Justin Timberlake, Nerd God

Who would have thought the Facebook movie's breakout star would be Justin Timberlake? Apparently the singing, dancing, tequila-brewing genius put out a surprisingly strong performance in The Social Network. Well enough, maybe, to take an obscure nerd international.

Caroline McCarthy at CNET took in a screening of the Facebook flick and came away impressed by former Mickey Mouse Club star Timberlake, at least as presented by director David Fincher and screenwriter Aaron Sorkin:

Then there's [Facebook CEO Mark] Zuckerberg's kindred spirit in Napster co-founder Sean Parker (a surprisingly good performance by erstwhile boy-band singer Justin Timberlake), an entrepreneur prone not only to deceit and pranksterism but to ribald hedonism and wild, sometimes questionable tales of his own past in Silicon Valley. He can shape-shift in the manner of traditional lore, morphing from broke Palo Alto couch-crasher to man of the hour with martini glass in hand. In Fincher and Sorkin's retelling, Parker is the Digital Age's original trickster.

So while Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg reportedly comes out of The Social Network looking like "an insecure jerk," founding Facebook president Sean Parker will emerge from it as a sexy and prescient bad boy of tech, thanks to Timberlake's portrayal. That's not a bad deal for Parker, who took a backseat to Shawn Fanning at Napster and to Zuckerberg at Facebook. Especially considering he didn't even help Timberlake with acting tips. No need, apparently; Timberlake, who took home an Emmy for hosting Saturday Night Live, is emerging as the Mark Wahlberg of his generation. (In a good way!)