At first glance, “The Social Network,” the new Sony Pictures biopic based on Facebook creator Mark Zuckerberg, may seem like a real yawner. Seriously, why would anyone spend two hours of their life watching a social idiot savant, portrayed by a relatively obscure actor, write code, lose friends, influence people and get sued over the whole debacle?
It’s the director, stupid.
But now, why would David Fincher, Hollywood’s current purveyor of cool, the man recently tapped to direct “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo,” take the reins of said project, which opens Friday. This one’s a no-brainer; screenwriter Aaron Sorkin (“The West Wing,” “A Few Good Men”) crafted a brilliant script that is so fast-paced and entertaining you won’t have time to see the nerd you just plowed over in your rearview mirror, nor will you want to. Sorkin downshifts, steps on the gas and careens the vehicle toward the next victim. Exactly who the wounded are he leaves up to the audience, and that’s half the fun of the film.
He was not driving the bus alone, however. Jesse Eisenberg (“Zombieland”) in the lead role delivers an outstanding performance as the Harvard pariah-turned-Silicon Valley-boy wonder that will surely garner a nomination or two this awards season. You can almost see Eisenberg’s brain working as his lips are moving in a desperate attempt to keep up; the anticipation of the resulting train wreck is palatable. One minute you want to indulge him, the next to slap him.
Supporting his spot-on efforts are Justin Timberlake, Andrew Garfield and Armie Hammer as the real-life tragic figures caught up in the tangle of Zuckerberg’s World Wide Web.
Sorkin admitted that he was initially reticent. One can practically hear his eyes roll over the phone when asked about social networking. A self-professed Luddite, he does not have a Facebook page and waxes nostalgic for the days when people actually wrote letters.
“One of the things that was particularly challenging for us ... was that it is not what anyone expected since the moment it was announced that we were doing this movie,” Sorkin said. “It was kind of met with a collective, ‘ugh!’ because I think when people hear that someone’s doing a movie about Facebook that it must be Bradley Cooper and Drew Barrymore falling in love on the Internet. Obviously it’s not that.”
“The Social Network”
Opens Oct. 1.
Starring Jesse Eisenberg, Justin Timberlake, Andrew Garfield and Armie Hammer. Directed by David Fincher.
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