Re:View – ‘The Social Network’
Synopsis: The birth of the Facebook generation and its fallout.
Things I learned from watching ‘The Social Network’.
1. David Fincher has made a multi-Oscar-winning film.
2. ‘West Wing’ writer Aaron Sorkin is the best scriptwriter in Hollywood.
3. Guys who make lists don’t get girls.
4. There is something fundamentally wrong with the capitalist system.
5. It’s great to see a film with intelligent young leads. Time’s up, Cruise & Wahlberg.
6. Jesse Eisenberg is a brilliant actor but…
Hang on, have to dump that format, it’s annoying. Okay, Jesse Eisenberg is so brilliantly unlikeable in this film that it creates a fundamental problem. He’s the centre that holds it together. The story of the Facebook creator and how he fell out with his only friend is epic in scope, even though there are an awful lot of shots of boys over-excitedly tapping keyboards.
Creation movies have been popular since we first saw Beethoven getting inspiration onscreen, and this follows the format but goes far further, to the selling of Facebook and beyond, into two courtroom dramas played out simultaneously, recrimination and anger. Especially heartbreaking is Zuckerberg’s seduction by Napster founder Sean Parker (Justin Timberlake) and his betrayal of best friend Eduardo (Andrew Garfield).
Eisenberg is the best screen geek ever, driven and needy, lost and selfish, effortlessly insulting, always somewhere else in his head. ‘Dating you is like dating a Stairmaster,’ says the girlfriend who dumps him at the start, setting his future into motion.
The film’s script is laugh-aloud witty, and to UK eyes makes the world of Harvard appear like life on an inhospitable alien planet. This is a hothouse where talent emerges from grisly peer-group conformity (embodied in identical blonde twins played by Armie Hammer and CGI), but one of the many interesting questions the film raises is ‘to what end’? If Britain is a nation of shopkeepers and America is a nation of salesmen, then something gets lost at the point where genius meets salesmanship.
Fincher makes brave choices, refusing to dilute the technobabble, shooting an English sequence through TiltShift lenses to make everything look like Toytown, managing against all odds to register the women in what is essentially a very male film. There are no outright villains here, although Timberlake comes close with a Mephistophelian and rather camp performance. The film of the year, and a rich source of after-movie argument.
This was attended by Sorkin, Garfield, Eisenberg and Timberlake. The actors all seemed a little disoriented and inarticulate, and Garfield looked bored out of his mind, so it was left to Sorkin the carry the (equally inarticulate) questions from the audience.
Sorkin pointed out that the movie could have been about the invention of the toaster – it would still involve power, sex and betrayal. The most telling moment came when, asked for his honest opinion about the power of social networking, he railed against the screening out of flaws by users in order to create impossible images of themselves that they can never live up to.
Spontaneous applause broke out in the auditorium, with only those too young to know any other way of life turning to glare at them like Midwich Cuckoos. Midwich, kids, look it up.