(Dir. David Fincher, 2010)
This is the film that asks - is Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg a computer nerd visionary or just an arrogant a--hole that ripped off his friends?
A bit of both appears to be the answer - but THE SOCIAL NETWORK, courtesy of Aaron Sorkn’s screenplay as realized by David Fincher, is far from a smear job on the world’s youngest billionaire.
Jesse Eisenberg, at his most coldly focused, plays Zuckerberg who we meet in a darkly lit Harvard college tavern in 2003 having an intense and intimidating conversation with his girlfriend (Rooney Mara).
It’s a back and forth that runs rings around your head, so much so that Mara takes the opportunity to break up with Eisenberg. He sulks back to his dorm room and blogs that she’s a bitch and that he needs a new project to get his mind off of her.
Drinking beer after beer, Eisenberg throws out errant ideas to his best friend (Andrew Garfield) before he settles on creating a site called “Facemash” – a Hot Or Not-like site featuring pictures he hacked from campus computer databases.
Eisenberg finds that in addition to making his fellow female students very angry, it gets him noticed.
He’s approached by a couple of preppy crew rowing twin brothers (Josh Pence and Arnie Hammer) and their business partner (Max Minghella ) who want him to help them build a new social networking site called HarvardConnection.
“I’m in.” says Eisenberg and the film cuts to his deposition 3 years later where under oath he states that he doesn’t recall saying that.
You see, he’s being sued by the brothers for intellectual property theft in Federal court at the same time he’s being sued by Garfield over ownership of Facebook.
We bounce between flashbacks and testimony exchanges that detail Eisenberg devising the famous Facebook format while dodging email requests from the brothers.
When the site goes public Eisenberg and Garfield attract many followers, groupies and the attention of Napster founder Sean Parker (Justin Timberlake).
Timberlake seduces Eisenberg with his schmoozy charm, but not Garfield. Ties get even more tangled when Eisenberg rents a house in Silicon Valley which appears to be a nonstop party central despite the “wired in” employees working 24/7.
It’s easy to get caught up in the flow of this film. Sorkin’s dialogue is sharp, Fincher’s craft is on the scale of his best work (that includes FIGHT CLUB, SE7EN, and ZODIAC), and cinematographer Jeff Cronenweth’s swift camerawork frames it all with a minimum of flashy tricks.
The cast is pitch perfect. It’s Eisenberg’s best work to date, Garfield’s worrywart tone clashes correctly, and Timberlake predictably steals every scene he’s in.
Also Rashida Jones (Parks And Recreation), Bryan Barter, and the convincing brother duo of Pence/Hammer all chime in with sublime supporting roles.
There’s plenty on the internet about what’s accurate and what isn’t in this film, but the movie on its own is a storytelling gem.
You can see the point of view of the allegedly wronged parties and feel sympathy for the character of Zuckerberg even as he works overtime to hide his emotions.
Fincher, Sorkin and Co. obviously want us to see the irony in an anti-social guy who screws over the few friends he has in order to build one of the biggest and most profitable social internet websites in history.
A piece of supreme entertainment, THE SOCIAL NETWORK does indeed accomplish that task with relish. The only thing it’s missing is a big “Like” button for me to click at the end.