Will “Social Network” Play In Peoria?

The new Facebook movie is time well spent but will the non-geek enjoy it?

Thanks to Columbia Pictures and Social Media Breakfast MSP, I was able to check out an advance screening of the soon to be released “The Social Network”. The movie is based on the 2009 book “Accidental Billionaires”, the story of the rise of Facebook and it’s founder Mark Zuckerburg. (Leave it to a movie about a social network to get me blogging again after a long absence.)

What lured me to this movie, beyond of course my ongoing interest in Social Media, was the writing and cast. I’m a fan of Aaron Sorkin, known by most as the writer for TV’s “The West Wing”, and I was anxious to see this latest offering. I was also interested in the young cast, many of whom you may have never seen or known you’ve seen. I was particularly interested in seeing Justin Timberlake. From N’Sync to SNL and everything in between, this cat has proven himself to be very talented.

Since many in the audience secured seats through SMBMSP, this was a group of social media enthusiasts and expectations were high. We in this space tend to share everything that we do while we do it via Twitter and photo sharing. Since this was an advanced screening where the studio didn’t want anything to get out, we were asked to surrender our mobile phones. So the entertainment began early as many in the theater showed visible signs of social media withdrawal. Heck, many couldn’t even tell the time with out it. (One word: wristwatch.)

The Review

Both cast and writing did not disappoint. Jesse Eisenberg brought a real complexity to Zuckerburg. Between his handling of Zuckerburg’s anti-hero persona and the need to convey his almost autistic like behavior, he managed to portray a passionate asshole. Someone you can’t help but like and despise at the same time.

Andrew Garfield’s portrayal of Facebook Co-Founder Eduardo Saverin provided a great counterpoint to Eisenberg’s Zuckerburg as a ‘brilliant in his own right’ room-mate that provided the root of what Facebook becomes. He is lovable and naive as one of the many jilted participants in the founder’s rise to brilliance.

I’m also happy to say that Timberlake impressed as the founder of Napster. He is the one who hypnotizes Zuckerburg with his confidence, arrogance, and vision of what the Silicon Valley lifestyle could be; an endless whirlwind of coding, drugs, coding, booze, coding, and babes. Oh yeah..and money.

“The internet’s not written in pencil Mark, it’s written in ink.”

I think you’ll also dig the performances of: Armie Hammer in his dual role as the Winklevos twins and Rooney Mara as the girl who pushes Zuckerburg to spend the night coding his revenge for her dumping of him over beers. Those parents of young kids will be happy to see Disney Channel star Brenda Song make the leap to the big screen as Facebook “groupie”. An though the plot twist is somewhat unnecessary, she becomes less than wholesome as she proves to be a bit whacked as Eduardo’s girlfriend.

Sorkin’s writing shines as his face-paced, sarcastic, and caustic wit works well in the telling of a story that is itself all of those things. He provides great lines for Zuckerburg that are funny and sad and cutting…all at the same time. He also brings out the telling traits of the Winklevoss twins as they establish themselves as a coders nemesis; the “suits” that are the business of the web. Oh…the music from Trent Reznor also seriously does not suck.

Hello Peoria

Speaking of that business of the internet…My question is, as the saying goes, “Will it play in Peoria?” The audience, with whom I shared the theater, were of the business or at the very least a participant in it, clearly enjoyed the film. I’m sure most would give it thumbs up, 5 stars, 5 tweets, or whatever. Will the average person enjoy it? Is Joe six-pack interested in the rapid rise of Harvard internet geek with a hoodie obsession to billionaire with access to an infinite number of bytes of information…with a hoodie obsession?

Obviously, time will tell once the movie is released October 1st. I find it difficult to detach myself from my own workings within the space. Being part of media makes it difficult to not critique it. (I    still turn up the radio when the music stops.) But, if you are into some fast-paced writing, clever dialogue, good character development and a dash of Animal House this is a movie for you.

Of course, if you are a fan of the lure of Silicon Valley millions, all night computer coding, actually believe that “the babes” love a successful geek, or are even a rabid Facebooker and tweeter, with a taste for Animal House, this is also for you…whether you live in Peoria or not.