Review: The Social Network

The Social Network

This is our time

Trying to find a starting point for this review was frustrating. Should it start by rattling off Facebook’s ridiculous figures? Or string together incoherent sentences together with no regard for punctuation and end it with lol/smiley face? What about how social networks have permeated our day to day life that we wait in anticipation for someone’s response?

Better yet, let’s start with how ‘that Facebook movie’ is one of the more compelling films of this year.

I use Facebook less and less these days and ; in a way I seem to be (somehow) alienating my friends. It’s a creation that’s become wedded to the very fabric of our social life and its impact is huge, but I had no idea about the tumultuous process of bringing Facebook to fruition. David Fincher’s film delves deep into that process and the result is fascinating and illuminating.

This is not a film about Facebook per se, more about the squabbles and legal fights that surrounded its early days. It sounds uninteresting but a strength of the film is its ability to make that very appealing. The film flits between the legal depositions to the time where the idea was in its infancy at Harvard.

It all begins when Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) gets dumped by his girlfriend (Rooney Mara) and in his drunken state writes a scathing blog about her. He creates a website called Facemash that compares the attractiveness of female students at Harvard that becomes incredibly popular. Seeing an opening in the online social experience he creates a site called The Facebook.

As Facebook grows his relationships with his best friend Eduardo Saverin (Andrew Garfield) deteriorates and there is a problem in the form of the Winklevoss Twins, Cameron and Tyler (Arnie Hammer & Josh Pence), who contest that not only was it their idea but Zuckerberg intentionally stalled their project in order to gain an advantage.

The fulcrum of the film is the relationship between Zuckerberg and Saverin. Both actors perform the roles extremely well with the script written by Aaron Sorkin (The West Wing). Eisenberg shows a talent for being more than the sarcastic and pretentious characters he’s played in the past. His performance communicates intelligence and arrogance even though his facial expression barely changes, a face that often shows thinly veiled contempt. Zuckerberg is capable of being smug and cutting in his dealings, on top of his cold, detached and socially enfeebled demeanour.

Saverin is the nearest the film comes to a sympathetic character in a film filled riddled with unsympathetic ones. Garfield’s performance gives the feeling that he’s been hard done by the person he trusted. That isn’t to say Saverin is not partly at fault for what happens, but you can sense how wounding the experience was.

The acting across the film is excellent whether it’s Justin Timberlake’s Sean Parker whose presence tempts Zuckerberg away from Saverin or Arnie Hammer and Josh Pence as the Winklevoss twins (or Winklevi). Some brilliant digital trickery is involved in creating the twins and the effect is stunning. Max Minghella as Divya Narendra is also great casting and like the Winklevi becomes increasingly annoyed with Zuckerberg’s antics.

Female characters exist to feature in the background and some have called the film misogynistic. I don’t necessarily agree with that assessment, but the female characters are definitely marginalised and in some ways objectified.

Considering this is a story told from the male perspective whether it’s the twin jocks or the weedy, socially inept Zuckerberg. The women who feature either love a good time or are portrayed as psychotic, jealous creatures. Rashida Jones as one of the deposition lawyers gets lumped with expository dialogue. Only Rooney Mara as Erica Albright comes out with any credit as she refuses to be cowed by Zuckerberg’s arrogance.

Both the cinematography and music are muted, neither one becoming a distracting component in the film (apart from one moment where Fincher pans through a panel). The digital photography is elegant, especially in a rowing sequence that’s very rhythmic. Trent Reznor (Nine inch nails) and Atticus Ross’s electronic score complements the film without overshadowing. What’s most important here is the – at times machine gun like – dialogue and the performances.

The Social Network is a pleasantly surprising about relationships, creativity and going to whatever lengths you can to protect that your ideas. It features sterling work in front of and behind the camera.

While some may be disappointed by the lack of any truly sympathetic characters, or bored by the cold, detached style that Fincher employs, The Social Network is a film that reflects our times and how our methods of communication have changed, for better or worse.



Posted on 26/10/2010, in Best of, Reviews and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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