Review: The Social Network (2010)

Director: David Fincher

*****

Facebook is no longer a website; it is a ridiculously-proportioned phenomenon. In terms of population, it’s almost twice as big as the United States, is used in over 200 countries and has made its (co-)founder Mark Zuckerberg the world’s youngest billionaire. The fact that a film was made about the foundation of Facebook indicates that this was not a clean-cut example of brave and noble entrepreneurship. If the events in the film (as charted by Ben Mezrich in his book ‘The Accidental Billionaires’, the basis for the script) are to be believed, Facebook came about as an act of revenge by a dumped boyfriend against his ex.

(Relationship status: It’s complicated)

The opening scene of The Social Network sees Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) and his girlfriend Erica (Rooney Mara, soon to be seen sporting a Dragon Tattoo) discussing how Mark can get into the prestigious clubs at Harvard University. Sick of his sycophancy to these monied dweebs, she dumps him there and then. This one scene encapsulates the entire film perfectly; Zuckerberg wants to make friends, but his efforts to get people on his side actually drive them away. Eisenberg’s portrayal makes Zuckerberg a determined wannabe looking in at the beautiful monied people in the clubs. As one character observes, “You’re not an asshole, Mark. You’re just trying too hard to be one.”

(Interested in: women, men. Looking for: friendship)

The break-up sets off a chain of events that leads to Zuckerberg setting up a college networking site called ‘thefacebook.com’ with the financial backing of his best friend and site co-founder Eduardo Saverin (Andrew Garfield). With the site growing all the time, the urge to expand the site gets the attention of Napster founder Sean Parker (a wonderfully arrogant Justin Timberlake). His machinations lead to a shift in the power structure at the newly-retitled ‘Facebook’, leading to Zuckerberg’s and Saverin’s friendship souring. Indeed, the film cuts back and forth between the actual creation of Facebook and the lawsuits taken against Zuckerberg by Saverin and a group of Harvard students (Max Minghella and twins played by Armie Hammer) who claim Zuckerberg stole their idea.

(Education and work: I’m CEO, bitch!)

David Fincher can now lay a claim to being one of the few filmmakers who can capture the zeitgeist of any given time on film. His exploration of the need for social status in the last few years in The Social Network is similar to his analysis of materialized emasculation in the late ’90s in Fight Club. Our need for human connection has been exploited on the Internet, and we are now at a stage where our online selves are so important that we forget about our connections in reality. Zuckerberg and Saverin’s falling out is testament to this. The former needed to succeed so badly with his online project that the latter, his best friend financier, gets left behind. These are not good-guy/bad-guy ciphers; they’re victims of their own intelligence and ambition. As a flipside to Eisenberg’s isolation, Garfield displays warmth but is never naïve. His friendliness leads to his exploitation but he’s also willing to fight; no wonder he’s the new Spider-Man.

(Status update: FML!)

Aaron Sorkin’s script positively dazzles with wit and intelligence. Putdowns and one-liners are exchanged with excessive speed, whilst the plot machinations gear up to crush all and any characters that try to defy them. Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross’ score is full of pep and energy, whilst Jeff Cronenweth shoots Harvard in blues and beiges, as warmth is sapped by sterility. In other words, the characters are reflected in the design and look of the film. After the interminable boredom of Benjamin Button, Fincher has delivered an exciting and relevant drama. The Social Network is a rare thing: it is a probing examination of the times we live in, and will remain as a defining chronicle of the last decade. It will endure long after Facebook has ended because, unlike the website that inspired it, The Social Network has something important to say behind the hype and bluster. Zuckerberg liked the initial idea of Facebook because it was cool. The Social Network remembers to be cool, but never forgets the warmth.

(Status update: OMG just saw the best movie! Love it soooooo much LOL 😉 )

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