If The Social Network is to be believed, Mark Zuckerberg is a truly remarkable individual. Not because he invented Facebook – or at least managed to swindle close friends and business associates into owning the company that has collected 500 million members make him worth $7 billion – but because he is the world’s first rich asshole who is incapable of getting any chicks.
Word has it that Zuckerberg is furious that the movie is making him look like a shyster who stole others’ ideas and ran with them all the way to the bajillionaire’s club, but what he should be angry about is how the movie makes him appear to have as much game as Screech from Saved by the Bell. As played by Jesse Eisenberg, Zuckerberg is a tunnel-visioned, shrewd businessman and genius computer hacker who can’t even muster up the nerve to send a friend request to the unrequited love of his life who drove him to make something of himself.
The flimsiness of the central character is the only fault I can find with the cyberninja drama, which tugs you along with Farmville-like addiction into its torrent of backstabbing and betrayals.
Shocks and surprises abound in the brilliantly directed film by David Fincher, pepped up by Aaron Sorkin’s silky dialogue and a spine-tingling soundtrack by Trent Reznor:
• Justin Timberlake can not only act, but he’s so charismatic as Napster founder-turned Zuckerberg partner Sean Parker that he may earn an Oscar to go with his Grammys.
• A movie about people standing around yelling at each other and occasionally typing can be as riveting as Rocky 3. Did I stutter? Yep, that’s Rocky 3, the one with both Hulk Hogan AND Mr. T.
• A key to Facebook’s success was making Baylor students jealous of it. Baylor!
• Someone actually remembers what Friendster is.
The best aspect of the movie is just how delightfully trashy it is. There are more “oh no he di-in’t” moments than in an episode of Jersey Shore. Characters treat each other like verbal punching bags, and the scenes you’d expect to be the least engaging – those featuring Zuckerberg and his former business partners sitting around a table meeting with lawyers – are often the most engaging. This despite the fact that many of the other scenes feature Timberlake hosting parties where people do coke lines off of tummies of stripping co-eds while covering up just enough skin to keep the movie in the PG-13 range.
Eisenberg has just enough of a soft touch to keep his ruthless, obsessive character relatable, while also ensuring that Zuckerberg’s virginity will continue to remain intact. Which is nice, because if this movie is true, we really don’t want this guy reproducing, because little Zuckerbergs would undoubtedly be smart enough to create death-dealing robots who enslave humanity while showing your girlfriend photos of that party you swore you didn’t go to the other night.
Or at least steal the idea to make those robots from giant twin frat boys.
Starring Jesse Eisenberg, Rooney Mara, Andrew Garfield and Justin Timberlake. Written by Aaron Sorkin, based on a book by Ben Mezrich. Directed by David Fincher. 120 minutes. Rated PG-13.
Phil Villarreal’s humorous money-saving book, Secrets of a Stingy Scoundrel, is available on Amazon.