The Social Network
(David Fincher, 2010, USA)
It seems that whomever you meet nowadays, be they young or old, male or female, can be found on a little thing called Facebook, an online social networking site allowing you to both catch up with old friends and make entirely new ones, all the while sharing such intimate information as your interests and, somewhat most importantly, your relationship status. Facebook currently has a membership capacity of over five hundred million, and it is constantly gaining new sign ups each and every day. Unlike many major corporations, the website has a complex and comprehensive origin story which sees the truth called into question and loyalties constantly shifted.
After the disappointment that was The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (which was as tedious as it was shallow) back in 2008, director David Fincher returns to form with this scintillating factual story about the origins of Facebook and its numerous subsequent lawsuits. Based on the book ‘The Accidental Billionaires’ and scripted by The West Wing creator Aaron Sorkin, The Social Network is an outstandingly entertaining film which makes full use of its copious amount of onscreen talent and bracingly interesting true story.
Jessie Eisenberg plays Mark Zuckerberg, a nerdy, quietly angry yet fiercely intelligent Harvard student who, on a sleepy autumnal evening in 2003, puts into motion the events that form the formation of Facebook, or ‘thefacebook’ as it was initially called. Collaborating with his socially inept roommates (including the enthusiastic Eduardo Saverin, perfectly played by Andrew Garfield), Zuckerberg must deal with the instant success of his creation whilst becoming the subject of close scrutiny from a trio of fellow students, who believe that the idea was stolen from them. The film crosscuts between the invention of Facebook and the two following lawsuits that befall it, one by the three students (including the imposing Winklevoss twins) and the other by Zuckerberg’s one and only friend Saverin, who believes he was swindled out of his significant share of the company.
Though Eisenberg is brilliantly compelling as the flawed anti-hero, the real star of The Social Network is Aaron Sorkin’s screenplay, which is consistently strong and filled with zingy dialogue and sizzling witticisms. Even from the opening scene, the script is so eloquently portrayed that it is hard not to fall for its effortless appeal. David Fincher too deserves a special mention; he directs his film with a graceful elegance, fluidly editing each scene and utilising the beautifully icy climes of the Harvard setting to lend his film a monotonous sense of foreboding, which matches the films’ dry tone.
The films strengths lie in its impartiality, Sorkin never picks sides or forces audiences to think one thing or another; he delivers the undisputed facts and lets history unveil the truths. The results of the court cases are never revealed and the ending is left wide open, which is a perfect way of dealing with the unbiased attitude of the piece.
Justin Timberlake finally, and successfully, makes the transition from pop star to movie star, delivering an impressive performance as the smarmy Sean Parker, the wealthy yet troubled entrepreneur who created Napster at the age of nineteen. Andrew Garfield also contributes a notable and highly watchable performance which will no doubt push his low key career into the public limelight, boding well for his upcoming role as Peter Parker in the planned Spiderman reboot. Garfield is a vulnerable yet powerful screen presence who lends the film its much needed heart.
Although it ends quite abruptly, The Social Network is a visually compelling, intelligent documentation of a fairly recent history, which has a wide appeal, universal themes and can be enjoyed by anyone, whether you have a Facebook account or not.
- The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, 2008. [Film] Directed by David Fincher, USA: Warner Bros. Pictures.
The Social Network, 2010. [Film] Directed by David Fincher, USA: Columbia Pictures.