The Social Network
With Fincher directing it was clear that we were going to see something that would still excite and Aaron Sorkin’s writing could definitely hook us into the story more than the blurb might suggest. Oh, and of course there’s the idea of finding out what could be the truth behind the birth of Facebook, was it stolen or wasn’t it?
In the end though it doesn’t seem to matter what the truth is, it’s about the story and how engaging Fincher and Sorkin make the story, a story that just doesn’t seem as though it would work on big screen, and yet it does.
However watching the film there doesn’t seem to be much spent on the other perspectives apart from in some comeback comments. The film actually tells a story, whether true or not, of Mark Zuckerberg taking the idea of two other students at Harvard and building a live, working site, which before long was social networking students across campus, then across American universities, across universities worldwide, and before long anyone on the Internet.
The site became a huge phenomenon and grew beyond anyone’s expectations making those involved in it extremely rich, but the way to success was far from easy.
The film looks at the two law suits which were raised against Zuckerberg, one from the men who claimed to have created the idea of Facebook and the other from Zuckerberg’s best friend, initial investor and ex-Chief Financial Officer of Facebook, Eduardo Saverin. It tells the story of the initial creation and the rise to the dizzying heights of the Facebook we know today. Cleverly it uses the depositions from both suits to reflect on the past events and tell the story of the genesis of the site and the problems of friendship in big business.
The opening of the film grabs you straight away and sets the pace for the rest. It tells you that you’re going to have to keep up with this story, it’s fast and furious, and there’s no action, just plenty of dialogue and it begs for your attention.
Don’t let that put you off though, this is one of the most strongly scripted and filmed movies to come out of Hollywood for a long time and it revels in subtlety and superbly written characters and dialogue.
Looking back on that scene it’s rather clever because it does plunge you deep into the tougher than normal dialogue and it takes you to the style of speech and thought for the film character of Mark Zuckerberg – I keep feeling I have to say things like allegedly and point out it’s a film otherwise I could be facing a law suit myself – from here though it seems to get a little easier to follow, it’s either that or because you are deep into it from the start you’re used to it before the end of the scene.
It’s great that there’s this acclimatisation scene that gets you in the right place for the film, and from here on there’s not a hint of a problem with following it, you’re in the perfect place and the right frame of mind for the more thought provoking film than 3D, fast cut, highly over edited, pulp that’s being rolled off the conveyor belt at the moment.
Anyway, let’s get back to the film. Apart from the dialogue and the characters there’s another slightly more difficult aspect to get used to, and that’s how the film moves around time frames. The depositions for the two different law suits are inter-cut and are a segway to leap into the past and tell the story from the view of the two sides. Although it might sound a little more complex, it’s far from it and you feel the flow is natural and rather elegantly written.
My only issue with this is I’m not sure if what they were trying to do was make us feel that the segments in the past were from different points of view, usually from whichever side was talking in the deposition at the time. It seems as though this might have been the intention, but it never followed through with it.
When Zuckerberg was talking and we went back to the past I would have thought it was his point of view, and when the Winklevoss brothers were talking and we went back I thought we would see their side. However the film seems to lay out one view point, and that was that the character of Zuckerberg stole the idea and abused his friendship to get money for his venture and find someone better at raising capital.
The film presents him as a bit of a sociopath, and I mean that in the sense of someone having no emotional connection with others, no empathy, and a complete focus on themselves and their own desires.
It seems that once he finds an idea he just can't let go and must work on it until it's completed, come what may and if he feels someone is holding him back or not going as fast then he'll dump them without a second thought.
Of course we're really not sure how much is true from the story, but the suggestion is that the story is taken from the often referenced stenographers through these depositions.
The fact that Zuckerberg is so difficult to connect with and is far from likeable is something that plagues all the other characters and leaves the film-makers with quite a difficult hill to climb. While the character Eduardo Saverin provides the audience with someone to connect with, it's still hard to actually like him as he makes some bad decisions and seems to be out of his depth.
So the script, the film and the actors have to kick things up a gear to deserve and capture your attention and hold it throughout the film, and they do it well.
Jesse Eisenberg's performance as Mark Zuckerberg is pretty much similar to many other Eisenberg performances, and there's little to distance this one apart from the character and the story around him. Here he fits well and matches the character he's playing, so while he's so similar it's a good character and performance to watch.
I do say he plays a character that is hard to like, but I'd say that by the end of the film there's a certain sympathy with him that recognises that his unique and focused personality has indeed been taken for a bit of a ride, even if he's very culpable in a lot of the hurt and betrayal of the film, we still do feel a slight ache for him nearing the end of the film.
Armie Hammer plays Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss really well and they are amongst the best characters in the film. Yes he plays the twins and there's not a second on screen where you might think that they are actually being played by one actor. Technically it's perfect, and I am being totally honest when I say that it wasn't until I checked the credits that I did realise that there wasn't a twin Hammer out there. Huge credit goes to Fincher and his team, as well as the actors in those scenes, for making this seem so realistic.
Personally though I think the best performance came from Andrew Garfield as Eduardo Saverin. He gave a performance of a frustrated character, often out of his depth but fighting to do as much as he could, and outraged when the person who he had invested in financially and believed to be his friend, took everything away from him and walked away.
He's perhaps the character you get behind the most and become most impassioned by, the underdog trying to keep up and betrayed by the greed of the man he called his friend.
Justin Timberlake deserves mentioning yet again, and I think he's an actor that does get a little overlooked and overshadowed by his name and what has passed before in his career over his acting ability. Once again he delivers a strong performance, and while you like his roguish behaviour at the beginning of the film, it's not long before that's taken away, and soon you're not only disliking him but pitying him. It's a performance that shouldn't be quickly dismissed, and while it's been superbly written, he does play the nuances of character really well.
The film is wonderfully shot but never cuts into the story, in fact there were times I totally forgot I was watching a David Fincher film, although the richness of the plot and dialogue might remind you of that briefly from time to time, it's not something that you're thinking of during the film, you do become drawn into the story and the characters. Saying that though there are some wonderfully filmed scenes and a strong control of darker scenes.
One that I have to mention is the boat race, not for the darkness, but for the use of the tilt and shift camera giving some wonderfully unusual and exciting images, and the unique style of filming the rowers in action. I really loved these scenes and while it was a strong contrast with the rest of the film it did expand the story and provide another side to the rather pompous and self-obsessed characters of the Winklevoss brothers.
While there are some scenes that do highlight this is a Fincher directed movie, for most of it the dialogue and interplay of the characters rule. This is a superbly crafted story which really concentrates on characters and their relationships, something we don't often see from Hollywood. It's also a challenging film, it isn't entertainment to sit back and watch wash over you, this will have you thinking throughout and engages you head on with complex characters and plot, delivered in a similarly thoughtful style.
However daunting that sounds it's a great film for doing just that. It's thought provoking and engaging, and that's something we need more of in cinema. You'll be thinking about this film long after you've seen it, remembering some of the performances and scenes, and perhaps wanting to see the film again.
Now think on how unique that is for such a wordy and plot rich film. There is no action, it's all emotion and dialogue, and yet it does everything the best visually exciting action film does, it grabs hold of you and keeps you engaged throughout.
Aaron Sorkin delivers a superbly strong adaptation of Ben Mezrich's book and David Fincher brings it to film without letting it slip into something average or unexciting, bringing the characters and their dialogue to life and pulling some very strong performances from the actors involved.
It's a great film that I would highly recommend, especially if you like your cinema to give you something more than highly edited action sequences.