Yes, all right, it's hard to care about the Facebook movie. To those of us who used the website during our formative years, the movie feels like a bunch of middle-aged guys getting together to condescend to the next generation. To those who've seen Facebook recreate the way young people interact, the movie looks like a faddish waste of time unworthy of as much attention as has been lavished on it.
But that's just the marketing. The movie itself is perhaps the best thing to come out of Hollywood this year, maybe in several years. Briefly, it tracks the progress of Mark Zuckerberg (a riveting Jesse Eisenberg), a coding genius who wants to make friends and doesn't much care about money, as he creates an amazingly effective system for bringing people together that makes him more money than he could spend in a lifetime and costs him all of his friends in the process. The irony is bitter and perfect.
Director David Fincher (Zodiac) imbues the proceedings with the tension and mystery of a good thriller, drawing us into Zuckerberg's antisocial world even as he prepares to bring it crashing down around his ears. Pulled under by talented coder Sean Parker (a wonderful Justin Timberlake, believe it or not), Zuckerberg becomes caught up in all the things money can bring: cheap sex, drugged-out friends, and lots and lots of lawsuits (the film is rated PG-13 for several pre- and post-coital scenes-no nudity-and a lot of swearing and drug use).
And there are moments when it's impossible to feel sorry for Zuckerberg. Fast-talking, impatient, and thoroughly convinced of his own genius, he genuinely doesn't seem to understand why everyone won't just do what he says. The screenplay is the work of playwright and TV writer Aaron Sorkin, whose work on The West Wing is among the best-loved bad writing of the age, and as hateful as I've found his caricatures of conservatives and Christians in the past, The Social Network is devoid of any of the usual glib snideness.