Review: The Social Network

The Social Network (12) 121 mins

Dir. David Fincher

Cast. Jesse Eisenberg,Andrew Garfield, Rooney Mara, Justin Timberlake, Armie Hammer.

Screenplay. Aaron Sorkin

5 stars


Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) is sat in a busy Harvard bar in the autumn of 2003. Positioned opposite him is the delectable Erica (Rooney Mara) who is just about to dump him, but not before a conceited verbal joust ensues concerning the nature and importance of the university’s elite ‘Final Clubs’ and their ability to, in Zuckerberg’s words, “lead to a better life.”

Having had her fill, Erica gifts a few stinging words to our protagonist: “You’re going to go through life thinking that girls don’t like you because you’re a geek… that won’t be true. It’ll be because you’re an asshole.”  She then leaves. The scene, perhaps the best in the film, is expertly shot, wonderfully acted and masterfully edited.

Two things became apparent to me when I heard that David Fincher was directing a “Facebook movie.”  Firstly: if Fincher wasn’t directing it, I wouldn’t care a lick at all. And secondly: even though he was, I was still quietly unoptimistic about the whole thing.

As it turns out, there was no reason to worry, because The Social Network has turned out to be a genuinely outstanding piece of filmmaking that proves that Fincher knows what he’s doing in any genre.

Based upon the not-so-flattering book by Ben Mezrich, The Accidental Billionaires, The Social Network charts the rise and subsequent legal battles that enveloped the internet phenomenon that is, and social enigma that is co-founder, Mark Zuckerberg.

The crux of The Social Network’s portrayal of Zuckerberg is one that couples a painful social ineptitude with academic genius.  Not exactly a rare sight in film, agreed, but therein lies the rub: the man who will co-create the most ubiquitous social networking tool in history, fails miserably in the basic skills required to connect with those around him in any meaningful way.

In the spirit of heartache and revenge, Zuckerberg creates a program that allows his Harvard contingent to rate on the attractiveness of their female peers. And when said program crashes the Harvard server, he realises the potential of a more personalised online social experience. Thus, ‘The Facebook’ is invented. Though, as you may guess, the tale has nothing to do with money or greed or power – at least not for Zuckerberg- it has to do with impressing a certain, soon-to-be dragon tattooed, girl.

The ensemble cast all perform admirably under what were no doubt difficult and trying circumstances imposed by Fincher.  Jesse Eisenberg plays Zuckerberg with a careful balance of sardonic wit and near autistic characteristics, and although not considered as handsome as some of the director’s previous leading men, nevertheless he holds the screen with ease. Rooney Mara boast beauty and confidence as the girl that got away – two traits she’ll need to keep with her if she’s to pull off the lead in Fincher’s The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo remake, currently filming in Sweden.

The part of the best friend, Eduardo Saverin, went to British-American actor Andrew Garfield who exudes a lost-little boy charm from start to finish. Justin Timberlake depicts the mildly Machiavellian Napster hero Sean Parker: all smooth-talking and rock-star arrogance. But much of the films humour is provided by the Winklevoss brothers.  Actor Armie Hammer’s performance in both roles, aided by some seamless cutting and pasting, apparently delighted their real life counter parts.

Of course many of the tales that make up the film are factually inaccurate, which is unusual for the normally pedantic Fincher, but none of that really matters here. Aaron Sorkin’s script is impeccable from start to finish and we never feel as though the 49-year-old writer, famous for the likes of the West Wing and A Few Good Men, is out of his depth with these Harvard kids.

Fincher makes the camera live and breathe in the way he always has, and each frame pulses with shades of Fight Club and Zodiac; there is no sense that this feature is in any way filler in his CV. The 48-year-old director has an unrivalled gift for technically masterful storytelling and character complexity that few contemporary American filmmakers can match.

It is a moody and stylish film that manages to transcend its seemingly glib subject matter and present an intriguing and complex view of the origins of one of the most significant social developments of a generation.

The only real negative critique is that in the rush of it all, I was left wanting more, which in retrospect may not be a bad thing anyway… The first rule of show business is: always keep them wanting more.


About craig shaw

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