The Social Network (David Fincher, 2010)


Jesse Eisenberg (Mark Zuckerberg), Justin Timberlake (Sean Parker), Andrew Garfield (Eduardo Saverin), Rooney Mara (Erica Albright), Armie Hammer (The Winklevoss twins). Screenplay by Aaron Sorkin. Directed by David Fincher. Rating: 12A. Running time: 120 minutes.

Seven years ago, Mark Zuckerberg was still a kid student at Harvard, nerdy like all computer scientists and as socially awkward as many intelligent people. Today he stands as an owner of a quarter of a company called Facebook that has 500 million members and is worth 25 billion dollars.

To start off, then, with those of you who say The Social Network has no interesting story to tell. I ask what planet you are on. You’re probably reading this review right now because I shared a link to it on the site. Facebook as a part of life and now a natural method of communication is something we somehow never stop to truly appreciate. This film forces us to, not by judging its value but merely by showing its creation unfold. Not only is it a tale that needs telling, though, but it’s also a film as cool as the site itself is. I haven’t seen something that feels quite this hip in a long time.

It’s hard to explain just how different it is to how the trailer implied it would be. That three minute excerpt that’s been flying around for months suggested we’d be given a courtroom drama here to the sound of tragically slow music. Not so. Not so even in the slightest. Sure there’s excerpts here from the disputes in front of Harvard disciplinary committees over intellectual property. A pair of connected, definitely-Harvard-type twins asked Zuckerberg for help in programming for a site they had thought of, which was at this point nothing more than a planned Myspace alternative exclusively for their campus. What developed from this spark was indeed Facebook, but it was Zuckerberg that spent six months typing furiously and building the soul of the website we use more than any other today. The point, however, is that as far as the film is concerned these suing episodes only serve as a stage upon which highly witty one liners can be spouted out. All the students seen here are superhuman in their razor sharp humour, but to give a shit would be equivalent to hating Toy Story for being unrealistic with its talking characters. The point here is as much entertainment as a rough sketch of history – who ever said the two conflict?

The entire film feels like a whirlwind, hurling us through encounters with characters and never stopping to let us breathe as the drama and laughs pan out. The spirit of the Facebook attitude to the world – and clearly an apt summary of Fincher’s own admiration of their vision – is found in Justin Timberlake’s portrayal of Sean Parker. This other incredibly ambitious internet entrepreneur and founder of Napster dragged the founders from their dormitory to Silicon Valley, California. He boasts of it being their time, insisting they never sell out and get a billion dollar company before they’re thirty. Zuckerberg idolises him and practically ditches his degree to heed his advice. His business card reads ‘I’m CEO, bitch.’

We all know almost instantaneously nowadays when people enter and exit relationships, solely because of this creation of a college undergrad’s mind. The magic moment is when a fellow student asks him if a girl he’s interested in his single, and Zuckerberg only gets halfway through pointing out people don’t go around with big signs stuck on their foreheads before he’s back at the computer, realising the power of this one thought. Like I said, there’s no value-judgement passed here on the virtues and vices of the creation; just a highly important recognition of its power, and how it has drastically changed our lives. The story behind it is more than worth knowing, no moreso than when it is told as well and uniquely as it is here.

We start with the most baffling of face-to-face exchanges between Zuckerberg and his soon to be ex-girlfriend, and then we end with him trying to reconnect with her, only this time virtually through his own creation. Fincher takes his time on this last scene; it lasts a long, eerie minute or so without dialogue, as we observe anxious, desperate page-refreshing waiting and praying for that confirmed friend request. How strange our lives are now; how even stranger Mark Zuckerberg’s life has become.

2 Responses to “The Social Network (David Fincher, 2010)”

  1. 1 Academy awards: what will win and what should. « jacob williamson | thoughts on film
  2. 2 The Social Network: revisited, reemphasised. « jacob williamson | thoughts on film

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