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Jesse Eisenberg as Mark Zuckerberg on his way to a very important meeting.

How many facebook friends do you have?

In 2003, Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) was your average socially-inept super-smart Harvard student. As it is with most geniuses, he’s also kind of a jerk. After being rejected by his girlfriend Erica (Rooney Mara), Mark goes back to his dorm room, gets drunk, and decides to blog about her and her bra size. After a couple more beers Mark gets the brilliant idea to create a website comparing the hotness of female students at Harvard.

This site, Face Mash, is exceedingly popular and soon morphs into The Facebook, a social networking site that takes the entire college experience (the friends, the parties, the hook-ups) and puts in online. With the help of his best friend Eduardo Saverin (Andrew Garfield) The Facebook launches.

As Facebook’s popularity grows, Napster co-founder Sean Parker (Justin Timberlake) steps in and convinces Mark that The Facebook is a billion dollar idea. (He also suggests a name change, just Facebook.) The more Sean works with Mark, the less of a voice Eduardo has in the company.

Mark faces two different legal battles. First with Eduardo, and second with the Winklevoss twins, fellow students who claim Facebook was their idea. Facebook keeps growing but Mark doesn’t have the only thing he ever really wanted, acceptance.

The Social Network” wasn’t what I expected, it was a lot better.

It’s a brilliant movie that tells a fascinating story by exploring common themes we’re all familiar with. The films screenwriter, Aaron Sorkin (“The West Wing”), does a terrific job of crafting a narrative that is a perfect mixture of drama and humor. It grabs you in the first scene and never lets you go. I didn’t expect the story of Facebook to be so engrossing. Of course, I didn’t expect a show about the White House to be that exciting either.

Sorkin is known for his sharp, witty dialog and engaging characters. This movie is no exception. Within the first five minutes Mark has half a dozen different conversations with his girlfriend simultaneously and we learn everything we need to know about him. He’s smart, extremely arrogant, yet still almost sympathetic. I didn’t know it was possible to both love and hate someone at the same time.

The screenplay, based on the book “The Accidental Billionaires” by Ben Mezrich, feels honest, but how much of it is true? The real question is, how much does it matter? A feature film is not a documentary. And I doubt that a documentary about a few computer geeks sitting around a glowing computer screen would be half as interesting. In an interview with New York Magazine Sorkin admitted that his first priority was to telling a good story. Mission accomplished.

With David Fincher as a director I guess I shouldn’t be so surprised that the movie was good. Fincher doesn’t take on boring projects. (Think “Se7en” and “Fight Club.”) Fincher works his magic here too creating visually dynamic scenes that feel dark and real.

He also gets unexpectedly strong performances from the entire cast. The few other films I’ve seen Jesse Eisenberg in, “Adventureland,” “Cursed,” and “Zombieland,” he’s always struck me as a Michael Cera 2.0, a cute, shy and guy who plays the same cute and shy guy in every movie. “The Social Network” is a turning point. Here, Eisenburg manages to portray Mark as a self-centered, unemotional jackass that you still care about.

Andrew Garfield’s Eduardo is the opposite of Mark. He’s a decent guy who’s constantly looking out for Mark, even as he’s being squeezed out of company. Garfield plays him with sympathy and compassion.

And Justin Timberlake is equally good. Part of me really wants to like everything Timberlake does because I will forever be a twelve-year-old girl who blindly idolizes him and misses the ‘N Sync posters on my bedroom walls. But a bigger part of me really enjoys the irony of a man who rose to fame in the music industry playing the man who brought down the music industry.

In the film Sean Parker is a vindictive, deceitful rat, out to make a buck anyway he can. Timberlake’s charisma and charm come through onscreen and make it easy to see how Mark could get so swept up in his world.

Whatever your personal feelings about Facebook are, whether you think it connects the world better and faster then ever before or turned us all into anti-social hermits hitting the “refresh” button every thirty seconds, “The Social Network” is still a great movie. Is it the “Citizen Kane” of our attention deficit generation? I wouldn’t go that far, but it’s still worth your time and consideration.

Though it may appear to be just a movie about Facebook, “The Social Network” is an interesting and fantastically complex movie about friendship, betrayal, acceptance, jealousy, and revenge. Those are things everyone can relate to, whether they’re one of the half billion users or not.

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  1. Pingback: The Commuter: Vol. 42 « Art in the Rye Design - June 18, 2011

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