The Social Network

Rooney Mara and Jesse Eisenberg in The Social Network



It’s often said that Kids Today can’t concentrate, that they don’t love words the way their parents did. Well, they flocked in the droves to see The Social Network, an old fashioned, plot driven, very talky film that seems aimed at people capable of mastering fine detail, people with an almost legal mindset. Regardless of the true state of the ADHD generation – isn’t it obvious that anyone who sits and plays a computer game for hours on end demonstrably has no problem with concentrating? – The Social Network tells the story of one of its generation’s figureheads, for good or ill: Mark Zuckerberg, the Facebook founder. In particular it spins on the relationship between Zuckerberg and the Winklevoss twins, Cameron and Tyler, the money brothers who spent years pursuing Zuckerberg through the courts because, they claimed, he either stole their idea or failed to compensate them adequately for their input on the original FaceMash project. In the way that Facebook hooks people up, The Social Network mashes together a lot of fine talent – and the whole really is greater than the sum of the parts. We have Aaron Sorkin’s fast, involving dialogue – the opening scene between Zuckerberg and a date (Rooney Mara) tells us everything we need to know about the subject’s personality, his attitude to women, his intelligence, his arrogance, his obsession (she says obsessed, he says motivated; Sorkin lets us decide). David Fincher is the perfect directorial choice too, a guy obsessed with process and function (you only have to see Seven to know that), whose muted pallette of oranges and browns, low lighting, and decision to pump Trent Reznor’s music up high – suggesting intense brain activity, the frenzy of creativity, the buzz a bright idea delivers – allows the viewer to scope the areas where words cannot go. And around one hour or so in, it might suddenly hit you that Jesse Eisenberg isn’t actually Mark Zuckerberg, such is the perfection of his playing of this character – charming, yes, but just this side of overweening – even though Eisenberg is clearly too old to be playing a 19 year old.

In terms of plot the film breaks down into how it was done – how hacking into the personal files Harvard kept on its students (a late-night computer prank fuelled by sexual rancour and a feeling of social exclusion) gave birth almost magically to a once-in-a-generation megacorp. And then how that idea was subsequently monetised (enter Justin Timberlake as Napster guy Sean Parker, Mephistopheles dressed as a cruising shark). Running like a sore under this rise-and-rise plot strand are the Winklevosses, the socially connected (in all the right but old ways) brothers about to be shafted by a new paradigm. The Winklevoss stuff injects an old-fashioned courtroom drama ambience, and – set in brightly lit lawyers offices and Harvard professors’ studies, all suited and booted – provides relief from the bars and bedrooms and really lets Sorkin crack wise. Fast moving and littered with just enough references to MySQL and Apache, The Social Network entirely succeeds in making us feel like we’re inside with the new kids on the block, not outside with… er… us.



© Steve Morrissey 2014



The Social Network – at Amazon





The Social Network

Justin Timberlake and Jesse Eisenberg in The Social Network


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


© Steve Morrissey 2013



The Social Network – at Amazon