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Thursday, Oct. 7, 2010 04:27 am

Facebook founder enigma in Network

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Justin Timberlake and Jesse Eisenberg star in The Social Network.

David Fincher’s The Social Network is a work of contradictions. This is never more apparent than in its examination of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg). This self-indulgent, awkward young man who went on to create an Internet empire with his international social network is perhaps the least social person you’re likely to meet. Beginning as a way to hook up with girls on the Harvard campus, Facebook has become a place of reinvention for those who frequent it. Positive qualities are highlighted, negative ones omitted and advantageous lies are told, all things that would appeal to Zuckerberg if he weren’t so focused on writing code.

Fincher’s compelling film traces the birth of Facebook as well as the litigation it spawned by others who claimed to have come up with the idea instead of Zuckerberg. His initial financial backer and only friend, Eduardo (Andrew Garfield), brings suit, as do the Winklevoss twins (both played by Armie Hammer). Through their depositions we get various accounts of how all of this came to be, each probably containing a bit of truth.

The creation of Facebook is the engine that drives the film. Everything in its wake causes most of its characters to reveal their true selves. Fittingly, Zuckerberg remains murky. Is he a little boy lost? A genius with an eye for what sells but no clue as to what makes us tick? A heartbroken man-child who just wants to be part of the crowd? We don’t really know, which is precisely the point. In this era of electronic reinvention, it’s fitting that Zuckerberg is more avatar than man, as Fincher provides a compelling portrait of human character at its best and worst.  

Contact Chuck Koplinski at ckoplinski@usd116.org.

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