The Social Network starts in the autumn of 2003 when Mark Zuckerberg had an idea, although it wasn’t one that was wholly his own…
The swot who scored a perfect 1600 in his SAT tests didn’t invent it – that was something that existed in various forms both on the internet with sites like Myspace and also Friendster, although that’s not one which was particularly well-known in the UK. However, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, except when you come to take things one step too far and start screwing over the people who helped you out on the rise to the top.
A few key conversations are portrayed such as college mate Dustin (Joseph Mazzello, who I only remember before as being one of the two screaming kids in the first Jurassic Park movie), who really wants to know if a girl he likes has a boyfriend or not and Mark replies that people don’t just walk round with a sign on them telling you their relationship status…
For an earlier site, Facemash.com, he wants people to be able to compare girls to determine who’s the more attractive, rather than HotOrNot.com’s 1-10 rating scale for an individual girl, and needs Edurado’s (Andrew Garfield, below with Jesse Eisenberg) algorithm which he uses to rank chess players. How to get all the images of girls that he needs, though? No problem – he’ll copy their pictures from their individual University houses on Harvard campus where the brainbox studies.
Rather stupidly, however, he blogs about every last detail of this, as well as posting random thoughts about Erica (Rooney Mara), from whom he has just split up, on his Zuckonit blog. The Facemash.com process is fleshed out while the beautiful people at the Phoenix club are out getting pissed and watching girls lez up, so that gives an idea of Mark’s priorities. For a while, well a few hours, life is good, but then the Harvard servers begin to overload and he gets into big trouble as a result.
The cast works well together to deliver the goods, with Jesse Eisenberg in the lead role and Andrew Garfield bouncing well off each other; Armie Hammer – I’m sure that’s not his real name – who cleverly plays two roles, that of twins Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss, are athletic members of the Harvard rowing team who come up with a similar idea, Harvard Connection, and who get similarly pissed off with Mark at his actions. As, ahem, one of them puts it when wanting to give Mark a beating, “I’m 6’5, 220lbs and there’s two of me.”
There’s also adequate support from Justin Timberlake (below) as Sean Parker, the founder of Napster – who also lends a hand as well as the character’s ego, but a lot of other actors are just used for bit parts and so don’t get the chance to leave a lasting impression, such as the aforementioned Joseph Mazzello, plus Brenda Song (on page 2 with Eisenberg and Garfield) and Rooney Mara as respective girlfriend fodder for Eduardo and Mark respectively, and Bryan Barter as another friend, Billy Olsen, who originally gives Mark the idea of comparing girls’ faces by initially setting up a site to do the same but to compare them individually with those of farm animals(!)
Mark Zuckerberg’s portrayed as a bit of an egotistical twat by Jesse Eisenberg, an actor I’ve only seen in one movie before, Zombieland, one which started off great but then fell apart after the first 30 minutes. Thankfully, The Social Network retains your interest throughout, partly thanks to a fast-moving script from Aaron Sorkin so you never get bored, although overall it does tend to feel less than the sum of its parts. That’s because, although it does balance nicely between scenes at the time of Facebook’s inception and various flashes forward to the more recent past where he’s being sued in two different lawsuits by different friends, it does have a bit of a linear feel to it and that’s not something you normally expect from a visionary director like David Fincher, who created a work of art with Seven and brought some underrated style to movies such as Panic Room, The Game and Alien3. Here, Fincher just brings some nicely-framed scenes throughout, and while I’d certainly recommend a rental to anyone, I can’t see why it’s become the top movie of last year for a lot of people, including Mark Kermode. Still, each to their own.
Go to page 2 for the presentation and extras.
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.