David Fincher amazes and astounds me. With a screenplay by Aaron Sorkin, the creator of West Wing (still my favourite drama series), The Social Network had an advantage from the outset, but from the opening brilliant scene between Jesse Eisenberg as Mark Zuckerman (the computer genius behind Facebook) and Rooney Mara as Erica Albright (the girl who inspired him – not necessarily in a good way), I was hooked. At the rate David Fincher’s career is progressing, my list of top three films is going to have to have more films in it.
I should point out first of all that when I first heard about this film the only reason I was interested in it was David Fincher, such is my faith in him. I have no interest in FaceBook and, at the risk of having the heavens open and smite me, apart from using FB as a webpage for my blogs, I make no use of it whatsoever. I have nothing personal on there, not a picture, not even a relationship status. Particularly not a relationship status. And so I wondered if I would ever be interested in watching a film about this alien concept’s creation and also why David Fincher would want to make it. But Fincher did make it and so I knew would see it, no matter the amount of buzz surrounding it. But buzz there has been and my curiosity and desire to see the film intensified just as my pride in David Fincher deepened. I am, after all, a fangirl.
The Social Network tells the tale of students Mark Zuckerman and Eduardo Saverin who created a social network site for Harvard called The Facebook. Because at its heart lay the understanding that all students want to know who’s going out with whom and who might be available the site could do nothing but fly from campus to campus, city to city, even crossing oceans, especially when self-confessed entrepreneur Sean Parker (Justin Timberlake) came on board. Along the path to billionairedom, Zuckerman is sued by friends and rivals – notably the Winklevoss twins (or ‘the Winklevi’ as Zuckerman calls them) played by just one person (Arnie Hammer) – while he continues to be wired in, writing more code to connect friends and strangers while remaining unusually unconnected himself. But Zuckerman can turn pieces of code into The idea of the decade.
The ‘plot’ may be straightforward and simple but the people concerned are not – extraordinarily clever, talented and imaginative. The dialogue reflects that. It’s fast, very fast. The weapons and blows are cerebral but the pain is there nevertheless. Mark Zuckerman is not your typical hero and Jesse Eisenberg not your typical lead but he captures the charisma of a man with great ideas and utter determination. He says at one point that he isn’t a bad person. And he isn’t. He just can’t make that human connection, especially when ‘wired’ in to his laptop. He is labelled unhuggable by Sean Parker who hugs him all the same.
The leads are all mesmerising, especially Jess Eisenberg, and Justin Timberlake makes for a charismatic Sean Parker. I saw him in concert in Birmingham three years ago and I was in the front row. I blame that concert for me catching chicken pox. Nevertheless, I am a big fan of his and I’m glad to see that his acting does live up to the music (can we have another album, please?). The soundtrack is very good – it captures the electronic pulse of the age of code.
This isn’t just a film of words. It has some great special effects that fit into the film. The Winklevi are played by one person but I didn’t guess that when I watched it. There is an interlude scene at the Henley Regatta and its mix of times make it seem almost like an animated miniature model. It’s quite beautiful. This is a clever film. It also has moments that make an audience laugh out loud. It has jokes in it – geeks laugh at themselves (particularly when girls are around). And that brings me to the one slight irritation. The women. There aren’t many of them and they’re almost portrayed like farm animals. Shirt-skirted, long-haired, vengeful, sometimes druggie, groupies. Except for Erica. You sense she would always have the last word.
Without doubt, The Social Network is in my top three films of the year, and I’m delighted but not surprised that David Fincher has pulled it out of the hat again. I’ve seen it once, I have to see it again. I still don’t want to join FaceBook.