sat 13/07/2024

The Social Network | reviews, news & interviews

The Social Network

The Social Network

David Fincher has sent you a message: the Facebook story is Shakespearean in scope

Jesse Eisenberg and Justin Timberlake in 'The Social Network' want to be friends

Success has many parents, the old saying goes. And that’s certainly the case in David Fincher’s new film, an enthralling dissection of one of the great success stories of our age. When Harvard undergraduate Mark Zuckerberg devised a putative version of the Facebook website in October 2003, he can not have imagined it would spawn a global phenomenon with more than half a billion users.

Nor could he have predicted it would result in a sea of litigation that would pit him and his company against both aggrieved former friends and slighted foes alike.

Of course, there’s every chance the version Aaron Sorkin presents of this still broiling row is as much speculative fiction as ascertained fact. (While his screenplay is largely based on court depositions, its dramatisations of the events they describe are the West Wing creator’s work alone.) Given that the site in question affords its members the ability to re-invent themselves online, however, there is something rather appropriate in how the movie also co-opts reality to meet its own ends. When the legend becomes fact, to quote the newspaper editor in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, print the legend.

Zuckerberg may not be a legend, at least not yet. But he is a fascinating character, full of contradictions: a shy, obsessive introvert who paradoxically devised one of the key tools of communication of the nascent century. Motives are slippery beasts at the best of times, so the ones Sorkin ascribes to him should be taken under advisement. (Mark Zuckerberg declined to be interviewed or involved in the movie in any way.) Yet it is easy to swallow The Social Network’s key contention – that being a social misfit in a world of moneyed entitlement and obscene privilege gave Mark a drive and hunger far keener than a mere quest for fame and fortune would engender.

DF-00537rDialogue has always been Sorkin’s strongest suit. Small wonder, then, that Fincher’s film begins with a deluge of the stuff – a strained tavern confrontation between Jesse Eisenberg’s Mark, talking 10 to the dozen in a variety of tangents, and his soon to be ex-girlfriend Erica (Rooney Mara, pictured right with Eisenberg). Though we don’t know it yet, she is his Rosebud: the unwitting cue for all that follows and the spur in Mark’s side as he chases cyber-infamy. Simplistic this might be, but it gives a welcome female dimension to a story otherwise consumed by nerdy geeks tapping away at computers.

Among the latter is Eduardo Saverin (British actor Andrew Garfield), a dorm mate of Zuckerberg’s who gave him the seed money he needed to make what was then called thefacebook an actuality. Honest, earnest and compassionate, Saverin is Mark’s good angel: the voice of conscience and reason he eventually casts off in favour of the bad (internet entrepreneur Sean Parker, played with oily charm and cock-sure swagger by Justin Timberlake). To pursue the Citizen Kane analogy, Saverin is Jed Leland: the trusty ally Mark’s CEO-in-waiting betrays at the cost of his soul. Or is he Banquo to Zuckerberg’s Macbeth: the loyal brother-in-arms who becomes the watchful ghost at the $34 billion feast?

That Fincher’s picture invites legitimate comparisons to the Bard is a testament to its scope and ambition. Lest one think it is dry and humourless, however, Sorkin throws in an amusing rogue element: a pair of wealthy twin bluebloods who, having enlisted Zuckerberg’s aid in founding their own college website, are apoplectic when his start-up trumps theirs. Ingeniously played by the same actor (Armie Hammer), his features digitally mapped onto the face of a double (Josh Pence), the Winklevoss brothers add a wry counterpoint to what is in effect a contemporary tragedy. A cautionary tale for our times then, built on the bitterly ironic notion that the legacy of a site celebrating the intangible ideal of friendship should be a litany of enmity no amount of million-dollar pay-offs can ever delete.

Watch The Social Network trailer:


That Fincher’s picture invites legitimate comparisons to the Bard is a testament to its scope and ambition


Editor Rating: 
Average: 5 (1 vote)

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It's Banquo's ghost, not Macduff's....

Nice review - great film!

Thanks, Alison, for pointing out that slip - now amended.

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