Quick review: Watching The Social Network at Harvard

This weekend, the movie The Social Network, a disputed origin story about the founding of Facebook, hit theaters to nearly universal acclaim.  I had the opportunity to see the movie on the second day of release and can add my wreath to the many laurels heaped upon this Aaron SorkinDavid Fincher collaboration.  However, since so many others have dissected this film so thoroughly, I will refrain from a typical movie review as I feel I have little to add.  I will instead comment briefly on just how surreal it was to watch this movie at Harvard.

The AMC Loews Harvard Square 5 is located one block off the Yard at Harvard University, and the mood at the 6:30pm showing on Saturday, October 2nd was electrifying.  The audience appeared to be a mix mostly of college students and their professors, and they clearly had come to have a good time.  When the Mark Zukerberg character, played by Jesse Eisenberg, made a crack early in the movie about Boston University students not needing to study, there was a collective gasp.  When the exterior of The Thirsty Scholar made a cameo appearance, there were actual cheers.

This movie was about us–not as representatives of some abstractly-defined generation nor as students coming of age during web 2.0–but as residents of Mt. Auburn Street, two blocks away.  In the men’s bathroom after the movie, I overheard a conversation between two students debating the wisdom of trying to get into one of Lawrence Summer‘s classes now that he is returning to Harvard (after working as director of the White House National Economics Council).

Many of the best movies take us from our own specifics into the universality of the human condition.  While I am sure that The Social Network will do this for many people, it had quite the opposite effect on me.  For me, it took that most abstractly universal of all web phenonmenon–Facebook–and gave it a specific human face.  One that might well have been in the theater with me last night.