Monday, October 11, 2010

The Social Network

Written by: Aaron Sorkin

Directed by: David Fincher

Starring: Jesse Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield, Justin Timberlake, Armie Hammer, Rooney Mara

Rating: 9/10

Don’t be put off by the less than tantalising subject matter of David Fincher’s latest film, The Social Network. If the legal battles of the world’s youngest billionaire don’t sound like your cup of tea, do not deny yourself the chance to see this film. A distinctly unique film in every way, The Social Network balances the machine-gun and biting dialogue of Aaron Sorkin’s (The West Wing) script with the tension and atmospherics of Fincher’s direction in such a way that what is created is truly different to anything you’ve ever seen.

The opening scene of The Social Network, in which we are introduced to our protagonist Mark Zuckerberg, says everything about the character, his motivations and his contradictory personality that you could possibly want to know. He is on a date with Erica (Rooney Mara) and pontificating about the important of getting into the exclusive Finals Clubs at Harvard. The intensity with which he speaks and the determination in his voice speaks volumes about his obsession with success, not for money but for the power and social standing that comes with it. The girl is unimpressed, breaking up with him in a rage over his constant ranting, saying “you’re gonna go through life thinking girls don’t like you because you’re a nerd but that won’t be true. It will be because you’re an asshole”. Interesting setup for film’s hero. Sorkin’s script starts as it means to go on. As the story of Facebook’s inception unfolds it becomes clear that there are no heroes in this story, and no real villains. The hateful rich guys are really the victims and the underdogs are the wrong-doers. Empathy does not come into the equation.

It seems to me that the central discussion in the film is the delicacy of ideas. As technology moves forward, it seems it is not a matter of who is creative enough to push things forward but who will get there first. Sometimes the progress of technology dictates where the ideas will come from and it really was only a matter of time before someone came up with and idea like Facebook. So when the snooty Winklevoss twins approach computer genius Zuckerberg with an idea for a social networking site with the prospect of exclusivity, Zuckerberg hates them for placing such importance on something so shallow, but goes off and creates the site for more social reasons. Friends finding friends; looking up someone you meet in a bar, etc. Despite this “good intentions” perspective, Zuckerberg did, essentially, steal the idea from the Winklevoss’s (or Winklevi, as he refers to them). So when the lawsuits start to fly it’s not a matter of knowing who to root for, it’s just going along for the ethical ride.

It is a testament to the filmmakers that this film is as interesting as it is. It really shouldn’t be as thought-provoking or profound as it is. Aaron Sorkin proved as showrunner of The West Wing that he had the capability to see the good and evil in decisions, a person need not be evil to make a very poor decision. Here, in The Social Network, there are no black and white characters; the morals are decidedly grey making for a very mature take on the courtroom drama.

There is a fine mix of quirky wit and sober menace, with a wonderfully nuanced performance by Jesse Eisenberg who has previously shown great talent in the likes of The Squid and the Whale but lately seems to have been pigeon-holed as the poor man’s Michael Cera. It’s great to see him living up to his potential in a truly memorable performance. Justin Timberlake also impresses as the infinitely charismatic Sean Parker, creator of Napster, who comes on board with Facebook midway through its ascent, causing all sorts of internal ruptures. Credit must also go to Armie Hammer who played both Winklevoss twins with meat-headed vulgarity but also with maturity and humanity.

This is a film with universal appeal, it is simply an excellent film, it cannot be denied. It’s difficult to imagine anybody not getting hopelessly sucked into this story. Come Oscar time, if I don’t see Sorkin’s name in lights, I’m starting a Facebook group called “Like if you think The Academy are idiots”.

 - Charlene Lydon (from:

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