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The Social Network

Published: Thursday, September 30, 2010

Updated: Thursday, September 30, 2010 06:09

Jesse Eisenberg, left, and Joseph Mazzello in Columbia Pictures’ “The Social Network.”

Photo courtesy of Merrick Morton/MCT

Jesse Eisenberg, left, and Joseph Mazzello in Columbia Pictures’ “The Social Network.”

Jesse Eisenberg is breaking out as one of Hollywood's top young actors in "The Social Network" with his portrayal of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg.

It's a shame the movie is based on a true story, because it would have made for a brilliant work of fiction. The film's effect is slightly hindered by knowing the outcome in advance.

Viewers forget early on that this is a film about Facebook. It comes across more as a drama about the trust, greed and betrayal between young entrepreneurs. The creation of Facebook just happens to be the event all the drama is centered around.

The casting director for "Zombieland" was ahead of the curve in recognizing the potential of breakout stars Eisenberg and Emma Stone. The same can be said for the casting for "The Social Network" with a stable of up and coming young actors such as Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield, Armie Hammer and even Justin Timberlake.

The real-life Zuckerberg should be thrilled with how he is portrayed by Eisenberg. Sure, the character is a complete ass, but in a clever and charismatic way. His non-verbal reactions during conversations say as much as his witty retorts. Zuckerberg comes off as a driven genius who is unaffected by money and determined to create a product users will enjoy.

Despite not seeing it yet, Zuckerberg claimed much of the film to be fiction during an appearance on Oprah last Friday. The Winklevoss twins, who claim Zuckerberg stole their idea, said the exact opposite later that day after the movie premiere at Alice Tully Hall.

Facebook co-founder Dustin Moskovitz fell somewhere between the two sides saying, "A lot of exciting things happened in 2004, but mostly we just worked a lot and stressed out about things; the version in the trailer seems a lot more exciting, so I'm just going to choose to remember that we drank ourselves silly and had a lot of sex with coeds."

Fellow co-founder Eduardo Saverin would likely claim the events in the film to be non-fiction considering he was a consultant to author Ben Mezrich for last year's nonfiction book "The Accidental Billionaires" which the movie is based on. Writer Aaron Sorkin adapted the screenplay from the book.

Garfield co-stars as Saverin, offering the first extensive look at the actor since he was named the heir to the Spiderman thrown for Sony's reboot of the franchise. Garfield is the perfect complement to Eisenberg as the level-headed and business-minded Saverin who is in over his head with the rapid success of Facebook. He shows great range as Saverin transitions from Zuckerberg's best friend to one of the people suing him.

The other two suing him are the Winklevoss twins Cameron and Tyler, who are both played by Armie Hammer. The special effects from director David Fincher are seamless. You would not even realize it is a single actor without advanced warning.

Fincher's signature camerawork and dark but vivid color are both utilized in "The Social Network" along with a non-linear storyline. Fincher and Sorkin made the appropriate choice in jumping between the creation of Facebook and the resulting lawsuits years later.

The movie starts with Zuckerberg getting dumped at a bar by his girlfriend. Afterwards, he drunkenly posts insulting blogs about his ex while simultaneously hacking the university's servers to create a Harvard-specific version of the website.

The school board wasn't impressed with his antics, but the Winklevoss twins are, seeking Zuckerberg's help to create a social networking website exclusive to Harvard. He adapts their idea into Facebook and feels justified because he did not use any of their existing programming code. He explains this to Saverin by saying, "A guy who built a chair doesn't owe money to anyone who ever built a chair."

He eventually teams up with Napster creator Sean Parker (Timberlake) to take the company to the next level. It's time for Timberlake to be taken seriously as an actor. He earned it with this role.

The drama that ensues from this partnership is intense, but not nearly as much as the scenes depicting the lawsuits. The film should have delved deeper into these scenes rather than ending abruptly with text explaining what happened.

"The Social Network" eclipses "The Town" as the best film of what has quickly become a strong fall to offset a disastrous summer season. Turning 27 next Tuesday, Eisenberg could become the youngest to ever win the best actor category at the Oscars.

The film opens everywhere tomorrow with midnight screenings tonight.

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