Review: 'The Social Network': The Tale of Our Time

Review: Justin Timberlake, Jesse Eisenberg shine in "The Social Network."

ByABC News
September 24, 2010, 3:53 AM

Sept. 24, 2010 — -- I'll admit it: I initially scoffed at the idea of a Facebook movie. How riveting could a film about a Web site whose features include a nagging "People You May Know" window and a game based on buying fake farm animals be?

Incredibly, it turns out. "The Social Network," which premieres tonight at the New York Film Festival and opens nationwide Oct. 1, is an epic tour de force about the people behind the site that defines our time. There's backstabbing and betrayal, there's tragedy and triumph. There are heroes, there are villains. "The Social Network" is not simply a movie about a Web site. It is a movie about people and the great lengths to which they go in their quest for power.

Anyone who has Googled Facebook knows the story: High achieving Harvard undergrad Mark Zuckerberg founds a game-changing social networking site, gets absurdly rich, gets sued. But as James Cameron did with "Titanic," director David Fincher ("Fight Club") and screenwriter Aaron Sorkin ("The West Wing") make the movie riveting despite the fact that most people know what happens in the end. Unlike that ocean liner, this ship sails on strong.

As Zuckerberg, Jesse Eisenberg offers up a must-see performance. A dead ringer for the mop-haired mogul, Eisenberg inhabits the role of a status-hungry geek-turned-larger-than-life billionaire to perfection. Sorkin's swift hand gives Eisenberg the sniveling, slightly sinister tone of a genius who speaks faster than he thinks and thinks at the speed of light. He's not a run-of-the-mill bookworm. He's an aggressive nerd bent on world domination.

The real-life Zuckerberg has dismissed "The Social Network," based on the book, "The Accidental Billionaires," as a work of fiction. It's no wonder. According to the movie, he's an obsessive workaholic with a borderline personality disorder.

At the beginning of the movie, Erica Albright, Zuckerberg's soon-to-be ex-girlfriend, played by "Girl With the Dragon Tattoo" star Rooney Mara, laments that "dating you is like dating a Stairmaster." Undeterred, Zuckerberg charges on, belittling Albright's Boston University education until she breaks down and breaks up with him.