By Elizabeth Waibel
On college campuses today, Facebook is a given. Even some professors use the popular social networking website to update assignments and schedule study sessions. But little more than six years ago, Facebook was just an idea in the mind of its creator, Mark Zuckerberg.
“The Social Network” is partly based on the book “The Accidental Billionaires,” a dramatized account of Facebook’s debut and rise to fame, followed quickly by lawsuits over the ownership of the idea that gave a generation a new way to communicate.
Jesse Eisenberg (“Zombieland” and “The Squid and the Whale”) stars as Mark, a bored and socially awkward sophomore at Harvard University who wants to do something to stand out from the crowd.
After his girlfriend breaks up with him, he gets drunk, hacks into databases of student profiles and writes the code for a prototype of Facebook.
Mark realizes that people want a way to see their friends online, so he builds a site that mimics the social dynamics of college — groups, events, relationship statuses — and it is an instant success.
Soon he is the CEO of a lucrative company, juggling investors, employees, groupies and lawsuits from fellow students whose ideas he may or may not have stolen.
He is star-struck by Sean Parker, the founder of Napster (played by Justin Timberlake, whose acting ability seems to exceed his talent as a musician), and alienates the few friends he had before the website he invented became a household name.
More than anything, “The Social Network” is a character study of a brilliant kid who is in way over his head. It is also a portrait of youth in the computer age, where ideas catch on quickly over the Internet and rumors fly even faster.
Solid acting and varied cinematography make “The Social Network” an engaging film. The story of Facebook’s founding, told in flashbacks between scenes from two lawsuits against the now-enviable company, makes for one of the more creative movies of the year and a welcome addition after a disappointing summer of movies that exploited tired genres. “The Social Network” is a smart drama about the real-life friendships that drive people’s lives, even in the digital era.