The Social Network

Image representing Facebook as depicted in Cru...

Director - David Fincher, 2010

In a book my brother was given for his 15th birthday, you will find lists of ‘The Top 10 of Everything’. The top 10 for social networking listed MySpace – 471,152,724 users and Facebook – 350,000,000. This is significant not only because it was published in September 2009, but in less than a year Facebook’s number of registered ‘active’ users has rocketed to over 500 million. (Does anyone even use MySpace anymore?) These are rather mind-blowing figures, and further endorsements from a mainstream blockbuster haven’t exactly been unwelcome, despite founder Mark Zuckerberg distancing himself and Facebook from its production. After all even bad publicity is good publicity. But why the disassociation?

Jesse Eisenberg portrays Zuckerberg, a geeky Harvard undergrad whose difficulties with women seemingly force his prodigious computer programming skills into overdrive thus creating ‘FaceMash’; essentially a photo database where Harvard students are able rate the attractiveness of two competing females at any one time. A simple ‘hot or not’ without a time-consuming score system. This proves to be so popular on campus, that the entire Harvard network crashes. In interviews Zuckerberg has strongly denied that he set up Facebook just to get the girls, as the film suggests, and quite frankly anyone with any sense would believe him. Naturally many incidents were dramatised for effect and as a result the script evidently ebbs and flows, but ultimately the real story is that the Facebook gang sat around in front of their computers working damn hard and ordering pizza every single day. Not a good motion picture prospect.

The acting throughout is undoubtedly tremendous, even Justin Timberlake who I was initially dubious about manages to win me over. But like Timberlake’s portrayal of Napster founder Sean Parker is far too cool and trendy to be taken seriously. The main problem here is that Eisenberg’s depiction also is too geeky. Admittedly Zuckerberg still has his nerd tendencies, as demonstrated here, but Eisenberg’s diction and the way he holds his mouth were pretty distracting elements that are clearly his own characteristic traits and nothing to do with Zuckerberg, as illustrated here. David Fincher’s dark directing style transfers well from Fight Club and Se7en and compliments the legal-wrangling within the film.

Zuckerberg is currently 26-years-old and thought to be worth around $6.9 billion, equal to only a 24% share of the company. This makes him the youngest billionaire on the planet, by some way. As a result I left the cinema wishing I’d bought ‘Perl For Dummies‘ as a little boy, and started computer programming myself. Because like Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and even Harry Potter, nerds are dominating this earth, and deservedly so. And The Social Network will sit as an engaging historical footnote in the Facebook saga.

– James Godwin, December 3rd, 2010

Copyright © 2010. James Godwin. All rights reserved.