After months of promotion by Columbia/Sony and angst at Facebook HQ over the portrayal of CEO Mark Zuckerberg and the company, "The Social Network" made its debut to full houses in theaters across the country this weekend.
For Zuckerberg, the debut must be a bit of relief from a personal train wreck. The suspense is over and the damage control machine can begin to wind down. As promised, the portrait of the 26-year-old co-founder of Facebook (as played by Jesse Eisenberg) is at times unflattering and mostly riveting.
Having spent some time covering Facebook and seeing Zuckerberg operate, I believe the version on screen captures the young coder/entrepreneur's smarts, intense focus and awkwardness, but takes it to a robotic, nerd extreme.
On Oprah, while he was giving away $100 million of his billions for an education grant, Zuckerberg gave his review of the movie that he said he wouldn't see. "It's a movie; it's fun," he says. "A lot of it is fiction, but even the filmmakers will say that. They're trying to build a good story, but I'm going to promise you, this is my life, so I know it's not so dramatic," he said.
A young Harvard student's life starting up a company that is worth around $30 billion in six years and mired in lawsuits over founder's rights turns out to be a really good, Oscar-caliber drama when you put David Fincher and Aaron Sorkin on the case.
The movie has been universally praised. Metacritic rates it a 97 out of 100. Legendary film critic Roger Ebert wrote, "David Fincher's film has the rare quality of being not only as smart as its brilliant hero, but in the same way. It is cocksure, impatient, cold, exciting and instinctively perceptive."
Zuckerberg appears to be surviving his film debut. Steve Jobs didn't do too badly himself after the 1999 movie, "Pirates of Silicon Valley," portrayed the origins of Apple.
"The Social Network" will eventually be more remembered more for its cinematic virtues and capturing the zeitgeist of an era than as a faithful rendering of Facebook's origins. It will become part of the growing legend and myths that will surround the co-founder and Facebook.
"The Social Network" may take home some Oscars, but Zuckerberg is playing to take home his own version of a gold statue.
"If we succeed [in innovating and remaining relevant] there is a good chance of bringing this to a billion people... it will be interesting to see how it plays out," Zuckerberg said in June 2010.
One out of seven people on the planet may just be the beginning for Facebook, and the realization of Zuckerberg's personal interests, which he lists on his Facebook page: "openness, making things that help people connect and share what's important to them, revolutions, information flow, minimalism."