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Critics have been quick to bill "The Social Network"—the buzzed about story behind Facebook—as a collaborative stroke of genius between two of Hollywood’s most uncompromising visionaries, director David Fincher and snappy screenwriter Aaron Sorkin. But really, there’s a triumvirate of talents at work here. Sure, Fincher’s stylized visuals are perfectly suited for Sorkin’s time-darting narrative, which deftly hopscotches between dorm room antics, Silicone Valley excess and heated depositions as we follow Facebook’s meteoric and controversial rise, but it’s Trent Reznor’s ominous score, swelling from robotic, syncopated beats to uneasy, desolate soundscapes, that best conveys the film’s underlying theme: Hollowness.
At the empty center of this sensory maelstrom is Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s oft-vilified mastermind, who’s played to scowl-faced perfection by Jessie Eisenberg. The film opens with the future billionaire’s “humble” Harvard beginnings, or more specifically, during his inability to penetrate the intricate, good old boys' network of the school’s social clubs.
Obsessing over his own unpopular plight, Zuckerberg offends his grounded girlfriend, who promptly dumps him, and returns to his dorm room—dejected and drunk—to create Facemash, a campus-wide version of HotorNot that requires him to hack into Harvard’s network of student ID images. Though the stunt lands the programmer on probation, it also captures the attention of the socially/physically/financially superior Winklevoss twins (both played by Armie Hammer), who enlist him to help create a Harvard-specific social network.
From there, the story is both familiar and infamous. Holed up in his room with a cadre of computer geek outcasts, Zuckerberg either steals the twins’ idea or betters it depending on whose version of events you believe, and with the funding from his best pal Eduardo Saverin, launches TheFacebook, which quickly goes viral and earns the boys a whirlwind lifestyle that even includes groupies.
Party and programming binges ensue; school is put on hold, sweet Palo Alto pads are rented, adults are offended and venture capitalists are wooed. By the time Justin Timberlake, as Napster co-founder Sean Parker, waltzes onto the screen and into the company, unbridled indulgence and cutthroat business tactics begin to erode friendships, ironically leaving Zuckerberg as a man whose massive virtual social life stands in stark contrast to his actual one.
But it’s not all doom and gloom. As cautionary and, dare we say it, "Citizen Kane"-y as "The Social Network" is, it’s also—surprisingly— downright entertaining. Timberlake grabs the film’s reins and injects it with pure devilish dazzle, while Fincher lends a voyeuristic gloss to one salacious scene after another. Sorkin, on the other hand, goes for laughs, arming his hyper-literate characters with an arsenal of rat-a-tat dialogue that no one wields with more lethal effect than Eisenberg, who hysterically suffers no fools throughout the depositions.
Is "The Social Network" the movie of the moment? Only time and the collective conscious of millions of status updates will tell. But it should certainly prove to be the talking point of this fall season, if for no other reason than it gives our social-media minded generation the perfect excuse to talk about what we love most: Ourselves.