I had avoided watching ‘The Social Network’ since its release in 2010, mainly due to the fact that being subjected to Jesse Eisenberg’s smug, condescending presence, more often than not, is painful. It wasn’t until, when listening to the guys at InSession Film discussing the best movies of the decade so far, and ‘The Social Network’ popped up quite unanimously, that I decided I would have to grin and bear it. This is, after all, the story which arguably defines our society today.
Anyone reading this review will most likely have a Facebook account, or at least be very aware of what Facebook is. Well, this is the story behind Mark Zuckerberg, the youngest billionaire in the world, and how he founded the groundbreaking social media platform. The general rule is, Harvard graduates believe that “inventing a job is better than finding a job”, and that’s exactly what Mark Zuckerberg did. As a highly intelligent, socially awkward nerd at Harvard, Zuckerberg (Eisenberg) takes to blogging to vent his frustrations with college life from behind a computer screen full of code. With the help of his best friend Eduardo (Andrew Garfield) and opportunist Sean Parker (Justin Timberlake), thefacebook.com becomes a highly lucrative snowball that would ultimately have devastating effects on the few friendships Mark does have.
Okay, Jesse, you may have just won me over. All that misplaced arrogance is actually put to perfect use in the role of Mark Zuckerberg. I don’t know what the real Zuckerberg is like, but Eisenberg’s portrayal of a ruthless, motivated, very patronising but also very witty little genius is quite fantastic. He even had me half-rooting for a guy we know we shouldn’t really be backing. Prior to watching this film, I only really thought of Andrew Garfield as ‘The Amazing Spider-Man’, but this role opened up a whole new side to his acting credentials for me. Garfield conveyed a genuine frustration and hurt, which evoked a great degree of sympathy from me, and I’m sure many other viewers. His development as a character, culminating in a burst of anger towards the end, enabled Garfield to showcase his range of acting skills brilliantly. Finally, Justin Timberlake, who I’m used to seeing in the role of an overly nice guy – a la ‘Friends With Benefits’, ‘Bad Teacher’ – is quite adept at being just as much of a dick as Jesse Eisenberg, it seems.
This whole film was quite an unusual venture for David Fincher, who is more commonly attached to mystery-thrillers, so I was sceptical about how his skills would transfer to the biopic genre. The short answer is, very well indeed. He instilled a good pace into the film and set up a perfect tone, balancing moments of dry humour and just the right amount of information, whilst expertly driving the character development of the three leads with the help of another great screenplay from Aaron Sorkin. I think the way they took a very technical story and made it entertaining is quite impressive, even more so when you consider the relatively short space of time between the creation of Facebook and the release of this film. To take a story which was still very fresh and current, and successfully translate this into a big screen product, whilst avoiding becoming gimmicky or showing lethargy, is something to be admired.
Now that I’ve watched ‘The Social Network’, I feel like my previous refusal only served to spite myself out of experiencing a really great film. That said, I’m quite happy I did wait, and harbour a negative opinion beforehand, because this was such a surprisingly enjoyable watch. I was gripped by the intriguing story and fascinating characters, and the huge influence they have had on the lives of the Western world. This is not Fincher as we know him, but ‘The Social Network’ is a fine addition to the director’s glowing portfolio, and a Generation Y must-see.
Director: David Fincher
Starring: Jesse Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield, Justin Timberlake