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The Social Network

The first thing to keep in mind is that this film’s brilliance can blind you to the fact that only one side of the story is being presented, that of Eduardo Saverin, Jeff Zuckerberg’s business minded partner who – according to the movie – was shunted out in favour of flashy start-up enfant terrible Shaun Parker (Timberlake, in his most mature role to date).

But Saverin’s story was all screenwriter Aaron Sorkin had to go on (it was being written at the same time), and with David Fincher in the director’s chair, it was a sure bet the result would be spectacular. But in a further twist, Sorkin himself has said he wasn’t a slave to the truth, he just wanted to tell a good story. And when I first heard about the film, I remember being both fascinated that any major film would depict such recent events, and certain none of it would be too scathing while all the principal players were still alive.

Jesse Eisenberg, the alt-Michael Cera from Zombieland and Adventureland, isn’t the world’s best actor but he’s perfect here as Zuckerberg. He plays a sort of teenage Woody Allen – nervous, sarcastic and seemingly close to boiling point with sexual frustration and jealous rage at his social betters.

It’s the cornerstone upon which Sorkin builds his whole script. Amid one of the two lawsuits leveled against Zuckerberg at the cusp of his riches and power (and the last scene of the film), we see him sitting alone in a room constantly updated the Facebook page of the girl who broke his heart in the first scene. As the supertext reminds us, he’s the world’s youngest billionaire, but even Zuckerberg himself seems convinced he’ll never be good enough for the beautiful Erica.

The structure intersperses scenes from two deposition hearings with the inception and growth of Facebook as we learn how Zuckerberg made such bitter enemies out of a team of start-up entrepreneurs and his best friend Saverin.

It starts with a drunken hacking rampage, setting up a webpage that spreads throughout Harvard like wildfire, asking visitors to choose the hottest girl from a pair of pictures. Despite getting raked over the administrative coals, Zuckerberg’s stunt is noticed. As well as an invite by the Winklevoss twins and their partner to construct a nascent social networking platform for the college, Zuckerberg himself realises he’s onto something, roping best friend Eduardo (Garfield) and a few vague geek friends in to make it happen.

As history tells us, Facebook broke the banks of the Harvard online fraternity, then US college circles, and then to the extent that it’s now one of the global Web success stories on a par with YouTube and Google.

But as the best stories always are, it’s hardly about the money. It’s about the personalities and how they clash and interact – the sardonic but slightly naïve Zuckerberg easily led by the flashy, overpowering Parker, abandoning his more level-headed best friend in the process.

Ironically, Sorkin does better work than Fincher. As if the latter saw nothing in the script that needed any of his carefully crafted flourishes, everything from the blocking to the camerawork is adequate more than extraordinary. Maybe Fincher just wanted to be associated with one of the best stories of the year but keep his personality as a filmmaker out of it.

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