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IN SHORT: Facebook as seen from the losing side. So? [Rated PG-13 for Sexual Content, Drug and Alcohol Use and Language. 120 minutes]
Not that we have a side in any "battle" over the origins of Facebook. We don't.
In the years before PC and Mac there was the pigbook -- issued by colleges and universities to their Freshman classes so the students could recognize assigned roommates and have a look at the rest of the soon to be drunk and unwashed. Then came computers and networks and, rather than checking out the new roommate, the idea was propounded that the pigbook had more carnal uses. And so, on the campus of Harvard University, was formed "thefacebook," so that horny geeks could get some. The question investigated in The Social Network, a "feels like biography but it's pretty much fiction..." retelling of the events that led to the creation of the social monster that is Facebook is . . . "Who gets the money?"
Good Question. Maybe it was the twins Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss (Armie Hammer and Josh Pence) who suggested that a campus specific net would be a good idea. Maybe it was Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg), the geek they asked to write the code who, once he got started, took off on a different tangent. Or maybe it was friend Eduardo Saverin (Andrew Garfield) who, I think, suggested that the idea could work on multiple campuses -- and generate income for all. It was probably a wee bit of all of the above but that takes the fun out of a film about geeks that have no fun.
In modern times, if you have the money for the right kind of lawyers, just mentioning an idea is enough to generate a lawsuit. . . and that is the format screenwriter Aaron Sorkin uses for this story. Sorkin tells the beginnings of Facebook based on his own interviews with the firm's original CFO Saverin, who doesn't have much good to say about former friend Zuckerberg, who stays out of the public eye most of the time. The falling out between the two comes in the Third Act of the film so we won't spill it. What's of more importance is whether or not The Social Network is any fun to watch. The answer is that is that it is adequate. You don't need to know anything about computers; you don't need to know what Facebook is, actually, to enjoy the film. There is a whole subplot focussing on Harvard life that is incomprehensible to us reg'lar folks -- it has something to with some kind of frat or one of those legendary private clubs that future presidents all seem to belong to and how access to parties thrown by one of the clubs is key to organizational placement at the top of thefacebook.
We told you it didn't make any sense. But then, just about everyone at Harvard is rich, so the old-money versus new-money immigrant stock kind of story has been done. So, what does that leave? Maybe the Zuckerberg character trying to get a real date with the only girl on campus he ever had a romantic eye for? That would be nice. The set up is here but it is dismissed far too early in the film. All that is left is the legal wrangling over money -- and so The Social Network stands as a long deposition of people suing each other for their share of an idea which may be a 25 billion dollar business.
The big question is ... is just speculating that using a computer network for college students and enabling it to ease the using student's ability to hook up -- exactly what you think it means -- worth hundreds of millions of dollars? It is to the Winklevoss twins. To Zuckerberg, who actually ran the idea in a different direction, it isn't -- every thing else involving the personal information the user gives to the service that makes it worth money. Money isn't even on Zuckerberg's mind before during or after a meeting with Napster co-founder Sean Parker (Justin Timberlake), who brings the company into the world of Venture Capitalism -- the men with the money to make the fledgling company into something corporate. Of course, when Big Money (and their lawyers) comes in, fan blades start a whirring and things start hitting 'em.
Whether or not making hundreds of millions of dollars makes one happy is a decision you may make while watching each character's story play out. By the time you make your decision the film will have run its course. So... it's not a bad sit.
On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Ten Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to The Social Network, he would have paid . . .
It falls to the press notes to reveal that, while Facebook may be valued at 25 Billion dollars, it doesn't in and of itself generate income. It's a powerful networking device and that's it. Of course, with most of the world in the network in one way or another, the word "powerful" should be written in capital letters. Ancillary income generated by that size of unique readership is substantial -- we have been on the 'net for years, you know. We know all about poverty... <sigh>
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