David Fincher is not a man to fear taking up a tough subject. But even for a veteran director with an extensive portfolio of films that include “Se7en”, “Fight Club” “Panic Room” and “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”, a film about the origins of a website may not seem like an obvious choice. Sure, the phenomenon of “geekdom” has made forays into the mainstream but who wants to watch a two hour film about nerds sitting in front of computer screens, feverishly typing code? For those of you with an aversion to bits and bytes, be they kilo, mega or giga, it is essential therefore to note that while “The Social Network” is concerned with Facebook and it’s origins, Fincher and screenwriter Aaron Sorkin (“A Few Good Men”) contemplate the story of the company’s co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his friends (so called…) right at the dawn of the web-giant. With a tag-line like this – see the poster – it’s clear they don’t “Like” him and they most certainly don’t want to confirm him as their friend. After you wince at my horrendous punning, read on.
It’s the Autumn of 2003 at Harvard University and having been dumped by his girlfriend, the young Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) vows to get revenge. In a drunken flurry of activity he hacks local university servers and invents facemash, a website that allows users to rate female students on attractiveness. An instant phenomenon, the project promptly crashes the Harvard network and brings Zuckerberg to the attention of prize rowers, the Winklevoss twins who employ him to write a social site they’re planning. Instead he writes and launches something he calls “The Facebook” and here the problems begin: We flash forward to the present and Zuckerberg is being sued not only by the “Winkelvi” (they’re the but of most jokes here) but also his former best friend and business partner Eduardo Saverin (Andrew Garfield – yep, the new Spidey!). Because as the fledgling company gets off the ground, tensions ensue, mainly in the form of eccentric-and-not-in-a-good-way bad-boy Sean Parker (Justin Timberlake) as Severin becomes increasingly marginalised and realises he’s been had by Zuckerberg. And these are the bits that Fincher is really interested in. Adapting the non-fiction book “The Accidental Billionaires” by Ben Mezrich, screenwriter Sorkin has made it clear to the press that his story often leaves the truth at the wayside. The real Zuckerberg and many of his Facebook associates have laughed the film away as pure fiction. But while the jury may still be out on determining exactly the quantity of truth, the film has been critically hailed from almost all quarters as an excellent film for our post-modern age.
It’s extremely hard not to like “The Social Network” (unless you’re Mark Zuckerberg I guess) because the film outperforms in almost every department. What’s clear is that the screenplay needs to nail the story’s great irony: It’s the anti-social nerd who invents a so-called social platform while he himself, his few friendships and social contacts go right down the drain. And Sorkin hits it right on the head putting all the wit, humour and emotions in just the right places. Fincher too is caught up in the sweep of the story: he directs wonderful sequences, from the racing of the Zucker-brain in an early geek-babble sequence (don’t let that put you off!) to sports racing and a thrilling rowing championship. And then there’s the cast. Fincher has three aces up his sleeve here with the protagonists. Jesse Eisenberg is pitch-perfect as the driven and obsessive Zuckerberg. In a way he’s the story’s villain but as one character puts it towards the end, he’s not an asshole, he’s just trying so hard to be one. Garfield has an easier job as Severin is portrayed purely as a good guy which has been a gripe of some viewers who saw him as too polarised in the positive direction. And hey, Justin Timberlake can act! “Shrek the Third” wasn’t exactly a career-making film but this could well be, his Sean Parker being the real asshole of the story. Timberlake manages a good balance between slimy character and alluring businessman who convinces Zuckerberg to oust Severin. All of it is highly Oscar-suitable material, going by the sort of pictures that usually do well at award ceremonies.
The original score for “The Social Network” was composed by Trent Reznor of “Nine Inch Nails” fame and Atticus Ross. As may have been predictable, a film about computers and the digital age should be accompanied by electric guitars and synthesisers. The result is a lot of atmospheric noodling, punctuated by insertions of synthesised version of classical music by Handel and Grieg. It serves its purpose in the film well enough, the rowing sequence in particular is thrilling in its execution with the music. On album however, it makes for a rather drab and dreary listening experience. Prior to the film’s premiere, the two composers released a free, five track EP for download on the film’s official website in addition to the full soundtrack album. Outside of the classical music adaptions, the music is adequate and serviceable but certainly nothing to write home about.
David Fincher has once again managed to capture the imagination of the viewing public with a picture that tells an excellent story. Already Hollywood is lining up adaptions of other technology figures’ lives, a biopic of the Google boys is apparently already in the works. But for any copycats, “The Social Network” sets the bar quite high, with pitch-perfect casting and a great script. It probably won’t dissuade you from using facebook if you already are but it’s a fascinating exploration of the not-so-social aspects of the runaway success story. See it if you can.
Score in Film
Score on Album
I loved “The Social Network” and will certainly be buying the DVD when it comes out. What was your opinion of the film or the soundtrack? If you have any comments or feedback please leave a comment. Also please follow me on Twitter or the RSS feed. Until next time, all the best!