Putting a Face to Facebook
In the 80s we had "Wall Street" a movie which spoke to the yuppie culture with its tale of wealth and greed and in a way "The Social Network" is its modern equivalent as it tells a tale of internet success and the troubles which go with it. Whilst "Wall Street" was and still is a great movie "The Social Network" is a very good movie falling just short of greatness but that doesn't stop it from being entertaining and captivating in equal measures. Retelling the story of how "Facebook" was formed and the bitter battles which followed as people fought for a slice of it "The Social Network" manages to mix the fascinating story of how Mark Zuckerberg created this internet phenomenon and the fall out between friends with ease thanks to a great screenplay and some equally great acting. The only reason it stops from being great is in telling a story of internet success it gets technical, technical in a way which for me is not so much confusing but unnecessary.
On an autumn's night in 2003, Harvard student and computer whiz kid Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg - Zombieland) creates a website out of anger over being dumped by his girlfriend. That site whilst short-lived and causing him issues with the Harvard board of governors is the first step to something bigger, that something bigger is "Facebook" a website which after 6 years will not only be one of the most popular sites in the world but turn Zuckerberg into a billionaire. But that success comes at a cost both personally and professionally as legal battles ensue for a slice of the action and the loss of friends.
So there are basically two sides to "The Social Network" on one hand you have the story of how Mark Zuckerberg with the help of Eduardo Saverin created "Facebook" turning it into an internet phenomenon. And there is the other side the bitter battle over who deserves credit and money from the business with its almost court room style scenes where legal teams question Zuckerberg as to how "Facebook" came to be. What is nice is that whilst there are two sides to "The Social Network" they intermingle so when Zuckerberg is asked a question by a lawyer it leads into a series of scenes which relate to that question. In a sort of way the legal battle works as a kind of narration leading to flashbacks but without it being done in a very obvious flashback manner.
Now I have to say I know very little about how "Facebook" started and so I don't know how true to the story "The Social Network" remains but what it does in telling the story make you question things. Part of the whole legal battle revolves around whether right from the start Mark Zuckerberg was out to stiff people from his friend Eduardo through to the Winklevoss twins who approached him to work on a similar idea they had. And as such through the clever writing and the brilliant legal scenes you do wonder whether Zuckerberg was that manipulative but at the same time you also get a sense that he was just a very clever computer geek who got caught up in something much bigger. Its clever because it draws you in, you like Zuckerberg because he does come over as this computer nerd who is slightly socially inept but yet there is a side of him which comes through as almost nasty and arrogant. A scene where a lawyer asks him if he has his full attention, the commanding put down which Zuckerberg delivers is just brilliant turning the character from an easy going young man into this incredibly powerful one in a blink of an eye.
Whilst the legal battles are fascinating the whole back history as to how "Facebook" was created is just as fascinating and no doubt this side will appeal to those who are into internet success stories. There are times when the story almost gets bogged down by the technical as we get talk of apache servers and so on but at the same time it also illustrates how phenomenally clever Mark Zuckerberg was. But despite being bogged down by the technical the story is still good as whilst we watch "Facebook" grow we also get a story of betrayal as Mark and Eduardo fall out when Sean Parker gets involved in the business. Again I don't know how true all of this is but it makes this side of the movie as captivating as the legal battles.
Much of what makes "The Social Network" work is the screenplay and David Fincher's direction brings it to life capturing the atmosphere of success as well as the legal battles and for a movie which covers 2 sides never gets confused or jars with each other, but at the same time it is also the acting which helps bring it to life. Now both Andrew Garfield as Eduardo Saverin and Justin Timberlake as Sean Parker deliver solid 3 dimensional characters but it is Jesse Eisenberg as Mark Zuckerberg who delivers the best performance. Not having heard or seen Zuckerberg talk I don't know how similar Eisenberg is in his portrayal but he does deliver this multi layered character. As already mentioned Eisenberg creates this character which we like and part of us believes that he is quite innocent to everything but at the same time also one who beneath the laid back exterior is a driven young man who could be manipulative. It makes it such a great performance but on top of that Eisenberg gets the mannerisms and freneticism of an internet whiz down to a tee so whilst you may not understand all the techie speak you just can't take your eyes of him.
What this all boils down to is that "The Social Network" is a very good movie and if it wasn't for the occasional bout of too much techie speak it would be great. The way it manages to combine two storylines the history to how "Facebook" became a success and also the legal battles which followed makes for a captivating movie which is made all the more captivating by a stunning performance from Jesse Eisenberg as Mark Zuckerberg. As such "The Social Network" is a movie which is fascinating in its look at the "Facebook" phenomena but also inspirational that a computer geek could create one of the most popular websites in the world and become a billionaire in the process.