Monday, 28 February 2011

The Social Network: A classic of the digital generation?

People laughed when they heard there was a movie about Facebook in the works. "What's next?" they would scoff, "a movie about Monopoly?" How ironic then that the same film buffs who mocked Hollywood's willingness to latch on to the latest craze were forced to eat their words when The Social Network turned out to be not only decent, but one of the best films of the year. In less capable hands Social Network could've been the train wreck so many expected it to be but when it was announced that respected Seven director David Fincher was to take on directing duties the project began to attract some buzz. Up coming West Wing writer, Aaron Sorkin adapted the script from the novel "The Accidental Billionaires" a book chronicling the inception of Facebook, particularly focusing on co-founder Eduardo Saverin (here played by future Spiderman star Andrew Garfield) and how Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenburg) screwed him over. On paper Network looks like a recipe for greatness especially with the scoring duo of Trent Reznor (grunge star of Nine Inch Nails) and Atticus Ross providing the film's music. On film The Social Network is a fast-paced dramatic thrill ride that is shockingly audio-visually exciting.

Social Network isn't really about Facebook, the invention is interchangable, however the fact that it is a device for social networking; making friends; adds a certain irony to the tale. The film is a character study of a calculating young genius who's ambition and intelligence lead to him alienating all those around him. The film opens with Zuckerburg being dumped by his girlfriend because as she puts it: "You are probably going to be a very successful computer person. But you're going to go through life thinking that girls don't like you because you're a nerd. And I want you to know, from the bottom of my heart, that that won't be true. It'll be because you're an asshole". This opening banter between the two characters perfectly displays Aaron Sorkin's aptitude for writing brilliant snappy dialogue. In the next scene Zuckerburg, enraged by his ex-girlfriend begins creating a website with the intention of comparing the women of the Harvard college campus in order of attractiveness in an effort to degrade and humiliate his scorned ex. The scene is excellently crafted, the pumping electro score by Reznor makes a scene of computer hacking that would be tedious intense as Fincher ramps up the tension by inter-cutting it with the drunken debauchery of Zuckerburg's peers. Each of the main actors put in great performances, rising star Jesse Eisenburg outshining the rest as the fast talking self-centred genius, Zuckerburg. As Zuckerburg cruelly puts down his peers you can't help but admire his razor sharp calculating wit. Andrew Garfield portrays an empathetic character as Zuckerburg's best friend who ends up being double crossed. Justin Timberlake puts in a surprisingly good performance as Sean Parker, party animal CEO of file sharing service Napster, who manipulates Zuckerburg to his own gain. Armie Hammer puts in a very convincing dual performance as two twins, the Winklevosses, convinced that their idea was stolen by the Facebook creators.

Sean Parker's character is undoubtably the catalyst for the rift that occurs between Mark and Eduardo. Timberlake pulls of the character excellently as the manipulating businessman who uses his rockstar swagger to convince the socially inept Zuckerberg that in order to suceed he must be ruthless and that if his best friend gets left behind, "we get left behind." Network is a smart film, so smart in the fact that the audience is often overwhelmed with the sheer amount of information beng thrown at them, however this sense of confusion only serves to help the audience understand the kind of manic energy involved as a bunch of twenty somethings create one of the highest grossing online industries ever concieved. The Social Network succeeds in portraying both the drama of facebook's creation and the reason behind why 500 million of us have signed up in the first place. While it's not important to the plot anyone with a facebook page will undoubtably be interested to know how pieces of it first fitted together.

The minute details of the plot are questionable, the specifics of Zuckerberg's relationship with his ex girlfriend have been debated but whether or not the plot is 100% accurate is besides the point when viewing a film like this. Fincher takes a story of corporate disputes and courtroom battles and injects it with such life and energy that it is easily as entertaining as any of the year's so called blockbusters. At the end of the second act things begin to slow down however the humour and style of the piece keeps holding the viewers attention until things pick up towards the conclusion. However it's in the quiet moments where Fincher really flexes his directorial muscles. More powerful than any of the intense dialogue sequences is in the final moments of the film as Mark sits alone at his computer hopelessly refreshing his facebook page awaiting his ex girlfriend to accept his friend request, desperatley hoping for comfirmation that he's not as alone as he knows he is. The Social Network is a classic tale of betreyal, revenge and alienation for the Silicon Valley age and is not to be missed.

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