The Social Network exploits our fascination in the origins of Facebook. The film’s characters tell us repeatedly that Facebook started as an exclusive party, and we feel like we’re a part of it. It achieves this by dangling sex, money, and the pursuit of greatness while subtly investing us in its characters.
The story is mainly told within the court room from three accounts. We hear from Facebook Co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg (played by Jesse Eisenberg), and we hear from the two parties suing him, his best friend and Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin (Andrew Garfield), and a trio who hired Zuckerberg to create a similar website. Despite being told from three accounts, the film feels like it follows one smooth linear thread.
Whether or not the film is factually accurate does not matter – people will believe that it is true. For those curious, The Social Network is based on the book, The Accidental Billionaires, which was based on second-hand accounts, interviews, and documents. The real Mark Zuckerberg has called the book “fiction.” While the film creators did their best to maintain accuracy (director David Fincher even argued with scriptwriter Aaron Sorkin over what beverage Eisenberg should drink in an effort to be more accurate) not everything in the film is true.
Eisenberg’s performance as Zuckerberg is an elegant portrayal of a likable douchebag. In the film, Zuckerberg flaunts his intelligence by speaking quickly and not caring if people can keep up. He asks his friends if he can do something using their property, and then tells them he’s already done it. Yet Eisenberg maintains a pitiable vulnerability. It isn’t easy to play a genius, but Eisenberg’s sure-footed manner of speech in interviews exemplifies why he is capable of the task.
It is also clever to cast Justin Timberlake as the Napster co-founder Sean Parker. Parker’s role in the film is to entice Zuckerberg into grandeur. The audience knows Timberlake so well we can hardly watch watch anyone else; he’s unequivocally magnetic. Timberlake doesn’t overact but remains confident. This is a different role than his performance as the idiotic lapdog role in Alpha Dog, and demonstrates a range that will hopefully mean we’ll see Timberlake again soon.
Success, power and genius are currencies in which we all wish we could trade. As these themes become stronger in the film, so does the bass of the music, and size of the parties the film’s characters attend. Anyone interested in the Facebook phenomenon is already curious about The Social Network‘s truth, story, and execution. Fincher doesn’t waste that interest, but builds on it wonderfully.