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Archive for October 23rd, 2010

The Social Network

Anchored in the deposition hearings for two lawsuits and told in flashback, we first meet Harvard student Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) in a pub with his soon to be ex-girlfriend, Erica Albright (Rooney Mara). He returns to his dorm room and starts drinking. As he gets more drunk he begins to write a savage attack against Erica on his blog. He also hacks all the local college computers to obtain images to create a website called “FaceMash”, where users are shown images of two girls and have to choose which is more attractive. Vilified by female students and placed on academic probation after the site crashes Harvard’s server, Zuckerberg earns a certain notoriety. This brings him to the attention of fellow students, Cameron & Tyler Winklevoss and heir business partner Divya Narendra. The twins who come from a privileged background and are members of Harvard’s rowing team have an idea for an exclusive dating website for Harvard students and graduates. Zuckerberg agrees to write the program code for the brothers site but is distracted by his own idea for a social network website. Enlisting the help of friends, including best friend Eduardo Saverin (Andrew Garfield), The Face book (the “The” was later dropped) goes live and is an instant success to the chagrin of the Winklevoss who believe that Zuckerberg has stolen their idea. As The Facebook takes off and is expanded to other schools Napster founder Sean Parker (Justin Timberlake) joins the team and Saverin becomes marginalised.

As demonstrated in the modern classics (yes I am a big fan) Seven and Fight Club, David Fincher is an expert at manipulating audiences and their emotions. In many ways this is his most subtle work to date. During the opening scene, as she is breaking up with him Erica tells Mark “you’re an asshole” and on the evidence of the previous few minutes she is correct. But something strange happens as the story develops and the depositions dig deeper into the background of the story I found myself on his side, there is even a time when I felt sorry for him. I feel sorry for a billionaire who treated his best friend like shit, how did that happen Mr Fincher? The fantastic cast must also be commended for this, Eisenberg and Timberlake are on top form and give by far the best performances of their careers and the ever reliable Garfield picks up where he left off in Red Riding. The script by Aaron Sorkin is based on the none fiction book “The Accidental Billionaires” by Ben Mezrich. The dialogue is truly brilliant and the story he crafts is compelling and strangely for a movie in which little happens often exciting. The greatest surprise of the movie is just how funny it is, this again is a combination of script and performance.

Your feelings towards the characters towards the characters, particularly Zuckerberg and Saverin will depend a lot on how much you believe the story you are being told. Rather than playing on the cheep irony of the fact a person with limited social skills invented the biggest social media website ever, the movie instead tells of that only a person like this could have created Facebook. At one point Mark Zuckerberg tells the Winklevoss’ “If you guys were the inventors of Facebook, you’d have invented Facebook” not only did they not invent it they probably could not have invented it. The title of the source book “The Accidental Billionaires” really sums this up, whist the Winklevoss brothers are the top of the social food chain and have a sound business model and plan to make money. Zuckerberg just wanted to create something cool, his idea of personal gain isn’t necessarily financial.

The fact the movie exists is probably as much an indictment of the litigation culture of recent years as it is a celebration of the phenomenon that is facebook. This does not detract from the fact that it is a fantastic movie that is intelligently made and supremely acted. With an unexpected subtlety and understated confidence that doesn’t feel the need to show-off, this is a movie to enjoy as well as to admire. Like so many of David Fincher’s previous movies I suspect this one that will get better with time and repeated viewings.

Four Stars out of Five.

I used to attach trailers to all my reviews, this is something I stopped doing last year but couldn’t resist this one as it is such a fantastic trailer aided by the use of a haunting cover of the Radiohead song Creep by Belgian choir group Scala & Kolacny Brothers.

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