The Social Network Review: Geek Makes Good (Movie)

social300THE SOCIAL NETWORK (12A): On General Release Friday 15th October

When a new intern arrived at OTB and promptly announced that he wasn’t on Facebook, everyone in the office looked at him with a mixture of awe, disbelief and mistrust. Who was this person? Why had he rejected the greatest work-avoidance technique since some pioneering layabout invented the ‘sickie’? And just how the hell did he live his life without knowing what everyone else was up to? Thanks to The Social Network, we know what Mark Zuckerberg was up to before he created the website that became large enough to achieve verb status. He was wandering around Harvard in flip-flops and displaying behaviour that would have seen any passing psychologists making notes like a person taking dictation from Scatman.

David Fincher has always been a great technician and he certainly squeezes every drop of drama from this surprisingly riveting tale by switching from the main thrust of ‘humble-beginnings to world domination’ schlock to the various legal battles that ensued in more recent years (at one stage Zuckerberg was involved in two at the same time). With Aaron Sorkin (The West Wing) on screenwriting duty, The Social Network becomes a relevant and witty yarn which transcends a meagre premise. Indeed creating such a watchable, and at times humorous, movie about Facebook is an achievement in itself – it’s Facebook for chrisakes! But Eisenberg is now being mentioned as a possible Oscar winner. That’s the power of the internet folks…

There has been a flurry of indirect hype from Facebook attempting to distance the company and Zuckerberg from this rather biting portrayal in recent weeks, but if they bothered to watch the film, they would see that although Jesse Eisenberg’s King Hacker starts as a sharp, awkward, rude little bastard, he eventually discovers a modicum of humanity. Yet for all the PR guff to emerge from Palo Alto, it’s difficult to avoid the feeling that Fincher and the writers were much closer to the mark with Zuckerberg than the website’s bosses would like to admit.

The opening scene of the movie shows him having a drink with a girlfriend and discussing his latest plan to gain entry to the exclusive clubs around the campus. His razor sharp but utterly self-defeating and unecessary defence mechanisms lead to her dumping him and walking out. Zuckerberg returns to his dorm, gets drunk, bitches about her on his blog and then creates, a website that encourages his class mates to rate each other according to looks. Among other things, it was this that gave him the idea for the biggest social networking site on the planet.

Restless, dismissive, sarcastic and dry, this is the person we expected Mark Zuckerberg to be. A computer nerd who craved recognition and acceptance more than anything else. Despite all this, his best friend and site co-creator Eduardo Saverin (we are amazed that he even has one after the first stages of the film) is portrayed as the very opposite – a disarmingly affable, apologetic and modest bloke who seems to be able to get along with anyone. Andrew Garfield warms up for Spidey by playing this part and although he does well, the truth of such a representation is up for much debate – Saverin was gagged after receiving a financial settlement and has disappeared off the map since.

The audience naturally sees events through the eyes of Eduardo but as he is gradually pushed out of the company, we start to see Zuckerberg in a slightly different light. Instead of comparing him to a warm-hearted Garfield, we are seeing him next to an odious Justin Timberlake. As Sean Parker (creator of Napster and bandwagon joiner of Facebook) he splits the roomies like an one of those horror movie antagonists. Measured against Parker, Zuckerberg achieves a kind of compassion that didn’t seem possible at the film’s outset. It would be nice to imagine that this was the case in real life…