Tuesday, 12 October 2010

THE SOCIAL NETWORK review

Out this week in cinemas is the new David Fincher directed 'Facebook movie', The Social Network.
Find out more and read my review, after the jump...






On a cold Autumn evening in 2003, Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) decides to create a project that allows fellow Harvard students to rank the females on campus. Although the idea makes him unpopular with the girls, it brings him to the attention of the Winklevoss twins (Armie Hammer), needing help to launch a elite social network for their fellow students called HarvardConnection. Disillusioned by the Winklevoss project, Zuckerberg takes his own idea for an online Facebook to his friend and potential investor, Eduardo Saverin (Andrew Garfield). An immediate success, Facebook soon becomes the subject of a number of lawsuits from the Winklevoss's and in time, Saverin.


One of the strangest aspects of this film is that it's such recent history. The furthest the film reaches is seven years ago, as Zuckerberg runs across the Harvard courtyards to moan about women on his blog. The Facebook story has so far been a rocky one, and plenty has happened in the last seven years; a lot of that requiring a lawyer to be present. This film concerns the backstabbing, betrayals and lost brotherhood behind it all. If you're looking for proof as to how much has happened in Zuckerberg's life, Facebook and the world in those few years, look at the quaintness of him updating his profile page on the old layout. It seems so long ago.


At first sight, the prospect of a film based on the creation of a website is a strange one, but when you look at the growing numbers of Facebook users (500 million and counting), it's a relevant enough part of today's culture and society to warrant its own film. Working from Aaron Sorkin's script, David Fincher has taken this story of alleged corruption and creative differences and crafted it into a near masterpiece.


Jesse Eisenberg has the unenviable task of making Zuckerberg empathetic, and whilst it's hardly a flattering portrayal of a lonely billionaire, he's certainly not been villified to the extent reports suggested. He's shown to be a hard working, focused individual, and immensely proud of his contribution to the world. Eisenberg has always carried a kind of nerdy charm, but this is the right role that will allow him to distance himself from the comparisons to Michael Cera. He's very much his own person, and a fine actor at that.


Eduardo Saverin is portrayed as a perfectly nice chap, but as he was the only key figure to have any involvement in the creative process (he talked to Ben Mezrich during the writing of the book), that's maybe to be expected. Saverin is the most immediately identifiable character, not necessarily motivated by money, just for the recognition of what's rightfully his.


The cast are superb throughout, and there's star-making performances by Andrew Garfield and Armie Hammer (special praise should go to Hammer for playing the dual roles of the Winklevoss twins). This film also marks the arrival of Justin Timberlake, Actor. He's impressed in film projects before, but I totally bought him as Sean Parker, the founder of Napster and key figure in the expansion of Facebook. With his Victoria's Secret models and playboy lifestyle, he's the embodiment of Californian corruption, and it's clear why the meek Zuckerberg would be so enamoured with him.



It's such a near masterpiece that it's hard to find faults, but there are a few. The main grievances I had were the niggling feeling that events probably didn't happen quite as described, and that the real people involved in the making of Facebook probably didn't speak quite so fast. All the characters appear to be motivated by the prospect of meeting women, and I'm sure that's an over simplification. These are minor gripes, as it's clear it's part of the dramatic licence that's been used for the good of the film.

As with the characters in The West Wing, the characters here often speak Sorkin-ese, exemplified by its rapid speech with sarcastic undertones. It firmly places the film into an intellectual world of its own, and if you don't pay the film your full attention, there's a risk you might get left behind.


If I was to pick more holes, it's a very elitist world where events play out, and it's a tad hard to empathise with people who now have a level of wealth you and I will never see. The film continually plays on the irony that this little social networking venture cost Zuckerberg a lot of his friends, and at times the subtext is handled with little subtlety. The film seems to portray Zuckerberg as a tragic loner, akin to Daniel Plainview in There Will Be Blood, but in reality Zuckerberg is still only 26 years old, and hardly an isolated old miser. The female roles aren't particularly well drawn, but that goes hand in hand with the male-centric final clubs and fraternities the whole story is born from.


We're also never fully informed of Zuckerberg's motivations behind his supposed double-cross against Saverin. As is continually mentioned in the film, he's not really motivated by money; so why did he try to cut his best friend and business partner out of the earnings? I'm sure there's complex reasonings behind it all but we're not privy to even a hint of it here, probably because the filmmakers just don't know.


David Fincher and Aaron Sorkin have managed to work with the fact and fiction from Ben Mezrich's book to create a compelling narrative, and one that goes a lot deeper than you'd think. This is a story that is extremely relevant to our times, and what started out as an odd idea for a film has turned into this year's best. I expect to see Fincher rewarded accordingly come awards time, and I wouldn't be surprised to see the acting honoured too. A must see.


Verdict

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