Albuquerque, NM – I have never seen a less promising premise than for a film about the founding of Facebook. I mean, this would have to be a movie about nerds, right? Sort of like a movie about watching worms mate?
When I first heard about this project, a couple of years ago, I was naturally moved to sketch out a parody film about the founding of a mythical website based on another popular body part which is not the face - and that effort continues apace, despite my discouraging discovery that the new film, THE SOCIAL NETWORK, is actually quite good.
This is the story of the creation of Facebook, which now has over 500 million users worldwide. For those of us somewhat addicted to Facebook, and especially those of us who create internet sorts of things, there's obviously something interesting in this tale of invention and idea-stealing, framed by a deposition involving all who claimed to have originated the idea, ganging up on the main founder, Mark Zuckerberg, who is now at age 27 the world's youngest billionaire.
But my film-going companions, one barely active with Facebook and one barely involved even with e-mail, also found it fascinating, and I find THAT fascinating. I suppose it's because THE SOCIAL NETWORK is such a well-told tale of collaboration, of betrayal, of personalities both quirky and archtypical. There's actually something wonderfully old-fashioned about the film; the clear and interesting delineation of the characters, excellent casting and acting throughout, and a certain masterful staging and direction. It's all very digestible and compelling.
But really, what's it all about, and what happens? Not much. It's not as though anybody's life is at stake; it's all a fight over who gets credit and who gets paid for developing a social networking website. All the more reason to credit the writers, actors and director for having created such an engaging film.
The film was adapted from the book, THE ACCIDENTAL BILLIONAIRES, which I have not read, and which Facebook founder Zuckerberg of course disputes and wants nothing to do with. The movie doesn't depict him as a bad guy so much as a socially awkward and task-oriented genius who is in fact more interested in the utility of his idea than with the possible profit involved.
As for the un-promising premise, well, the proliferation of nature and science channels from what my mom used to call The Sharks and Airplanes Network, shows that a well-made documentary CAN make even the mating of worms fascinating. And THE SOCIAL NETWORK shows that in the hands of good filmmakers, the same can be done for the story of the creation of Facebook.