Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Social Network

I have to say I really like this film. My particular reasons are based on the fact that I teach twenty-year old kids that are really into technology, however they are rather apathetic about life in general. So, to see a contemporary story of a young man that can have the drive to achieve basically how the world communicates it is amazing to me. I would naively want those kids to get inspired by the story and think of their own potential.

The film is part boardroom drama, part conspiracy thriller; the story is adapted from Ben Mezrich's non-fiction The Accidental Billionaires. There appears, however, to be nothing accidental about it. The film version perfectly displays Sorkin's gift for creating instantly believable sympathetic-yet-irritating characters, and the chief of these is Facebook's driving force, Mark Zuckerberg, played with exemplary intuition by Jesse Eisenberg (We have seen him in movies like “Roger Dodger”, The Squid and the Whale”, The Education of Charlie Banks, “Adventureland” among others). What a perfect casting. He is a borderline sociopath, never smiling, never raising his voice, never conceding an argument, driven to create his. Sorkin gives everyone great lines. It's pretty much a non-stop shooting of put-downs and insights.

David Fincher’s direction creates just the right intensity and claustrophobia for a story that takes place largely in a male environment at Harvard University in 2003, shown in flashback from various legal proceedings. Here, computer-science student Zuckerberg has the same sense of entitlement and self-congratulation as everyone else, but combined with social resentment about being barred from snobby fraternities and clubs. When his girlfriend Erica (Rooney Mara) breaks up with him, the director shows how the emotionally wounded Zuckerberg embarks on a retaliatory campaign. He blogs vengefully about Erica and, in an evil-genius frenzy, creates Facemash, a spiteful and misogynistic site that invites the guys to rate campus girls against each other. It is from this beginning that the smilier, friendlier Facebook emerges. But we have been cleverly shown the site's nastier, more paranoid origins: a clue to its unspoken world of friend-number envy, cyber-stalking and anxiety about having no friends at all.

Zuckerberg gets investment from fellow geek Eduardo Saverin, played by Andrew Garfield (I think this kid is a promising actor, we saw him pn “The Imaginarium of Dr, Parnasus” and one of my favorites this year, “Never Let Me Go”), of whose marginally superior social success he is jealous and whom he later betrays by cutting him out of the action in favor of web entrepreneur Sean Parker, smoothly played by Justin Timberlake, I think he is great in this film. The wealthy alpha-male twin brothers Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss (both played by Armie Hammer) plan to launch their own site, called The Harvard Connection, and try to recruit Mark as their tame techie-nerd; initially dazzled by their cachet, Zuckerberg plays them along, delaying their launch while secretly getting his own up and running.

Probably conceived when Facebook was at the top of the heap, the movie now arrives in cinemas at a time when Twitter has overtaken it.

The success of The Social Network lies in capturing the fever of Facebook's startup, while subversively implying that it created money and ephemeral buzz. At the end, all is loneliness. This is an exhilaratingly hyperactive, hyperventilating portrait of an age when the web became sexier and more important than politics, art, books – everything. It is a combination of the excitement with a dark, insistent kind of pessimism. It is a great movie and Jesse Eisenberg should be nominated for an Oscar.

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