I have huge reservations, but Fincher is on form right now. Will Rooney Mara be able to escape the shadow of Noomi Rapace though? We’ll find out in December it seems.
The combination of Jesse Eisenberg playing Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg, with direction by David Fincher is a stroke of genius. It really is. The story of the creation of Facebook and the conflicts arising from it between the co-founders and others connected to Zuckerberg at the time should have been deathly dull: a semi-autistic computer nerd who some say screwed everyone over (at least in the film, I’ll get to real life later) in order to make his website the Next Big Thing doesn’t sound like a must-see. And indeed the conflicts shouldn’t come across as terribly sympathetic for film audiences – these are Harvard elitists who fell out, and the outcomes (particularly the lawsuits) are a matter of public record. There are no surprises here, yet Fincher manages to keep it gripping from the start.
He’s helped in no small measure by the casting of his star. Eisenberg showed in Zombieland that he has intelligence, charisma and superb comic timing. In ‘The Social Network’ he refines all of those qualities to deliver a dark, interesting and genuinely compelling performance of a notable recluse. Zuckerberg himself has complained that the motivations ascribed to him in the film weren’t what drove him, and that there were numerous factual inaccuracies, but that surely misses the point. Screenwriter Aaron Sorkin has gone on record saying this was a dramatisation of real events, and he’s quite right – an attempt to capture history would have made this a documentary, which it’s very clearly not; it’s an entertaining but subjective presentation of a true story. Take a look at what Zuckerberg himself has to say:
I think he’s wrong in his conclusion – I think this film is an effective character study that chooses not to take what he says at face value; adapted as it is from Ben Mezrich’s ‘The Accidental Billionaires’. It’s entitled to have its own viewpoint, right or wrong, and co-founder Eduardo Saverin’s (Andrew Garfield, promising pretty and intense things for the Spider-Man reboot) account of that period is likely no more definitive than Zuckerberg’s. The film ultimately is successful at giving a very powerful and electric (the editing in this film is quite brilliant) account of the forces and the period which led to the rise of worldwide social media.
Fincher punctuates Sorkin’s note-perfect dialogue with his normal washed-out palette and it looks just gorgeous, but a niggle remains. Sorkin and Fincher never do take a definitive stand on Zuckerberg – that much power and no agenda? Really? They suggest (as does he) that it was something he just wanted to do, without really understanding (or caring much about) the forces he unleashed, but this never really washes. What they succeed in demonstrating (through a very effective structure, cutting backwards and forwards from two of the lawsuits against Zuckerberg) is the incredible disparity between a bunch of elitist kids who were close before they got very lucky and very powerful indeed, and very much not afterwards. ‘The Social Network’ doesn’t have the punch of ‘Fight Club’ but it too effectively encapsulates the period it’s set in. Great stuff.