The Social Network, the highly-anticipated film tracing Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg’s tumultuous road to becoming the youngest billionaire in the world, clinched the top spot at the box office over the weekend with $23 million in ticket sales.And while the numbers themselves aren’t extraordinary by Hollywood’s standards, Jesse Eisenberg’s portrayal of the protagonist is quite impressive for an actor who’s probably best known for movies like Adventureland and Zombieland.
What is most surprising about the film is the masterful cinematography, with such memorable scenes as the European crew competition, in which the alleged “real inventors of Facebook” are involved in a high-stakes ivy league race. It may not be Oscar-worthy (I guess we’ll see), but the fully-realized characters and pace of the movie are certainly entertaining, as well as the choice of music that makes the plot especially moving.
In a recent article, NPR explores how The Social Network resonates with Silicon Valley entrepreneurs, evoking their spirit of “building a kingdom” and changing the world. Their reaction to Zuckerberg is sympathetic; they place emphasis on the “blood, sweat and tears” that led to his success, rather than the bridges he’d burned, especially during Zuckerberg’s treacherous alliance with Shawn Fanning, Napster’s disgraced founder, played by Justin Timberlake.
The Mark Zuckerberg represented in The Social Network is that of a mildly autistic genius. The movie opens with a scene in which his Aspberger’s-esque inability to read social cues leads to an abrupt and unexpected breakup with his girlfriend, Erica Albright. As the movie progresses, it becomes apparent that Zuckerberg’s fervent devotion to Facebook’s development is driven by two things: intellectual ambition and resentment.
It’s worth noting, per an MTV Movies blog post, that certain aspects of the movie are entirely made up. Read the blog post if you’re interested in a breakdown of fact vs. fiction, but I believe the movie is best experienced with little pretense and an open mind. The magic of The Social Network is in the drama of the story; and while some of the characters and situations don’t exist in real life, Aaron Sorkin did a great job capturing Zuckerberg’s essence.
The key takeaway from the movie revolves around the irony that the man who revolutionized social interaction is socially challenged himself. From a wider perspective, this seems to be a movie about how we measure success. For Mark Zuckerberg, making money comes easily…but maintaining relationships is his biggest – and most desirable – obstacle.