The Social Network

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A movie for every day of the year – a good one

3 October

The Mickey Mouse Club debuts, 1955

On this day in 1955, Walt Disney launched The Mickey Mouse Club on the ABC television network. Essentially a variety show that made stars of its mini-vaudevillians (named Mouseketeers), it was hosted by a number of adult comperes. Initially this was Jimmy Dodd, who would intersperse performances by the kids and old episodes of shows such as The Hardy Boys with a song and a homily of his own composing, thus setting the tone for the MMC – sunny, positive, virtuous. The show continued until its cancellation in 1959, but then continued to be shown in popular syndicated repeats on US television. Those reruns were still being shown when the show was revived in 1977, using the same basic formula (theme days, cartoons, episodes of serials, chunks of movies) for a short run. And it was revived again in 1989, the mix augmented now by music videos, comedy sketches, and live performances by the Mouseketeers. Among the Mouseketeers in this final 89-95 run were Keri Russell (91-93), though it was the class of 93-95 which proved particularly noteworthy. It contained Christina Aguilera, Ryan Gosling, Britney Spears and Justin Timberlake.

The Social Network (2010, dir: David Fincher)

The film about the creation, early days and volcanic rise of Facebook, and its disputed (what the film is all about) creator Mark Zuckerberg could be said to belong to any number of people. For sure, it’s a David Fincher product, slick, beautiful, well paced and confident. But most of those adjectives could also be applied to Aaron Sorkin, who wrote it. And what of Jesse Eisenberg, as geeky Zuckerberg? Or Rooney Mara as the girl who dumps him. Or Armie Hamer as the Winklevoss twins (the “Winkelvi”) whom Zuckerberg swindles/beats (delete according to taste for litigation) in the race to set up a Bebo-style chatspace for university students – Facemash, Zuckerberg initially called it. The casting and writing are so assured in this film that no matter who we’re with, even Mara, who’s not in the film for long, while they’re on screen it’s their film. Which brings us to Mickey Mouse Club alumnus Justin Timberlake. This surely is his best role and he is in some respects the beating heart of the film, playing Sean Parker, the file-sharing-site Napster inventor who swoops in late to pick up something bright glinting in the sunlight. His involvement, advice and money enabled Facebook to leapfrog any number of hurdles, got it its first serious investment from PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel and set it on the road to where it is now. In the process Parker became Facebook President. But is he a good guy or a bad guy? An enthusiast for new media or an opportunist? The beauty of Timberlake’s performance is that he makes Parker an immensely attractive character, the person with whom Zuckerberg forms the alliance that mattered when it mattered. In the process Parker might have stolen the soul of Facebook, or Zuckerberg might have given it to him willingly, in return for the untold riches that Parker was dangling under his nose. In essence it’s Faust updated, Faustbook, with Timberlake as Mephistopheles. And he knows damn well that that’s what this role is all about. You can almost smell the sulphur coming off the screen.

Why Watch?

  • Give or take the odd disputed fact – and the lawyers have been all over this film – the history of the founding of Facebook
  • The breakout role for Armie Hammer, as the Winklevoss twins
  • Trent Reznor’s great soundtrack
  • Sorkin’s script makes this a movie for anyone who loves words – no knowledge of PHP or MySQL required

The Social Network – at Amazon

I am an Amazon affiliate

© Steve Morrissey 2013

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