Wednesday, 13 October 2010

The Social Network

The Social Network aka The History of Facebook might be an interesting story, but is it really worthy of a Hollywood feature? Or better yet, a David Fincher feature?

Unless you've been a Chilean miner for the last five years, you might not have heard of Facebook, a social networking site that has spawned the term 'The Facebook Generation', which for a lot of the people who read this is you and me. What makes this film interesting is really it's a character piece about success rather than a boring sequence of events.

Jesse Eisenberg plays founder Mark Zuckerberg as we watch him get dumped by his girlfriend and start turning on the female community of Harvard. Soon we see how the idea of 'exclusivity' gets planted in his head by three Phoenix club members, a club that is extremely prestigious and something that fills Zuckerberg with envy when his best friend Eduardo starts getting accepted into. But then, this is the real story at the heart of it - how can anyone completely screw over their best friend?

But then there is two sides to the tale, there's no doubt that Zuckerberg's Facebook is completely his own creation and passion and that people like Eduardo feel they are entitled to something when really, they couldn't keep up to the genius of it's founder. However, it's like putting a price tag on any relationship, how far will you isolate yourself to become successful, and for Zuckerberg it's all the way. Eisenberg does a good job portraying an ironically socially retarded individual who seems to be battling himself in a subtle way, but really the guy's just a selfish nerd. The real stand-outs for me were Armie Hammer playing a set of jock twins, who I found to be not only the comic relief, but the more interesting characters and, annoyingly, fellow Epsom 1983 boy (I'm from Epsom in case no-one knew) Andrew Garfield, who is also set to be the next Spiderman. I don't really like the guy but I can't fault that he does a remarkable job as a man hurt by just not being good enough for Zuckerberg's standards.

For some, this will be the first time they see Justin Timberlake act and his portrayal of Napster founder Sean Parker grates with me. His boyish voice and looks makes Sean Parker look like a hip teenager rather than the ugly yet insightful businessman he truly is, and I just think it should have been played by someone with more gravitas. It's not that he does it badly, but I don't think it's right.

Overall, there is nothing gained from this film that I could not have read in an article. There might not be the emotional impact, but then Zuckerberg feels for the most part emotionally detached and it's only when the film comes full circle, a man scorned, as he sits looking at his ex's Facebook profile picture that it becomes clear he never intended for it all to end the way it did but that in some strange way, it's the only way he can reach out to others. There's no clever directing here or 'signature' styles that would make this a Fincher film, the boat race is quite stylised and the lighting is typically moody Fincher, but really unless someone tells you, you would never guess. The whole thing kind of shoots and writes itself, I can't help but think it's more a case of tagging along with the Facebook hype for the Hollywood studios to get more money rather than a 'Shakespearean' tale that needs to be told. Some geek thought up a great idea, made 90 billion bucks and then people wanted his money. Sure there are some good moments, some funny moments, some dramatic moments and I was entertained but, sometimes I don't need pictures to tell me a story.

There's also no reason for you to go to the cinema to see this film, it's a DVD rental at best and I can't believe you'd want to buy it unless you're a Timberlake fan or you just really love Facebook. It's interesting but it also feels too soon, maybe ten or twenty years later I might enjoy it more for nostalgia's sake, but it's still relatively new and feels weird watching how it came about knowing this wasn't that long ago. Go see it if there's nothing else on, but I can't help but think it's a high-class Crimewatch reconstruction shoot with a bit more narrative. If you already know the history of Facebook, don't bother. Well acted, well shot, but forgettable.

Rating: 6/10


  1. For the REAL truth behind Facebook (apparently)

  2. slightly different take on the tale!