This movie is exactly as good as all the critics (and there have been a lot of them) said. Unlike most of them, though, I don’t think this is going to badly damage facebook’s valuation or, for that matter, cause any real (additional) trouble for it whatsoever. The movie doesn’t show any of the really damaging stuff, like the IM logs of Zuck telling his friend that he could give him any information he wanted on any of the site’s members and that they were all “dumb f**ks” for trusting him with it. Now, that would have been something to get users angry, and I’m honestly surprised they haven’t received even more widespread publicity.
It’s obvious that Mark Zuckerberg is either an asshole or an asshole wannabe, but so what? Perhaps I’m a little desensitized by the fact that, well, I know a lot of similar people, and share some (not nearly this much, though) of those tendencies myself, but I honestly didn’t see this movie as being very strongly anti-Zuck. Sean Parker, on the other hand, is clearly an asshole, but I have to say, even his character was more rounded out than I had expected. The Winklevoss twins are largely portrayed sympathetically, Divya Narendra slightly less so. Eduardo Saverin was also definitely supposed to be one of the good guys, even though he seemed a little…peripheral to the actual creation of facebook, at least the way it was depicted. This is from an engineer’s perspective, though. And interestingly, most of the movie seemed to be very much from an engineer’s perspective as well.
Screwing over the Winklevoss twins was obviously unethical, but the real Asshole Event Horizon of the movie only comes when Mark screws over Eduardo, too. The weird thing is, I didn’t think this was really explained very well. There are angry references to the final clubs and how he was jealous of Eduardo for getting into one of them throughout, but really? Well, I suppose that’s enough for some people.
What I found most exciting in the whole film were all the bits that really just chronicled the joy of building something, and making it big. I know there are a lot of rags to riches stories that have similar arcs, but there was a certain verisimilitude that made it entirely different. Possibly just because I can appreciate a rags-to-riches story about coding better than a rags-to-riches story about running drugs 🙂 . As I posted -on facebook, what else?- while watching it last night, I got little frissons every time they showed something I could “get”- how coding works, blogging while drunk 🙂 , even shots of Harvard Yard and the Maxwell-Dworkin building.
To summarize: totally worth a watch.
Added: Verisimilitude doesn’t mean the movie’ is true to the facts, though… and Aaron Sorkin isn’t particularly abashed to admit it outright. No specific parts apart from Mark Zuckerberg’s apparently nonexistent obsession with the final clubs are in dispute, as far as I know, but from the way the writers of both the original book and the movie are quick to claim it’s stylized, I’m guessing there’s a fair bit of distortion throughout.
PS: Zadie Smith’s article? Not entirely crap, now that I’ve seen it, although you should stick to what she says about the movie and just ignore the parts where she philosophizes about the digital life.
- Zuckerberg confirms ’embarrassing and damaging’ IMs are his (msnbc.msn.com)