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The Social Network

USA 2010
Directed by
David Fincher
120 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bruce Paterson
4 stars

The Social Network

Synopsis: a dramatization of the founding of by Mark Zuckerberg and the legal battles that followed.

It’s hard to know what to do with a film that aspires to document a social phenomenon but creates an uneasy mix of truth and fiction around its central character. The film titles credit the book 'Accidental Billionaires' by Ben Mezrich, which took a similarly speculative approach to the rise of the social networking site,, and its founder, Mark Zuckerberg.

Mezrich’s book relied heavily on the affidavits in court documents arising from suits against Zuckerberg which detailed the conflict and consultations with Zuckerberg’s annoyed co-founder, Eduardo Saverin. The film flips between scenes across the legal negotiating table and the events that led the former friends into conflict over facebook’s increasing millions, and then billions of dollars in perceived value.

As the film tells it, Harvard student Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) pisses off his girlfriend, gets drunk and codes a website that brings him to the attention of fellow students, the entrepreneurial Winklevoss twins (both played by Arnie Hammer) and Divya Narendra (Max Minghella), steals their ideas and in turn pisses them off by becoming increasingly successful with a website called The Facebook, teams up with Napster founder, Sean Parker (Justin Timberlake), rips off his other partner, Saverin (Andrew Garfield) and in what is now a well-established character trait, pisses him off, subsequently giving them a lot of money but not nearly as much as he has or will have.

The Social Network is a fascinating story of young turks in the social media age, well-performed and the direction by David Fincher precisely and efficiently lets a good story tell itself. Jesse Eisenberg is the standout, changing his usual self-deprecating social awkardness into a cold and creepy ruthlessness as the programming whiz-kid, Zuckerberg. The cinematography, meshing with the score by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, frequently immerses him in events with a sense of darkness and claustrophobia. These contrast with the happier Harvard scenes which seem to struggle to illuminate his journey. Reznor and Ross take us from brooding rumbles to a mechanically synthesized soundscape, including along the way a great take on Grieg’s 'In the Hall of the Mountain King' from the scene in Ibsen’s 'Peer Gynt' in which Peer sneaks into the Mountain King’s castle then attempts to escape the King and his trolls.

The script by Aaron Sorkin, creator of The West Wing, is dense with high-speed dialogue that illuminates the corrosive power of money and status at Harvard University, where the events begin, and then beyond. But similarly to Mezrich’s book 'Bringing Down The House', on which 21, the 2008 film about a group of MIT students who took on Las Vegas, was based, this ‘non-fiction’ is heavily laced with scenes that are exaggerated, inferred, suspected, or straight-out fabricated in order to move the story forward. To create narrative tension, it injects a Luddite overtone to proceedings, an implicit criticism of the success and motivations of the world-owning technologists.

Thus, the film beings and ends with key scenes aimed at illuminating Zuckerberg’s inner motivations that probably never happened, given their incompatibility with the fact he’s had a long-term girlfriend since before Facebook. I have to admit that this fictionalising undermined my belief in the characters and their motivations, and, ultimately, in the moral of the narrative but there’s no doubt that it’s a great story. One of the key interests for fans and enemies of Facebook will probably be whether Zuckerberg is a social visionary or a sociopath. This film inclines to the latter viewpoint. Time will tell.




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