lose everything. Opposing this, we never really see a change in Zuckerberg, whose glares of loathing at his former friends and colleagues sitting opposite him at the inquest, and obvious lack of enthusiasm, is only broken when he hungrily types away at his laptop, rendering his creation. For a man who should be filled with self-loathing, Zuckerberg either chooses to remain ignorant of the accusations against him or sarcastically and often heatedly reacts with near-malicious condescension. His obsessions are reiterated at the conclusion as he sullenly agrees to settle all of his lawsuits, before deciding to add his ex-girlfriend to his personal page before the camera lingers on him repeatedly refreshing to see if she accepts his request. He no doubt has millions of 'friends' linked to his page, but sadly no real friends left in the world. We watch, totally absorbed in the proceedings, as the most influential and definitive vehicle of multimedia social interaction comes to fruition. Facebook has brought people from across the globe together, reweaving the fabric of society, but completely unraveled the friendship of its creators.
My Rating: 5 Stars