It's intriguing that a film with a significant shortage of sympathetic characters is so entertaining -- it's a bit like DALLAS or DYNASTY among the Harvard computer geek set, with Facebook cofounder Eduardo Saverin (Andrew Garfield) being the only character the audience can really understand and be pulling for.
One of the film's strongest assets is its screenplay, written in Aaron Sorkin's typical fast-paced style. I did have to rewatch the opening scene, as the combination of loud background music, unfamiliar terminology, and rapid shifts of topic had me momentarily wondering if Mark (Jesse Eisenberg) and Erica (Rooney Mara) were even speaking English! It also took me a few minutes to catch on to the film's "non-linear" storytelling, as it jumps backward and forward in time. Fortunately the film soon became a little easier to follow. Those who enjoy Sorkin's "walk and talk" style, as seen in THE WEST WING or CHARLIE WILSON'S WAR (2007), are good candidates to enjoy the film.
Eisenberg does a good job playing the brilliant but socially inept Mark Zuckerman, founder of Facebook. It's rather ironic that a "social network" meant to connect people together was started by someone so personally lacking in tact and loyalty.
Justin Timberlake plays Sean Parker, the founder of Napster who invests in Facebook. Brenda Song is notable among the large cast as Eduardo's jealous girlfriend Christy.
I believed there were twins playing Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss, but it turned out that actor Armie Hammer appeared in both roles, thanks to some special effects magic. Hammer was quite amusing and also served as comic relief. Douglas Urbanski has a funny scene as Harvard's then-President Larry Summers; I'd love to know if his meeting with the Winklevoss twins actually went down as scripted.
It was also nice to see actor David Selby, who was so good as scheming Richard on FALCON CREST, in a significant role as an attorney.
It's interesting seeing how Facebook came together -- at least as Hollywood tells the story -- and watching the Machiavellian machinations as the project grows beyond its creators' wildest dreams.
On the other hand, I found myself constantly thinking what shallow lives most of the characters seemed to lead. All the drinking, drugs, and other goings-on in various party scenes made those taking part simply look pathetically stupid and added to the difficulty of feeling much sympathy for anyone involved. The lack of emotional connection with the characters, in general, makes watching the film something of a clinical experience -- interesting, but unmoving.
A funny bit of trivia: a Harvard lecture hall scene was actually filmed in Taper Hall at the University of Southern California. When she saw it in a theater my daughter noticed a USC sign in the hall when the door opened, although we couldn't make it out on the DVD.
Parental advisory: This film earns every bit of its PG-13 rating, and in my opinion it gets uncomfortably close to an R at times; I personally would treat this film as closer to an R and would not recommend it be seen by teens under the age of 16 or 17. The rating is for sexual content, drug use, and language. It's a great illustration of the absurdity of the current ratings system that this film is PG-13 and THE KING'S SPEECH (2010) is rated R. Utterly ridiculous.
This film was directed by David Fincher. It runs 2 hours.
THE SOCIAL NETWORK is available on DVD in a two-disc collector's edition.