The Social Network
d. David Fincher / 2010 / USA / 120 mins
Cinema 1 @ Barbican (London, UK)
I really wanted to not laud The Social Network, largely because I think it’s been a little overhyped. But there’s one element of the hyperbole surrounding this film that I just can’t avoid. Sure, there’s no question that its a solid effort on all counts, there also seems to be no doubt that it is Aaron Sorkin’s script that wins out.
After all, without Sorkin’s sense of narrative development and sheer dialogic wit (which finds its apotheosis here in the blithe, deeply intelligent world of Harvard geekery), the story of Mark Zuckerberg and the creation of Facebook could easily have been very dull, slightly confusing and rather forgettable. In Sorkin’s hands, of course, it becomes much more than its constituent parts, with the narrative actually having rather little to do with Facebook, which acts merely as a backdrop for Sorkin’s quasi-courtroom drama and its ensuing tale of friendship, betrayal and social disfunction.
Just as The Social Network would be nothing without Sorkin’s script, however, screenplays are nothing without worthy interpreters. David Fincher does his typically solid best, with an excellent score from Trent Reznor and a surprisingly strong cast, featuring a central trio who were either considered one-dimensional (Jesse Eisenberg), a massive risk (Justin Timberlake), or were simply an unknown entity (Andrew Garfield).
And Eisenberg is great, bringing a version of Zuckerberg to the screen that audiences despise and admire in equal measure. And, as with Ben Stiller in Greenberg, I developed a strange sense of admiration for Sorkin and Eisenberg’s semi-fictional rendition of Zuckerberg, who buries his profound sense of misunderstood genius in a barrage of pithy one-liners.
Like Zuckerberg, The Social Network is not exactly a picture of perfection, but the fact that it deals with a semi-transient element of popular culture without managing to reduce itself to misjudged references and cheesy attempts to catch the zeitgeist is due – once again – to one thing: Aaron Sorkin’s excellent script. Last night, he won the BAFTA for Best Adapted Screenplay, and if he doesn’t repeat the trick on Oscar night, I’ll eat my hat. Or maybe even my shoe.