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The Social Network movie poster

The Social Network: Movie Review

Rated: PG-13
Directed by: David Fincher
Starring: Jesse Eisenberg, Justin Timberlake, Andrew Garfield, Rooney Mara, Max Minghella, Armie Hammer, Josh Pence
Released by: Columbia Pictures

In Short: With its venal, thieving, completely unlikable protagonist, it is astonishing that “The Social Network” is such a compelling and enjoyable film.

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A Compelling Portrait of the World’s Youngest Billionaire

There’s much that is brilliant in “The Social Network,” director David Fincher’s take on the 2004 invention of Facebook and its subsequent takeover of social media on the Internet. The script, for one, written by Aaron Sorkin (he of “The West Wing” and “A Few Good Men” fame), is constantly fascinating, despite the fact that its protagonist is a complete jerk.

That’s Mark Zuckerberg, the real-life Harvard IT student who created Facebook and subsequently became the world’s youngest billionaire. Played pitch-perfectly by Jesse Eisenberg, he’s a weasel of a guy, constantly jealous of the successes of others, who basically steals the idea from three other (much more honorable) Harvard men. Once he’s written the program and convinced his best friend to back him financially to launch the now-legendary website, he screws him, too. In fact, Zuckerberg makes the fictional ultra-greedy “Wall Street” character Gordon Gekko look like a saint.

Justin Timberlake and Jesse Eisenberg in The Social Network A still from The Social Network

But despite our growing hatred of the main character as the “The Social Network” unspools, the movie is always compelling, an absorbing look at how arrogance and greed are rewarded in today’s American society. That’s even more impressive considering that much of the action takes place in lawyers’ boardrooms, as Zuckerberg gives depositions in the lawsuits that his former partners and friends bring against him once the site explodes and money starts pouring in.

The film is peppered with top-notch performances, including Justin Timberlake as the slimy Napster founder Sean Parker, who weaseled his way into Zuckerberg’s orbit early on, and Andrew Garfield as Eduardo Saverin, Zuckerberg’s best friend who got the shaft after Parker came on the scene, but refused to take that betrayal lying down.

With all that is so good about the film, there’s little doubt that it will be a leading contender for big prizes come awards season, despite the fact that everyone will leave the theater truly hating Zuckerberg and everything he stands for. Still loving Facebook, of course, but genuinely wishing every time we sign on that its founder wasn’t such a worm.

Reviewed by Jenny Peters

(Updated 10/01/10 AR)

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