The Social Network

Released: 2010
Director: David Fincher

Starring: Jesse Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield, Justin Timberlake

A fantastic film about friendship – not Facebook

If you listen to the BBC’s flagship movie programme Kermode & Mayo’s Film Reviews on Five Live, you’ll know there’s an ongoing debate about whether Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is a spy movie or a film about relationships between men. I’m firmly on the side of those who say that it is a spy movie and the Good Dr K is in the wrong. It has got me thinking a bit more though about what films are actually about.

Most of the time films and books are about exactly what you think they are. It annoys me when people try to look for deeper meaning in everything. Of course some things have layers, but very often the superficial is all there is. Sometimes I miss the hidden meanings but enjoy what I take from my reading or viewing experience. When I saw The Social Network for the first the other day I came away thinking that I hadn’t watched a film about Facebook or social media, but about friendship and the consequences of betraying a friendship.

On the surface The Social Network is a history of the founding of Facebook by Harvard student Mark Zuckerberg and the lawsuits that followed as he is sued by Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss who claimed that the original idea was theirs and by Eduardo Saverin, the co-founder of the company who was forced out as the business expanded. Told in both flashback and through legal depositions we follow Facebook from its drunken beginnings after Zuckerberg is dumped through to the one millionth member of Facebook.

As far as I’m concerned The Social Network was off to a winning start with a screenplay written by the genius that is Aaron Sorkin. It’s almost impossible to believe that Sorkin has only won one Oscar so far, and that’s for this film. Having said that, it was only his fifth movie screenplay. The script is smart and zappy and everything you would expect from the man who brought us A Few Good Men, The West Wing and The American President. We aren’t overwhelmed by geeky coder talk and we know exactly what’s going on and the dubbing of the Winklevoss twins as the Winklevii is simply brilliant.

The performances are universally good. Jesse Eisenberg is nicely ambiguous as Zuckerberg. We’re never sure if he’s a just a nerd who doesn’t realise the consequences of his actions or if he’s a thoroughly unpleasant man prepared to throw over his best (only) friend in the pursuit of success. Justin Timberlake is impressive as the sleazy Napster founder Sean Parker who comes between Zuckerberg and Saverin. The stand-out performance comes from Andrew Garfield as Eduardo Saverin, Zuckerberg’s friend who finances the first months of Facebook but soon finds himself out in the cold. Garfield brilliantly portrays a man who is hurt and angry at how he has been treated and you get the feeling he is more upset by the betrayal of a friendship rather than being pushed out of a multi-billion dollar business.

The film is definitely at its strongest when looking at the Saverin/Zuckerberg relationship rather than the conflict with the Winklevoss/Winklevii. Perhaps it’s just difficult to feel too sorry for multi-millionaire Olympians, despite Armie Hammer’s great performance in the dual role (also I don’t think Olympians should get to row in the Oxford-Cambridge Boat Race so I was doubly against them from the start).

The Social Network is a fantastic story of friendship and betrayal with just a bit of business, computing and social media thrown in. The acting was great, the direction spot on and the writing just sublime. Time much better spent than two hours on Farmville.

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