Thursday, 4 November 2010

The Social Network (2010)

* * * *

(Dir. David Fincher, 2010)

Some day Jesse Eisenberg will win an Oscar; precocious yet again, the twenty seven year-old deserves a nomination for his star turn in David Fincher's The Social Network. Eisenberg (The Squid and the Whale, Adventureland) is Mark Zuckerberg, the overwrought and disputed creator of Facebook. From a meeting room where lawyers and Harvard rivals are resolving a crisis of plagiarism, the film's lense abreacts the hard work, genius and ugly social cortex that founded Facebook.

There is a problem right away since, at first thought, a movie about the making of any website promises little entertainment, comedy or tragedy. However the event (the creation) is invaluable to so many people whether they would like to admit it or not. Just type a few words into a search engine to collect the precipitated ironies - status-updates, pages, blogs, groups and their diary plans each determined to celebrate this film. In Zuckerberg, The Social Network makes an artist out of the computer-geek stereotype. The scene where Bill Gates delivers a speech to Harvard undergrads - Zuckerberg, part of the student crowd - is submerged in transcendence and greatness, avoiding the normal flaccid description of what constitutes inspiration. At his best, Eisenberg acts alert and exhausted moments as impressively as Ben Whishaw's John Keats (Bright Star, 2009) or Sam Riley's Ian Curtis (Control, 2007). Any breaking good news about Facebook has Zuckerberg rocking to sleep in the daylight, before the flutes of champagne reappear, the desktops restart and his brainstorming resumes.

If the argument is won by the end of the film, Zuckeberg hasn't moved a social muscle. Fincher flies the flag for his subject (and Zuckerberg has reciprocated, saying his portrayal by Eisenberg was "really cool"). When the idea takes off, he is advised but never herded by Sean Parker, the creator of the music piracy service, Napster, and a role comfortably acted by Justin Timberlake. Partisan for sure, but nonetheless objective. For objectivity is really an unerring search for truth.

The truth is that an overrated, failed romance between young people is what prompted Facebook, the social networking site which IDs and advertises our intimacy. This season there is a movie able to keep surprising its audience without borrowing the language of Halloween or of the Hollywood zeitgeist, against whom this is a small victory.

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