The Social Network is not the unvarnished true story of Mark Zuckerberg and the creation of Facebook, but it seems as if one of Mark Zuckerberg’s friends should have posted that on his little social network because he sure is acting like people might think it is. Apparently the wunderkind who has become the youngest billionaire (Jesse Eisenberg) in history made a few enemies in the development of his friend-centric social engine, most notably Eduardo Saverin (Andrew Garfield), his best friend and the initial investor in what would become Facebook and a trio of Harvard undergraduates (Max Minghella and Armie Hammer in an amusing double role of genetically engineered twins) who enticed Zuckerberg to help them produce an ultra-exclusive club-like social network.
From beginning to end though, it is all about connections – the making and breaking and exploitation of social bonds – and the great irony is that Zuckerberg’s Achilles heel is his ability to maintain lasting and meaningful connections with people. Director David Fincher and Sorkin (who was working from the Ben Mezrich bestseller The Accidental Billionaires: The Founding of Facebook, A Tale of Sex, Money, Genius, and Betrayal) insert their own diabolical piece of code into the program here in the form of Erika Albright (Rooney Mara), a Boston University undergraduate and would-be girlfriend of Zuckerberg’s who, by chance, becomes the instrument of Fate that inspires him to set his beautiful mind to the task of creating a Harvard University server-busting tool for students (primarily male) to rate female undergrads based on their freshman or residential house photo profiles. Despite the inevitable trouble that results from this trial run, it only takes about a month’s worth of foundation code and less than twenty thousand dollars to push forth this network from Zuckerberg’s imagination.
Eisenberg is perfect. He hones every nerdish tendency he has ever displayed onscreen into a highly concentrated dose that would be lethal in any other case, but every drop of it is necessary to give life to this version of Zuckerberg. It is an embodiment that never feels like an act or a series of tics.
But for all the marvelous invention, in performance and Fincher’s execution, there’s something missing in this Network that prevents it from achieving greatness. While it makes genius accessible and thoroughly watchable (The Social Network sure looks like it will have tons of friends during its theatrical run) and it even provides fodder for critical discourse, the film is as limited as its socially impaired subject. It is a film event that is unlikely to leave a lasting impression beyond the moment it so creatively documents. (tt stern-enzi)