Published Sep 30, 2010Director David Fincher and writer Aaron Sorkin cast Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg as a tragic hero in their excellent film, The Social Network. A fictionalized account of the events surrounding Facebook's inception, the movie begins way back in 2003 when Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) is a sophomore at Harvard. He gets dumped by his girlfriend (Rooney Mara), who finds his intellectual arrogance and obsession with elite campus clubs less than charming.
Drunk and bent on revenge, the computer prodigy creates a website called Facemash, which asks people to compare pictures of female students and rate who's hotter. The site's popularity crashes the Harvard network overnight, landing Zuckerberg on academic probation, infuriating female students and catching the attention of the Winklevoss twins (Armie Hammer, Josh Pence) ¯ rich, athletic, popular fellow students who approach Mark with an idea for a website.
Not long after, Mark launches the Facebook website with the financial help of best friend Eduardo Saverin (Andrew Garfield). Facebook is an instant hit, landing Zuckerberg on the radar of Napster founder/bad boy entrepreneur Sean Parker (Justin Timberlake, in an inspired bit of casting), who entices the Facebook team out to the West coast and seals their financial success. Along the way, Zuckerberg manages to alienate even those closest to him, and multiple lawsuits ensue.
The film starts off juxtaposing two worlds of Harvard, cutting back and forth between the elite decadence of club parties with the nerdy empire building taking place in Zuckerberg's dorm room. The bulk of the film is cleverly structured around the law suit depositions, using the narration stemming from these to tell different sides of the story, then flashing back to witness the events unfold.
At the core of the film's success is its fascinating main character. Mark is portrayed as an outsider, too smart for his own good and so socially awkward that in order to fit in he has to almost reinvent the way socializing happens. Jesse Eisenberg's performance is amazingly complex, equal parts arrogance, brilliance, insecurity and vulnerability.
Screenwriter Sorkin has an ear for the voices of the intellectually arrogant (a skill he honed for years on The West Wing), filling his fast-paced script with smart, witty dialogue. A toned-down Fincher maintains the suspense and drama, doing well telling this complex story without a heavy hand, letting the audience draw their conclusions.
A few parts of the film are overdrawn, such as the Winklevoss side-plot, which offers some comic relief but loses steam by the end. However, The Social Network is a well-executed, fascinating tale of rivalry and betrayal, with a compulsively compelling lead character. (Sony)