Monday, November 29, 2010

The Social Network

The story of the mind(s?) behind the Facebook phenomenon.

It is undisputed that the rise and rise of Facebook has been the business success story so far this century. In fact, it is almost impossible to believe that as recent as 2005 or 2006 people's lives carried on without dull "status updates", wall comments, "friend requests" and all the rest.

Whether a touch of genius or a cunning business plan that expertly rode the gravy train of technology, Facebook became the popcultural phenomenon of the Noughties practically overnight.

That is why The Social Network is the must-see film of 2010.

It may be little to write home about in cinematic terms and it may not be the most dramatic of films, yet it remains the first detailed visual history of the man behind Facebook and the puzzling controversy that followed his first few years in business.

Most ironically, The Social Network highlights the fact that the same massive network whose goal is to bring people together was actually conjured up by a bloke whose social skills were like the lovechild of Morrissey and Greenberg or, if you like, Jeremy Clarkson and David Starkey (apologies for the revolting image).

The story begins in 2003. It's the middle of those days when the internet was still finding its feet, with projects floating about and tons of potentially lucrative businesses rising and flopping one after the other (think Napster, geocities or various dot-com failures).

It's around that time Harvard University student and socially inept Mark Zuckerberg (Jessie Eisenberg) creates a fairly cruel website called FaceMash, which is based on male students voting which of two girls presented at a time is more attractive.

While Zuckerberg is punished and scorned for his idea, his amazing computer skills catch the attention of other people on campus (the Winklevoss brothers) who were trying to develop a social network.

In the meantime, Zuckerberg himself approaches fellow student Eduardo Saverin (Andrew Garfield) and tells him of his plan for "Thefacebook", an online social networking website exclusive to Harvard University students.

It is exactly the timing of Zuckerberg's plan that will cause him a headache or two in the future, with the Winklevoss brothers later suing him on the grounds that he may have nicked their idea.

An interesting subplot is also the arrival of Sean Parker (interpreted by Justin Timberlake), the mind behind Napster and, ultimately, the person that will cause a rift within the core group of people behind the Facebook project.

Any more would constitute a spoiler.

Let's just say that director David Fincher (Fight Club, Zodiac, Panic Room) manages to keep the energy up throughout and delivers flair and suspense with an incredibly effective use of flashbacks and backstories. Expect an Oscar or two to land his way.

Ultimately, a really good film.

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