Don’t worry. By clicking on my blog you haven’t accidentally opened up a wormhole to October last year when this film was new, fresh and exciting. Having only just seen it recently, I figured it was a glaring omission from my ever-growing archive of pointless cinematic opinion shouting and soapbox mounting. So, just in case you haven’t seen one of last year’s most talked about films, allow me to take your hand and gently guide you from the very same soundproof cave I had been living in until very recently.
The Social Network (2010)
As far as pitches go, “The story of Facebook” is right up there with “The history of Dairylea triangles” on the list of films I’d avoid like a flick-knife wielding superplague. However, with all the glowing reviews, Oscar wins and sheer talent involved, I felt it needed to be checked out. If you were wondering how a film of The Popcorn Bucket would go down, it’d basically be me (a young Orson Welles digitally superimposed onto Jonah Hill’s body) sat at my computer for an hour and a half, alternately masturbating and plagiarising huge chunks from funnythingstosayaboutfilms.com. Thanks for asking.
“Eduardo, I’m not talking about a dating site, I’m talking about taking the entire social experience of college and putting it online.”
The Social Network is the (mostly) truthful account of the creation of everybody’s favourite drain on productivity. We follow Mark Zuckerberg (Jessie Eisenberg) and his friend and co-founder Eduardo Saverin (Andrew Garfield) as they stumble upon the idea of Facebook and with the help of Napster founder Sean Parker (Justin Timberlake) turn it from a literal bedroom project to multi-billion dollar company. The film focuses on the several lawsuits filed against Zuckerberg with all the creation and early Havard stuff being told in flashback. The plot is genuinely interesting and is a fascinating insight into one of the grittiest high-profile lawsuits in recent history. Props must be given to Jesse Eisenberg, who I initially dismissed as a poor man’s Michael Cera, who gives a great, but strangely robotic turn as Zuckerberg. Andrew Garfield was decent too, making me anticipate his wearing of the Spider-tights next year all the more. Justin Timberlake was also good as the sleazy, easily-punchable Sean Parker, proving that there isn’t much the Reverend J.T. can’t do. As a whole, the film is extremely well put together with the just feckin’ fantastic direction of David Fincher prevalent throughout. The Oscar winning soundtrack by Trent Reznor (he of Nine Inch Nails fame) and Atticus Ross is fantastic and deserves all the shiny awards that have been bestowed upon it. It’s way better than it needs to be for this sort of film, but you’ll be glad (as I was) it was there.
I have a real liking for courtroom dramas so the way that The Social Network plays out really appealed to me. If you are expecting some A Few Good Men esque grandiose court setting (like I was when I heard about the film) you’ll be disappointed, as all the legal stuff takes place in a standard office setting. Writer Aaron Sorkin (famous for the rapid-fire dialogue in The West Wing and coincidentally enough, A Few Good Men) lets the words be the courtroom dressing as a story of greed and betrayal slowly becomes clear. The thing I really liked about The Social Network is that everyone involved is a different flavour of douchebag (with the exception of Saverin, but since the source novel could also be accused of Saverin bias as he was the only one willing to talk to the author, I can assume some of his foibles were obviously omitted). Zuckerberg is portrayed as an awkward prick, knowing more about lines of code than how to maintain relationships. After the opening scene where he and his girlfriend break up whilst talking at 100mph, he gets a bit drunk and posts some hateful thoughts about her and her small breasts on his Livejournal. If there were such a thing as an Irony Vampire (and there isn’t, don’t be so fucking ridiculous), he could gorge himself silly on the fact that the socially retarded Zuckerberg invented something which has changed the way millions of people interact with each other on a daily basis.
The opening third or so of the film is devoted to Zuckerberg and Saverin’s partnership and the initial stages of the website. After Zuckerberg is approached by the jockish Winklevoss twins (confusingly both played by Armie Hammer but also involving actor Josh Pence) to create some Havard exclusive social site, things start to go awry as Zuckerberg initially agrees to code it , but then ignores them whilst working on the insanely popular and controversially similar “The Facebook”. All of this eventually leads to the first lawsuit against ol’ Zucky. With things between Zuckerberg and Saverin already strained due to the different directions they want to take the site in, all it takes is the flashy Sean Parker to really mess things up. Parker, fresh from his Napster shaped middle finger to the music industry, swoops in and basically says what Zuckerberg wants to hear, which leaves Saverin playing catch-up with his own pet project as the two new bezzie mates start expanding the site. The film then becomes a more familiar tale of back-stabbing which is truly heartbreaking, especially since Saverin seems to be the only one willing to put up with Zuckerberg’s shite. I must admit, at times it felt that some characters veered towards stereotypes, will the Winklevoss twins (or “Winklevi” as Zuckerberg calls them) being your standard jock bullies. Sean Parker ends up with the same kind of fate, being easily recognisable as that sleazy douchebag character than permeates American popular culture. Obviously, these people could be like that in real life, but I doubt it. My guess is they were shaken down to their identifiable characteristics to better fit the story.
Whilst having a favourite scene in this sort of film is a bit weird as I feel it should be considered as a whole, I loved the rowing scene (no homo) set to a fantastic version of “In The Hall of the Mountain King”. Saverin’s realisation (intentionally vague, but you’ll know it when it happens) is so well done you can’t help but feel gutted for him. The end is also surprisingly moving, although I’m not sure whether it was because I saw myself in Zuckerberg at that point or not. Thankfully, the film doesn’t give any flat out opinions on who is right and leaves it up to the viewer to decide.
“You know, you really don’t need a forensics team to get to the bottom of this. If you guys were the inventors of Facebook, you’d have invented Facebook.”
The Social Network is brilliant. It’s not a perfect film, but it is so well constructed it can’t help but entertain. This fact is even more impressive considering the film is basically about a few billionaires squabbling over who came up with the idea of Facebook. If you can’t be arsed to read all I’ve written above and only have an attention span long enough to deal with status updates and the like, what I’m basically saying is: