6. The Social Network
Alternate Title: "Confessions of a Billionaire Social Retard".
Cigarette intake since viewing: Zilch. Surprised as you probably are.
Currently listening to: "Egomania" by Elmo Sexwhistle.
The Gist: Jesse Eisenberg proves he is not a Michael Cera clone, Fincher gets hip and topical, and Aaron Sorkin finally penetrates my defences.
The Experience: What did you do when you first heard that there was going to be a film about Facebook directed by David Fincher? Chances are, if you are like most sane people, you would have done double, triple and quadruple-takes before dismissing it as yet another product-placement project that would probably never happen like the much touted film versions of Battleship or Monopoly or Halo (sorry people, but I’ll believe it when I see it). However, as Fight Club, Seven and Alien 3 proved, David Fincher is not only insane, but has that rare mercurial talent for making seemingly unfathomable concepts into masterful pieces of film. And with the script being penned by The West Wing’s Aaron Sorkin, you know that you’re in for something masterful.
The film, in typical biopic opening sequence tradition, sees Mark Zuckerburg (Jesse Eisenberg channelling Egon Spengler), a socially paraplegic Harvard student of seemingly unfathomable intellect, getting dumped by his girlfriend (Rooney Mara) for being… well, to be blunt, a needy asshole who is obsessed with kudos and being accepted by others. His response of getting hammered, writing a “fuck you” blog and putting together a webpage which quickly goes viral and crashes the campus servers brings him to the attention of preening über-jocks Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss (both played uncannily by Justice League reject Armie Hammer) and their weedy token nerd partner (Max Minghella, son of the late Anthony). They clue Zuckerburg in on their social network concept Harvard Connection, expecting him to come on board and help build it in return for a stake. Instead, Mark (arguably) takes their idea and goes on to set the groundwork for what would become Facebook. The rest, as they say, is recent history: lawsuits, lots of boardrooms and people screwing each other over, under and sideways.
As a primer, I should note that I am by no means a member of Aaron Sorkin’s faithful fanclub; I’ve seen exactly none of The West Wing and the only one of his screen credits I’m familiar with is A Few Good Men, and even that I haven’t seen in years or all the way through. However, what is evident from scene one is that he knows how to make two hours of people sitting in a room having rapid-fire conversations riveting. Likewise, whilst some have cited the film’s sexing up of Zuckerburg and company’s antics as being an example of creative license, the fact that the spiky central figure of Zuckerburg is able to come across as sympathetic in spite of his almost appalling inability to relate to anyone is an extraordinary feat. However in the hands of Jesse Eisenberg, we are able to understand, if not necessarily accept, his flawed but insightful take on relationships and communication.
In a movie full of great supporting characters, standouts take the form of Andrew Garfield as Eduardo Saverin, Mark’s long-suffering partner and friend, who later sues him for screwing him out of the company he helped build, and Justin Timberlake as Napster founder Sean Parker, the bad-boy Pied Piper who leads Zuckerburg to fame, fortune, and ultimately, loneliness.
But the character that penetrates every inch of this film, more than any other, is the score by Nine Inch Nails founder Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross. Harking back to the moody ambience of Broken and The Downward Spiral and the layered, dirge-like instrumentation of The Fragile, it is a perfect companion to a character study of someone who gains the world but still struggles to find something approaching happiness.
Raggedy Adams drank the Kool-Aid. So should you.