MOVIE REVIEW: “The Social Network”

As someone who teaches mass media, I was intrigued about The Social Network, a movie that is about the birth of Facebook—something that has become a cultural phenomenon the world over and something that has revolutionized social media, eating up an obscene amount of people’s time.

What sealed the deal is that the movie is penned by Aaron Sorkin (TV’s The West Wing) and directed by David Fincher (Fight Club).

It doesn’t stop there.

Jesse Eisenberg (Zombieland, The Emperor’s Club) turns in an Oscar-worthy performance as Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook and the world’s youngest billionaire. Eisenberg plays Zuckerberg with a condescending arrogance that makes you want to slap him around. Under an unruly mop of disheveled, curly hair, Eisenberg’s eyes—full of megalomaniac haughtiness—size up his opponents. You just can’t help but dislike this guy fiercely.

The same thing goes with pop star/actor Justin Timberlake (Alpha Dog) as Sean Parker, the founder of Napster, who jumped on the Facebook bandwagon, advising Zuckerberg how to make it a once-in-a-generation phenomenon. Timberlake just oozes smug arrogance in this role.

The movie opens with Zuckerberg getting dumped by Erica (Rooney Mara, Youth in Revolt). Drunk and angered, he blogs about her on Livejournal, painting her in a bad light with the Harvard campus as his audience. He then creates a Web-site to rate the attractiveness of Harvard women. Due to the heavy amount of traffic, Harvard’s server crashes and he gets reprimanded by the Harvard higher-powers.

It’s interspersed with the origins of Facebook and depositions filed by the people whose noses Zuckerberg (dressed in a suit and tie with sandals and white socks) knocked out of joint: Eduardo Saverin (Andrew Garfield, who’s replacing Tobey Maguire as Spider-Man), his ex-best friend who’s forced out of the enterprise thanks to Parker’s machinations; and Cameron (Armie Hammer of Spring Breakdown) and Tyler Winklevoss (also Hammer, although his face is digitally super-imposed on body-double Josh Pence), über-WASP twins with movie star handsomeness that are members of the Harvard crew team, who claim Zuckerberg stole their idea.

Zuckerberg (who appeared on The Simpsons on Oct. 3 as himself) is claiming this is not the way Facebook was born and stated publicly that he wants to be seen as a nice guy, given his recent philanthropic efforts (on Sept. 22, he donated $100 million to a New Jersey school system, the timing of which is convenient). Sorkin, who stated in interviews it’s not his job to help Zuckerberg’s image, based his screenplay on Ben Mezrich’s 2009 bestseller The Accidental Billionaires—in which Saverin served as a consultant.

Despite Sorkin’s rapid-fire dialogue brought vividly to life by Eisenberg, the portrayal of Zuckerberg as a big jerk is also the movie’s downfall. You don’t feel any sympathy for him. Despite all the “friends” he has on Facebook, he has plenty of enemies and he’s alone. Despite all the money he made, he’s socially bankrupt. One of his attorneys played by Rashida Jones (I Love You, Man) tells him that a jury won’t find him very sympathetic. She also says he’s not really an “(expletive)”—he just wants people to think he is.

Well, whatever the case, he has certainly succeeded.

RATED PG-13 for foul language, sexual situations. 2 hours.