The Social Network

Dir: David Fincher
Star: Jesse Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield, Armie Hammer, Justin Timberlake

It's startling to realize Facebook has been around for barely seven years: it seems such a cornerstone of the Internet now [though MySpace and AOL once seemed exactly the same...]. This film chronicles its birth from a small-scale hack by Harvard student Mark Zuckerberg (Eisenberg), and growth to a million members around the world - and the subsequent lawsuits from those who thought Zuckerberg had stolen the idea from them, or otherwise squeezed them out of the enormous pie of profits which resulted. Fortunately, you don't really need to know too much about the technological side: Chris was initially concerned after a monologue of programming babble spoken by Zuckerberg early on, but fortunately, that just seems to be a way to establish his nerd credentials. It's more about the characters of those involved in proceedings, along with their interactions, and how fortune sometimes finds those singularly unsuited to cope with it. While we initially thought, "Man, why didn't we come up with the idea?", by the end, it was clear that one of Fincher's platforms here is that money can't buy happiness.

I think it's clear that this is a loose dramatization of events, rather than an factually-accurate docudrama. Knowing geeks as I do, one suspects there was rather more programming and less partying going on, but who wants to sit and watch tricky PHP problems being solved? Despite running over two hours, the time breezes by effortlessly, accompanied by a pulsing soundtrack [and if you predicted, 20 years ago, that you'd see Trent Reznor on stage accepting an Oscar - well done], the only hurdle a curious scene at a night-club where the audio is horribly muffled. It's clearly deliberate, but goes on way beyond what's necessary, to the point that it becomes irritating. Zuckerberg, despite expressing qualms in real-life about his portrayal, actually comes over sympathetically, thanks to Eisenberg's portrayal. Sure, the central character can be a self-obsessed dick; but he is also very smart, focused and driven. It's an appropriately complex portrayal of a complex person.

[August 2011]

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