(out of 5)
Facebook.com was already a giant phenomenon when it was an exclusive social network for university and college students around the globe; when it went beyond the scholastic borders and was available universally, the website mushroom-clouded into a brilliantly multifaceted spiderweb that has contributed to everyday vocabulary (“Facebook me”, “Unfriend her”) and played its part in the development of relationships of many kinds (including, in one tragic case, the incitement for a jealous husband to murder his estranged wife). The hilarious joke at the centre of this scintillating drama directed to a manic frenzy by David Fincher and written on knife-sharp points by Aaron Sorkin, is that the entire juggernaut was created by a couple of Harvard kids who just wanted to get laid. Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) is pitched the idea by three preppy students for an online social network to link the various houses at Harvard; he likes their conception but chooses to ignore their structure and instead create his own website, one which little by little becomes the one we know today. Along the way he picks up a dubiously necessary friend (Justin Timberlake, excellent as Sean Parker), screws over his closest friend (Andrew Garfield as Eduardo Saverin) and finds himself, before long, the youngest billionaire in the world who is also having to square off against former friends and colleagues in multimillion dollar lawsuits. Sorkin takes the factual story, which is without a doubt embellished and simplified here, and focuses on the tragic irony at the heart of it all: the more time you spend online, the more your life is a pathetic shadow, and what could be sadder than Zuckerberg himself, friendless and still sexually frustrated yet at the same time the host of history’s largest ever party. As the man in question, Eisenberg’s intellectual nebbishness couldn’t possibly be more suited. His Zuckerberg is off-putting, charismatic, heroic and trite, and never less than totally engrossing to watch. Garfield is less impressive, his character’s weakness coming off more like flaws in his masked American accent than Saverin’s own shortcomings, but the rest of the cast does extremely well (particularly the few moments provided by Rashida Jones as an interning lawyer on Zuckerberg’s team). It’s a fascinating account of one of the biggest and strangest capitalist success stories of the early twenty-first century, and it indicts us all as viewers for everything we’ve ever put on the blue and white pages to make ourselves look far more popular than we actually are.
Directed by David Fincher
Cinematography by Jeff Cronenweth
Production Design by Donald Graham Burt
Costume Design by Jacqueline West