- Arts & Literature
- Science & Technology
By Rebecca Gillie
The Social Network
Dir: David Fincher
Past attempts by Hollywood to cash in on various computer phenomena have been uniformly unsuccessful – mostly due to poor knowledge of what computers actually do (War Games, anyone?), outdated stereotypes of nerds and the plain fact that watching someone on their computer isn’t very interesting. However, these doubts are soon swept away by this enthralling dramatisation of a Harvard undergrad’s invention of Facebook. The brainchild of Se7en director David Fincher and screenwriter Aaron Sorkin, of The West Wing fame, The Social Network turns out to be a surprisingly profound meditation on fame and friendship.
Mark Zuckerberg, played by Jesse Eisenberg with an excellent balance of sarcasm and vulnerability, is a frustrated outsider whose world-changing creation stems from his burning jealousy of the college ‘in’ crowd. This enviable bunch of wealthy, beautiful successful Hardvardites is headed up by Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss (both played by Armie Hammer), last seen in real life rowing down the Thames for Oxford. It’s easy to see why Zuckerberg both loathes and envies them – as one twin puts it, “I’m 6’5”, I weigh 220 lbs, and there’s two of me.” Whatever the truth of Zuckerberg’s motivation behind screwing his friends over (Zuckerberg disputes that he did this, unsurprisingly), the result is a fascinating portrait of an ambitious and antipathetic young man with an insatiable desire for recognition which leads him to fall under the spell of a hard-partying web entrepreneur (a rightly obnoxious Justin Timberlake).
In a trajectory reminiscent of Citizen Kane, Zuckerberg slowly becomes estranged from his college co-founders, most devastatingly his backer and best friend Eduardo Saverin (the excellent Andrew Garfield). The scene in which he administers the final stab in the back to his loyal partner is one of the most gut-wrenching you’ll see this year – there were audible gasps in the cinema – and credit must go to Sorkin for wringing so much gripping drama from subjects as dry as financial disputes and contract law.
It feels very surreal indeed to watch the spread of Facebook already presented as historical narrative before its founder is even 30, but this surely reinforces the film’s emphasis on the hyperspeed at which the online world progresses. To see the same tool we use for inviting our friends to the pub as the catalyst for destroyed friendships and bitter multi-million pound lawsuits is unsettling to say the least. Once you’ve watched The Social Network, don’t be surprised if next time your finger hovers a little longer than usual over ‘Log In’.