The social network ..works. And it deserved to be King!

Last night was the much hyped Oscars. The big winner was the King’s Speech, but as I have not seen that, I cannot really comment. On what I’ve seen, it seems to be a typical academy baiting film and I hoped that the Social Network would be the overall winner.  So I now present to you my case for why the film that only won a few should have been the big success story.

The Social Network is David Fincher’s latest film about the founding of facebook. After hearing it announced, I thought it would be a terrible film pandering to the latest craze and jumping on the bandwagon, but let me assure you, this film is one of the best of last year. The reason it’s got so much attention is very clear as it works on many levels and is not just about a popular website; it’s about what makes the site so popular and the founder not.

The film is based on a non-fiction book about Eduardo Saverin’s court case to sue Mark Zuckerburg for cutting him out of facebook. This does not, however, mean the film is factual. The writers and director have never said as much, and many additions and subtractions have been made for dramatic effect. The best way to approach this film is as a coalition of ideas, all about and related to facebook, but mashed together with a narrative and characters that are partially based on truth but whose accuracy cannot be determined.

——BEWARE, HERE BE (MINOR) SPOILERS——–

The focus throughout, unsurprisingly, is Mark Zuckerberg. The film starts with him in college, being dumped by a girl that has just had enough of him. This scene is a wonderfully apt opening to the film, showing Mark as a very confusing and hard to follow guy. It is also entirely fictional, as Zuckerberg is still with his high school girlfriend in real life.  The character of Zuckerberg appears to speak bluntly, but is not really opening up or coming across as believable. For example, on being asked why he cares so much about clubs, he replies “Because they’re exclusive. And fun. And they lead to a better life.” You clearly get the impression this guy is a bit unstable but at the same time you never think of him as an idiot. It is a credit to Jesse Eisenberg who plays him that you never doubt his performance, but merely the character he is portraying

The other main characters are also very well cast and played. Arnie Hammer as the Winkelvoss twins and Justin Timberlake as Sean Parker, the founder of Napster, were both great fun to watch on screen. None of those characters are particularly nice, but all had some amazing lines and had awesome screen presence. Arnie plays doppelgangers obsessed with being right all the time and Justin is addicted to gaining notoriety. Both of these characters go to show some aspects we all recognise in fellow facebook users. You can pretty much write their profiles for them and would be able to script their status updates easily.

The other main character is Eduardo, played by Andrew Garfield. He comes across as quite a nice guy, but quite frankly, he just seemed a bit timid to me. His only contribution to “the facebook” as it was originally called was to put up the money for the servers. He was purely a financial investor, so doesn’t really in my opinion have any claim to the idea. It’s only the fact his share got devalued without any warning that made me have any sympathy for him. His whining constantly about financial return, while understandable, is not really endearing or very supportive as a friend.

It is the relationship between Mark and Eduardo which I think is one of the film’s most interesting points. Although I would never refer to Facebook as Art (artistic yes, but it’s not a piece of artwork), Mark is written as an artist with a vision, while Eduardo is his sceptical investor. The film therefore is a statement of how the artist should pursue their vision, whatever the cost. Mark is being sued for an incredible amount of money, but the film does not at any point suggest what Mark has done was outrageous. It is more about the costs that he had to face; losing his best friend and financial cost. Due to the success of his idea, finances are in no short supply and at the end he does not seem to regret losing Eduardo’s friendship but more the love of his former flame. He sees the position the company is now in as being worth the loss.

It is without doubt the relationships that are the film’s major concern, with a subtle focus on what we say to each other. The themes of omission, unclear wording and stressing specific points are all familiar to those who feel the pressure to write status updates more often than life throws interesting things your way. This film is so well written to encompass all the interesting problems that a social network throws up that I think if any other film had received the best adapted screenplay Oscar it would have been an injustice.

The music is another worthy winner, as the score is simply perfect for this film. Modern, uncomfortable, suspicious and unpredictable, it symbolises the film perfectly. It was sufficiently unobtrusive to allow me to enjoy the film, but in isolation is still a joy. In particular, Trent Reznor’s rendition of In the Hall of The Mountain King is epic and the scene in which it features is quite rightly dialogue free to ensure optimum effect.

All in all, this film is a must watch. Do not expect, as many have unfortunately done, that this is in any way accurate. The credits show (if only briefly) that the events have been altered for dramatic effect. Go to enjoy a portrayal of imperfect human beings and their relationships. Take it as a lesson in what not to do on facebook, but don’t expect an accurate history lesson of its foundation. I recommend it as one of my top films of last year, beaten only by the mastery of Inception, reviewed here.

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