Saturday, October 23, 2010

The Social Network

Wow You've Got 10000000 Friends!

Who would have guessed that the next big thing that took the Internet, and the real world, by storm, would be the application that crafts our social network digitally for the online world to see. There's hardly a time I encounter anyone without a Facebook page, or are not actively updating it, unless of course you're stuck in a country that has barred access to it. It's a simple but brilliant idea translated which made the founders billions of dollars and propelling them into the elite club of the superrich, and David Fincher's The Social Network maps a dramatization of how the world's social network got created from the dorm rooms in Harvard University.

Based on the book by Ben Mezrich, Aaron Sorkin's screenplay doesn't bog us down with a mountain of details, choosing instead to focus on the sexier parts which kept the narrative moving at breakneck speed, beginning with the introduction of the socially inept Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) on a disastrous date – the irony of course that he'll be chief architect and co-founder of a social networking site – before heading back to his dorm room in a fit of anger and creating a site that melts the university's network while drunk, and gaining notoriety overnight. With the writing on the wall, Fincher paces this film with such velocity that you'll hardly ever realize that two hours had passed when we reach the obligatory closure titles that pepper a biography.

As with almost every biographical film it comes with a tinge of drama to spice things up, so it's obviously not wise to take this film like the bible word for word, but it does provide an excellent study into the nature of human friendships and business relationships, and how the two often come dangerously close to a collision that will make friends and/or partners fall out of favour with one another, especially since it is fairly easy to surmise that everyone has an opinion of how a company should be run in a post dot-com bubble burst – whether risks are to be taken in a giant leap of faith, or to go down the more traditional route of monetizing a site through ad revenue.

Fincher adopts a non-linear narrative for The Social Network, and you'll be forgiven if you find yourself a little bit disorientated in the beginning, since he throws you into the middle of not one but two lawsuits, one between Mark Zuckerberg and the Winklevoss brothers Cameron and Tyler (both played by Armie Hammer) who are adamant that the technology whizz had stolen their idea when they pitched it to him in the confines of their exclusive club, while the other is between once best friends and roommates Zuckerberg and Eduardo Saverin (Andrew Garfield, the new Peter Parker/Spiderman) in a relationship and friendship that had gone sour and communications between the two conducted with lawyers as intermediaries. But you'll find your balance soon enough as both narrative threads are equally compelling and engaging to sit through, and you'll begin to see the plenty of issues and challenges that always automatically come along when something or someone becomes successful, otherwise who would bother at all?

As if that is not engaging enough, the introduction of Napster founder Sean Parker (Justin Timberlake) spices things a lot more, as he seduces Mark easily since they talk on a technological level, leaving Eduardo a lot more cautious because of Sean's shady background with drugs and his womanizing ways. But of course if someone brings funding and expertise and know-how for having been there and done that, as well as experience in navigating the tough business waters, then perhaps Sean's deemed as the necessary evil to bring Facebook forward, having to contribute to workable, iconic ideas even, off the cuff.

While Jesse Eisenberg is spot on in his portrayal of a highly intelligent geek with a problematic EQ and as someone who doesn't mince his words, and Andrew Garfield being quite suave as the business economics undergraduate who cannot believe their collective success that skyrockets their popularity and a groupie following, it is Justin Timberlake (who would have thought) as the relatively sleazy Sean Parker who steals the show with his anecdotes, having some of the best lines in the show and being the quasi-villain that the story lacked in the driving of a wedge between two best friends in the dogged quest to have something to do with what he sees as potentially the next big thing in the world. As he will attest to, great ideas somehow have their connections stem back from the female of the species, and here there's no lack of that reference, and truly the film comes alive with the Mark-Eduardo-Sean axis of characters coming together that has trust issues, business and personal friendships all put on the line.

One thing about David Fincher's filmography thus far is his aptitude to tell stories that are dark in nature, epic and biographical. The Social Network has all these rolled into one, with a story about one of the world's most popular website, and the ugliness of how a business relationship can sour genuine friendship into nothing more than a bitter aftertaste. It doesn't pass judgement on its characters, but allows you to form your own conclusions. Definitely one of the best and engaging films of the year, perhaps also because it's something easy to identify with, and based upon a pop cultural tool that's still, I believe, yet to achieve its peak. A must watch!

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