As you might imagine the story of a socially inept computer nerd who created the world’s most popular social networking website isn’t chock-a-block with action. Occasionally cursors fly across computer screens and fingers tap out code on keyboards, but that is about the limit of the action. But that’s OK when the dialogue is as entertaining and well delivered as it is in “The Social Network.”
Adapted from Ben Mezrich’s 2009 book “The Accidental Billionaires,” the movie is the story of Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) the genius computer programmer behind facebook. Bookended by the legal case (or more rightly put, cases) filed against Zuckerberg by an unsocial network of jilted business partners, including co-founder Eduardo Saverin (future Spider-Man portrayer Andrew Garfield) and a pair of well connected twins who claim the original idea was theirs, “The Social Network” charts the rise and, well rise of facebook from its humble beginnings in a dorm room at Harvard to its current evaluation of $25 billion.
The opening scene of the movie sets the tone for the rest of the film. Zuckerberg and his soon-to-be-ex girlfriend Erica (Rooney Mara) engage in a long, awkward conversation that reveals his disconnect from regular society. He’s the smartest guy in the room, but has a chip on his shoulder and an attitude. Their exchange, beautifully written by former “West Wing” screenwriter Aaron Sorkin, displays the kind of verbal fireworks that propels the movie.
Sorkin and director David Fincher have done a great job of taking a complicated story with loads of computer jargon and making it accessible. They treat the audience and the story respectfully by not dumbing down the details but unlike Oliver Stone’s recent attempt to explain the financial meltdown in “Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps” the drama of the story is allowed to take center stage, not the mechanics of the lawsuits or the computerese.
At the center of it All is Jesse Eisenberg, a young actor who, in the past, was often written off as the poor man’s Michael Cera. No more. This is a daring performance that shows Zuckerberg’s detachment while not turning him into a nerdy stereotype.
Also nicely cast are Andrew Garfield as Savein and Rooney Mara, who will soon be seen in the lead of the American remake of “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,” but the biggest surprise may be Justin Timberlake. His film career has been a bit spotty to date, but playing Napster co-creator Sean Parker with equal parts charisma and smarm suggests that when properly cast he can shine.
Mark Zuckerberg is a polarizing figure but love him or hate him, his story has made one the best films of the year.