I doubt anyone would have ever guessed that Jessie Eisenberg would be in contention for an oscar but after having seen The Social Network last night at the New York Film Festival I am joining the campaign to get Jessie Eisenberg nominated for best leading actor this awards season. We know the voting guilds love a good villain as evidenced by the last three supporting actor champions (Waltz, Ledger and Bardem) but Eisenberg's portrayal as Facebook creator Mark Zuckerberg can't be reduced to being described as simply a villain or an asshole. After watching the film I don't believe he is either. At not point during the story did I think Mark was doing anything intentionally malicious, perhaps outside of the creation of Facemash. Although I don't think he realized how hurtful that or his blog posts were. He was angry and jealous and appeared to not have the ability to be considerate.
Zuckerberg can best be described as the anti hero. He has one good friend because of that tries to find meaning in life through exclusivity. Eisenberg effectively shapes a character that is cold but still very much human. We can sympathize with him and some of us can even empathize with him. His delivery of Sorkin's lines are like bullets from a machine gun. They have hit you and done damage before you realize the meaning behind what has been said. His face rarely shows any emotion and yet you have an idea of what he is thinking. One of my favorite scenes is when he tried to talk to Erica again, gets shot down and then proceeds to tell Eduardo "we need to expand". This is one of the great lines in the film only made better by Jesse's delivery.
Comparisons have been made between this film and Citizen Kane as well as between Mark Zuckerberg and William Randolph Hearst. I have read that Mark has a "Rosebud" moment at the end when he is clicking refresh. I disagree. Where as Kane was longing for his childhood innocence, Mark is simply trying to achieve what he was going after the entire film but did not know how to do so. Some people will hate Mark, others will admire, scorn and sympathize with. For this layered work "the board" must recognize Jessie Eisenberg come awards season.
Let the campaign begin.