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The Social Network

The Social Network

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 5 out of 5

THE Social Network has variously been described as a Faustian tale, the Citizen Kane of John Hughes movies and the movie of the moment that defines a generation.

In truth, it encompasses all those things while retaining the ability to entertain on a mass scale. It’s a smart film about intelligent people that is also effortlessly cool.

The credit for this lies predominantly with Aaron (The West Wing) Sorkin, whose script is one of the year’s finest: sharp, witty, incisive and divisive. It’s not afraid to live in the grey, to make people think and to challenge perception. But it is frequently dazzling, often dissecting modern society as well as the characters we see on-screen.

Hence, it’s a film about the creation of Facebook that works whether you’re a fan or a sceptic; a steadfast user or someone content to live their life more privately.
It’s also a film about irony – the emotional cost of financial success and creating the world’s biggest friends’ site while losing all of your own.

It’s these aspects that Sorkin finds interesting more than the history of how Facebook came to be.

Yet having written the words, he had to rely on the skills of a cast and director to bring them so vividly to life.

Thankfully, in David Fincher he has a filmmaker who enjoys examining the darker side of the human psyche (as he has proved with the likes of Se7en and Zodiac), who can also retain a heightened visual style.

The opening scene alone underlines this as Jesse Eisenberg’s Mark Zuckerberg Talks his way into being dumped. It’s a ruthless yet thrilling exchange… and the catalyst for both the subsequent creation of Facebook and the movie itself.

From there, Zuckerberg enlists the help of best ‘friend’ Eduardo Saverin (Andrew Garfield) and rapidly creates the world’s biggest networking site.

But with success comes law suits: first from two brothers (the Winklevoss twins) who claim Zuckerberg stole their idea and then from Eduardo who takes objection to being frozen out once Mark becomes seduced by the glamour and greed of Napster founder Sean Parker (Justin Timberlake).

The subsequent film flits between pre courtroom depositions and recounts the different perspectives of each character via flashback.

In doing so, and with typical Sorkin finesse, it does require you to pay attention, but rewards you for doing so, not least with some uniformly excellent performances from a cracking young cast.

Eisenberg’s uber-geek, in particular, stands out as the socially inept yet strangely sympathetic Facebook creator who portrays Zuckerberg as a wounded animal ready to strike out with his keyboard at so much as the slightest sense of betrayal. He is a richly fascinating figure, yet savagely intelligent.

Garfield is every bit his match – a loyal friend torn apart by betrayal and his own insecurity and jealousy – as is Timberlake, who oozes persuasive charisma and slick charm as Parkes, an easy temptor and harbinger of distrust.

But these are brave, nuanced portrayals with no clear right or wrong guy among them. They’re all fallible and the performances are pitched as such that they don’t care whether you like them or not, such is their faith in Sorkin’s screenplay.

But then everything about The Social Network is fearless: it’s a film that treats its audience with respect, that refuses to conform to easy demographics and appeal, and which exhilarates by virtue of the fact that it makes you think and pay attention.

It is, without doubt, one of the year’s finest achievements – so go blog and tell all your friends to go and see it at the earliest opportunity!

Certificate: 15
Running time: 120mins
UK DVD & Blu-ray Release: February 14, 2011