NEW YORK –– The founder of Facebook gets unfriended big time in “The Social Network” (Columbia).
While the fact-based story of socially inept but technically gifted Mark Zuckerberg – convincingly portrayed by Jesse Eisenberg – and of the online empire he created makes for an engrossing drama, it also includes strictly adult material not at all suitable for the youngsters whose enthusiasm has helped fuel the digital juggernaut Zuckerberg set in motion.
Drawing on Ben Mezrich’s book “The Accidental Billionaires,” director David Fincher uses a series of competing and conflicting flashbacks to weave a subtle narrative of shifting personal loyalties and ethical uncertainties. Structuring these glimpses of the past is Zuckerberg’s testimony in two separate but simultaneous lawsuits, one brought against him by a pair of former associates, twin brothers Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss (Armie Hammer and Josh Pence), the other by his ex-best friend, and first investor, Eduardo Saverin (Andrew Garfield).
According to the Winklevosses, while they were all Harvard University students, the siblings invited Zuckerberg to serve as technical guru for their nascent social networking site.
Instead, they claim, motivated in part by resentment of their wealth and social success – their initial meeting with Zuckerberg took place at Harvard’s most exclusive club, the Porcellian – Zuckerberg stole their idea. He also stalled their progress long enough to get the jump on them by launching what was originally called thefacebook.com.
For his part, Saverin asserts that both his friendship and his partnership with Zuckerberg were torpedoed by the reckless interference of Sean Parker (Justin Timberlake). Parker’s revolutionary impact on the music industry via the Napster website he established, so Saverin maintains, made him a source of fascination to Zuckerberg, and Parker used his sway over the rising tech star to cut his co-founder out of the picture.
Zuckerberg, needless to say, has his own version of events, and the resulting portrait is not so much the caricature of a villain as the profile of a man so focused on achieving his dream that, like many a mogul before him, he feels compelled to throw anyone overboard whose presence he no longer feels is contributing to speed his journey.
Early scenes of student life at Harvard do nothing to enhance that seat of learning’s vaunted reputation, portraying its campus instead as a morass of excessive drinking and meaningless sex. Female undergrads in underwear writhe on the dance floor with their shirtless male partners, while two of their peers steal off to a corner to dabble in lesbian kissing.
Closer to the core of this brave new world, the immature, ill-adjusted male characters, with Parker in the lead, treat women like so many disposable accessories. The one notable exception is Zuckerberg’s enduring crush on a Boston University coed whose split with him was the indirect catalyst for his breakthrough.
The film contains nongraphic casual sexual activity, same-sex kissing, brief partial nudity, drug use, some sexual references, several uses of profanity, at least one use of the F-word and much crude language. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III – adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13 – parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.
Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service. More reviews are available online.