I was already lined up to like this film: I love the writing of Aaron Sorkin, I love the directing of David Fincher, and the story is inherently interesting. The fact that the film is really, really good is just a bonus. Sorkin’s electric dialogue works really well here because all the characters involved are extremely intelligent (most of them are at Harvard, after all), and Fincher is a director who is good (and obsessed) with examining male relationships – women are not part of the cast, even if the idea of women play a central role in the initiation of the story. Add to this a cast that is perfect and excellent, and The Social Network is a wonderfully cinematic experience, which is bizarre when it’s a film about people talking or typing on a computer.
The Social Network is a dramatic (i.e. based on fact but not sticking to the complete truth) telling of the creation of Facebook, and the effect it had on the people involved. The story is innately dramatic anyway: Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) is at Harvard University when he is approached by the Winklevoss twins, star rowers at Harvard, who have an idea for a social network site for Harvard students and need Zuckerberg to do the coding. However, while stalling the twins with other code, Zuckerberg comes up with the idea for Facebook, which he sets up with investment from his friend, Eduardo Saverin (Andrew Garfield), who becomes the CFO of the company. Saverin was an economic student, so he had a traditional approach to finding money for the company; Zuckerberg had bigger ideas, which were fuelled by the arrival of Sean Parker (Justin Timberlake), the founder of Napster, who dazzles Zuckerberg with his pizzazz. This leads to Saverin being edged out of his own company, leading to his lawsuit against Zuckerberg (who his also being sued by the Winklevoss twins for stealing the idea). The film cuts between the lawsuits and the creation of Facebook, and the development and destruction of relationships. And it is utterly exhilarating.
Everything about this film is great: the actors are all excellent, the script is superb and the direction serves the script beautifully. Eisenberg plays Zuckerberg as an incredibly intelligent man who sees all aspects of a brilliant idea, who doesn’t mean to deliberately screw people over. Garfield is excellent as Saverin, the real wounded party because of the betrayal of friendship. Timberlake is incredible as Parker, oozing charisma and energy. The Fincher factor of technical wizardry is shown in the portrayal of the identical twins: both parts are played by the same man, Armie Hammer (with a stand-in to play against), and he plays them both brilliantly. The story is completely absorbing; the two hours fly by due to the sparkling dialogue and the way that the film-makers have captured a defining moment of our time.