The Social Network

JESS STEWART hits the ‘like’ button on David Fincher’s new Facebook-themed character drama.

david fincher Facebook garfield harvard jess stewart jesse eisenberg justin timberlake social network tagging


Directed by David Fincher

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So here we have it, the Facebook film. We all knew it was coming. Tagging, de-tagging, facebook stalking, poking and, God forbid, Farmville, have all become pretty firmly established in our lives. It’s something we’re all just a teensy bit ashamed of, but what the hell, we do it anyway. So I completely understand if, like me, you cringed at the very thought of a film about Facebook.

But fear not. I was very, very wrong. The Social Network is a stunning piece of work with a stellar cast and, as we would come to expect from Aaron Sorkin, a script of pure genius. He’s finally been given the material he needed to rise to his former West Wing glory – a bunch of ridiculously intelligent people (and some downright morons) give him the channel he needs for his razor sharp, lightning quick dialogue.

The film follows the young Mark Zuckerberg (played in a brilliantly understated way by Jesse Eisenberg), as he invents what the world has come to recognise as Facebook. Dumped by his girlfriend Erica in the opening scene, Harvard student Zuckerberg resorts to the internet for revenge; he creates Facemash, a site where guys can compare different girls on campus. Predictably, it’s an instant hit. And so the roots of Facebook are established: rating the opposite sex based on photos of them.

From here on, the film is a confusion of back-stabbing and legal cases, as we watch Zuckerberg’s friendships deteriorate as he is sucked into the world of money and success. The frustrated genius, sped along by jealousy, even ends up alienating his best friend and screwing him out of the company. He’s trapped in a downward spiral of loneliness and deceit – ironic, you might think, that the network that brought together people from all over the world, was created by a character whose relationships have crumbled around him.

When it comes down to it, this isn’t really a film about Facebook. It’s a film about people and life – Facebook is just Fincher’s vehicle to get to the heart of things. The casting is superb, and the real star of the film is Eisenberg. His portrayal of Zuckerberg is frustrating in all the right ways, as the same blank, bored look carries him through the entire movie. He provides a striking comparison to Andrew Garfield, who plays Zuckerberg’s best friend Eduardo: fresh-faced, gorgeous and wonderfully innocent, Eduardo is a lovable and blameless figure – though without the electric complexity of Zuckerberg. Throw in a couple of gormless Winklevoss twins and a great performance by Justin Timberlake, and it’s a cast made in heaven.

In the end, I half wish the film wasn’t based around the premise of Facebook at all. For, despite its brilliance, the film can be just as cringe-worthy as you may expect. When Zuckerberg comes up with the ‘final touch’ before he launches the site – the invention of the Facebook relationship status – I was awkwardly reflecting on how downright daft the whole premise is. But Fincher doesn’t acknowledge this. We get the feeling that if he is going to make use of an idea as huge and worldwide as Facebook, he should really say something a little more pointed about what the phenomenon has come to mean for the rest of the world. Fincher has created, by all accounts, a wonderful film. But as it is, we’re left with the feeling that something, somewhere, has been left unsaid.