|Image: Columbia Pictures|
Having made several thrillers over the course of his career, including the sinfully superior Se7en and the underrated Zodiac, and sauntered on the softer, romantic side with The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, director David Fincher is back and mingling with the cool kids for his latest feature - and possible Oscar contender - The Social Network.
Based on Ben Mezrich’s novel, “Accidental Billionaires”, the film chronicles the rise of Facebook, from Harvard to Hollywood, with co-founder Mark Zuckerberg as the story’s main player. On the road to infamy, Zuckerberg is dumped by a pretty young thing, seduced by the Napster king, and slapped with two lawsuits - one courtesy of his best buddy, Eduardo Saverin, the other from three Harvard seniors, including the Winklevoss twins, who believe he supplied them with misleading information.
From the setup and a trailer lined with the Kanye West “Power” track, you’ll be inclined to believe that the movie moves along at a blistering pace, when in fact it doesn’t; the journey is actually quite a leisurely one - although it’s apparent from the first scene, if you fall asleep, you’ll miss razor-sharp architectural arrangements, brought to you by a fast-talking, compulsive Zuckerberg, played by Jesse Eisenberg, who lets us know from the get-go that he’s not to be messed with – even if he is a tad insecure and unpopular.
Eisenberg is superb as the main protagonist, portraying a funny but guarded character that you want to sympathize with yet criticize all at the same time, mainly for the part he plays in the disintegration of his relationship with Saverin, played by the equally splendid Andrew Garfield, who plays rich and cool effortlessly, whilst having the ability to turn up the heat convincingly to confront Zuckerberg and his newest associate, Sean Parker (Justin Timberlake), at a pivotal point in the narrative. The film does, however, portray Saverin, along with Zuckerberg, as an outsider, itching to be part of the in crowd, but with Garfield’s boyish good looks, it’s hard to believe he’s not already in the club.
Musician-turned-actor Timberlake sheds his sexyback skin to deliver his breakout performance as the smooth-talking, party boy Parker. Although it should be noted, due to Timberlake’s resemblance to actor Ryan Phillippe, as well as the film’s setting, The Social Network does occasionally evoke thoughts of ‘90s teen flick Cruel Intentions.
All in all, though, David Fincher has produced an excellent, restrained, dialogue-driven piece of cinema, that keeps gums running long after the credits have rolled (which is helped by the fact that Facebook has since become a multi-billion dollar institution). His usual darkly warming tones are still present, but he chooses not to dazzle his audience in order to thoughtfully put forward each gentleman’s case.
Verdict: A fair representation of a complex drama. The movie does tend to jump between two timelines a little too often, but a great ensemble performance (and a flawless computer-generated “twin” effect) keeps the film on both tracks. Smart, inspiring, if not a little elitist, The Social Network is a must-see for a society enamoured with Facebook.