A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this movie about the creation of Facebook will appeal to media-savvy tweens and young teens, but there's so much sexuality, drug use, drinking, and swearing (lots of "a--hole," "bitch," and "s--t") that it's a better fit for older high schoolers. The sexual content includes scenes of strip poker, a scene set the morning after a one-night stand, bathroom-stall trysts (with implied oral sex), girls dancing nearly naked, and more. College students party a lot, so it's no surprise that there's plenty of drinking -- often to excess -- and drug use (mostly marijuana, but also cocaine). While teens will learn the value of being innovative, there are some very negative messages and role models in the movie. Ultimately, The Social Network isn't the typical "genius entrepreneur" biopic, because it's really a story about the personal price of success.
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What's the story?
In his sophomore year at Harvard, computer-science genius Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) and his best friend, Eduardo Saverin (Andrew Garfield), create a site ranking their female classmates' hotness. It gets the attention of rich, entrepreneurial seniors Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss (both played by Armie Hammer) and their business partner, who hire Zuckerberg to create a social networking site for Harvard students. But instead of working on the Harvard-only site, Zuckerberg asks Saverin to front him the start-up costs to launch what they call "thefacebook," which starts at Harvard but eventually spreads to other elite universities across the country. After the site hits Stanford, Zuckerberg and Saverin meet Napster co-founder Sean Parker (Justin Timberlake), who ingratiates himself into the founders' circle, usurps Saverin, and helps Zuckerberg get the funds to transform "thefacebook" into Facebook. In the process, Zuckerberg faces lawsuits from his Harvard rivals and his former best friend.
Is it any good?
There was a lot of pre-release hype for THE SOCIAL NETWORK -- and for once, the buzz is well-deserved. This is truly an enthralling film; all of the pieces -- writing, plot, direction, acting, soundtrack -- create a memorable, timely movie that couldn't be more relevant to the current zeitgeist. If a story about a business' Ivy League founders or Harvard social intrigue or young billionaires in the making doesn't sound compelling, this movie will surprise you. And the credit must go to director David Fincher and writer Aaron Sorkin, who've taken what sounds like a very boring premise -- boy genius possibly steals an idea to create one of the dominating media forces of the decade -- and turned it into an award-worthy film that even Facebook objectors will enjoy.
Eisenberg plays Zuckerberg as a socially awkward computer genius who isn't an adorable geek (like many of Eisenberg's previous roles). He's a huge jerk -- or, as his date tells him in the first scene, a first-class "a--hole" -- obsessed with status and, later, getting back at said date for rejecting him. How many multibillion dollar ideas started out as a way to show up someone who rejected the innovator? And how many business are built on the backs of broken friendships? As Saverin, British import Garfield is pitch perfect. He exudes the confidence that comes with wealthy, but unlike Zuckerberg or the Winklevoss twins, he's not condescending. In many ways, he's the heart of the movie, because his character is so much more likable than Zuckerberg -- so much so that you want him to win his lawsuit against Facebook. The movie's biggest scene-stealers are Timberlake -- who's all slimy and paranoid charm as Parker -- and the Winklevoss brothers, who are played by Hammer so well that you'd swear it was twin actors. Each twin is patrician perfection personified, and the fact that their social networking idea is the seed that Zuckerberg turns into Facebook serves as a slap in the face to their entitlement. What's true and what isn't doesn't quite matter for the purposes of this film; in the end Facebook's "status" is bigger than all its players.
Talk to your kids about ...
How accurate do you think the movie is? Why might filmmakers bend the facts (or take liberties in how a person is portrayed) when making a movie based on real life? How could you find out more if you wanted to?
What was the cost of Facebook's success for its founders? What is the movie's message about starting a huge enterprise? What does it take? What does it cost to succeed?
Does the founder of Facebook seem like a likable guy? Does this drama make you think less or more of him? Which of his many questionable choices makes him look the most unethical?