Hype! I hate it. It’s all up in your media, telling you something’s going to be the next big thing or a godawful disaster, and then causing nothing to ever be as awesome/terrible as you expect. But then sometimes hype is actually right. I guess it’s just statistically inaccurate to assume they would always be wrong.
In the case of the new David Fincher movie, The Social Network, the hype is right. This movie is killer. It’s great. It rocks. It’s everything you could want in a movie. It is beautiful and entertaining and it is interesting and it should win all of the awards for available, even Best Musical because there was music playing in the background sometimes. I loved it. I have lost my brain a bit about it—even when I think about its failings I am like one of those people who defends their friend who is a jerk. “It’s just how they are,” they say, and you hate them. I am like that about The Social Network. Blinded by how cool it is. Just like Sean Parker does to Mark Zuckerberg—yes, maybe this is an indication I should get to the plot.
Based on Ben Mezrich’s book The Accidental Billionaires, The Social Network is the fictionalised but vaguely true account of Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg), founder of obscure website facebook and the world’s youngest billionaire (billionaire! I’m excited to be a thousandaire half the time.) The film opens with Harvard computer student Mark and girlfriend Erica in a bar, getting into a fight as Mark is revealed to be an arrogant and basically unbearable person to be around. Erica leaves him, and he takes out his anger by creating a website called FaceMash, where pictures of women from the university are shown side by side with the ability to vote on who is “hotter”. This crashes the Harvard server, lands Zuckerberg in trouble with the school, and brings him to the attention of three people: all-American identical twins Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss (Armie Hammer, as both) and their business pal Divya Narendra (Max Minghella). These fine folks are looking to create a social networking site for the university, and they recruit Zuckerberg to write their code. Instead, he takes their idea and creates facebook, landing him popularity, fame, and ridiculous amounts of money—and leaving the “Winklevii” and Narendra with their idea plundered. As Zuckerberg chases his dream of getting facebook to the masses, he starts to lose his own friends, namely best pal Eduardo Saverin (Andrew Garfield), whose eventual lawsuit—along with the Winklevoss/Narendra case—plays out in the background to the rise and rise of facebook itself.
The acting is top notch. Jesse Eisenberg was awkward and loveable in Zombieland, and is awkward and a pain in the ass in this, making Mark the kind of arrogant know-it-all with jealousy issues that you can hate but understand on a human level. There is an amazing turn by Armie Hammer as both Winklevoss twins: blonde, sculpted, rowing champions, entitled and utterly enjoyable to watch, especially as they are shot down by the university dean for bringing their problems to his attention. Eduardo is the one good guy in a big pile of jackasses, and he was represented endearingly by Andrew Garfield, who is soon to don the Spider-man suit and release us all from the curse that was the other Spider-man movies. (Insert theatrical gagging here.) Another character of note is Sean Parker, the brains behind Napster, who gloms onto Zuckerberg, offers advice and becomes a business partner, coming across as a man of much blustery charm, little in the way of morals and basically as the villain of the piece. He is played with tight blonde curls by my nemesis Justin Timberlake (rant to follow).
The music, by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, is incredible, from tender and moving to go get ’em inspirational-moment beats to brain-knocking party tunes. The cinematography is amazing, with every shot tight and perfect, and some—like the twins’ regatta in England—shot in such a way that the scenery and the race looked like miniatures, perhaps (and we all know I rarely go in for symbolism here) to illustrate how small they have become in the scheme of the plan, or how small-minded they are as they make fun of Prince Albert—who they have just met, as you do. David Fincher continues to be the kind of director that gets people flapping their arms about when they hear that he’s bringing a new film out. Well, me, anyway.
Women are not fabulously portrayed in this film, apart from the five or so minutes we spend with the strong and admirable Erica (Rooney Mara, who will be Lisbeth Salander in the American remakes of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo etc, and who I am reserving judgement on until I see that trilogy.) Women are shipped in by bus to a frat party where they dance on tables and kiss each other madly; they get high in the lounge of the house Eduardo helps pay for as tech boys frantically write code in other rooms; they snort cocaine off each other’s bellies; they fuck the famous; they are batshit crazy girlfriends who set things on fire; they are beautiful but never part of a living, breathing plotline. I assume this is more a pointed look at the college boy view of women, but it still feels a little gross. Women: only here to party, or break Mark’s heart. We get the instructions for those two tasks when we are born.
Also well-portrayed but hard to swallow is the whole Ivy League classism and fraternity/finals club wankery, where which club you belong to can change your entire life due to knowing the right people, but which can often only be achieved by knowing the right people (or having enough money) in the first place. Australia isn’t immune to classism, but with the universities not having frat houses or as many boys wandering around with sweaters tied around their shoulders, it’s always something that’s come across as almost comical and ridiculous. People actually act like that? What dicks. But that’s why America is such enjoyable fodder in films like these, where they milk it for all its worth, as Eduardo is picked for a finals club and Zuckerberg spitefully says it’s only because they’re filling their minority quota. Not only that, but everyone in the film appears to be from money, apart from Zuckerberg, who appears to be from outer space as his family is never mentioned and he is really weird.
Despite the bad attitude towards women and the nauseating sense of entitlement suffered by everyone involved, I would give this five stars or ten out of ten but for one thing. Justin Timberlake. I don’t even know what he’s like as an actor, though I do know he plays the person who is basically the villain of the piece. I just hate him so, so much. It’s not his awful music, or his flat head, or his celebrity relationships. It’s the fact that he not only thought that he brought sexy back, but that it ever went away to begin with, and that emulating Michael Jackson was the way to reintroduce sexy to society. JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE. YOU ARE WRONG. I cannot see past my emotions here. Therefore:
In summary: Exceeds Expectations, in the way that rockets exceed the local school zone speed limit. But only 9.5/10 until you strap Justin Timberlake to one of those rockets.