The Social Network
Title: The Social Network
Genre: Biography, Drama
Starring: Jesse Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield, Justin Timberlake
Director: David Fincher
Look! A well known recent film being covered! I do occasionally take a fancy to Hollywood productions albeit not often. When I heard of this film being made I scoffed; a flick about a nerd making a website, what were they thinking? Then they cast one-hit-wonder Jesse Eisenberg to take a shot at the lead role, everything seems to be shaping up for a flop of gargantuan proportions, and all the paid critics in the world couldn't convince me otherwise. What did get my attention, however, was the director; his name may not ring alarm bells for some but for others his name should come attached to at least two films: Se7en, where he brutally revitalised the crime/thriller genre, and then went on to create the – then poorly known – Fight Club, adding an almost poetic touch to a bloody concept. Are you sensing a link here? Two of the more intelligent and violent films to make it past the film boards, and now a drama about a nerd?
I expect most reading this probably at the least have an idea about what facebook is but for those that don't, it's a social networking website that currently has over 600 million users and is valued at $25 billion. To say its a big thing is a massive understatement; it's one of the largest sites on the internet and still rapidly growing, but what makes this tale interesting is the story behind it. Taking place all around the legal battles between the founder, Mark Zuckerberg (Eisenberg) and both the co-founder he cut out from the company and the three men he “stole” the idea from - they both settled out of court so it's hard to state with certainty the case for intellectual property theft, but given that the idea emerged from their initial proposal to Zuckerberg, at least according to this film, it would certainly appear to be true - it makes use of lengthy flashbacks to explain the sites history.
And this is precisely what Fincher manages to bring to the table; it's still raw and visceral, there is no sugar coating of the characters or their story, but rather than bludgeoning you with violence he takes this into a legal context, making the most benign comments seem razor sharp. It is in particular when the playboy, Sean Parker (Timberlake) emerges that the banter comes to its high point; the energy of the two minds firing off idea's showing the stark contrast between the two founders. Eisenberg's treatment of the character is not to create some larger than life caricature but to show him warts and all; his arrogance and ego stemming from his keen intellect making him incapable of being likeable, and indeed by the end of the film ends up being completely alone.
And that is the eventual point this film is trying to make; it's not really about some overblown website that has become a sensation but a character study of the man behind it. By believing his intellect to be the cause of his lack of likeability he shuts out people from becoming close, becoming a borderline sociopath and in the process of launching his big idea isolates himself from anyone who he'd ever have considered a friend. The snapshot of today's generation obsessed with the social quest for love the true inspiration for the sites creation and the irony of creating a social networking site and not having a single person left to share it with is not lost on me, and as the film draws to a close, it's evidently not lost on him either. Fincher has done what I thought was impossible; he's changed my opinion of Eisenberg, secured Justin Timberlake as the first musician I've seen who can make for a decent actor and in the process created his best film in over a decade. Colour me impressed.
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And of course eye candy never hurts either.