The Social Network (Contains Spoilers)

I think by this point it’s pretty safe to say that David Fincher is a dude who really knows what he’s doing. He may not have as many Oscars as Scorsese, as many classics as Spielberg or as much money as Cameron, but his repertoire shows that he definitely has it together and is more than capable of creating pieces of cinema that are sure to make heads turn. Se7en, Fight Club, Zodiac – all of these have been incredibly tense and very intellectually challenging films, and The Social Network is no exception to this. Ironically enough, after seeing The Social Network I honestly couldn’t wait to write a blog about it and express my opinions of it on a public medium!

The Social Network, I personally think, is one of the most intellectually entertaining films not just of this year, but of recent years as well. Pair that with the fact that, at its centre point, it is a piece about one of the most used, talked about and potentially dangerous inventions of recent years and you have a film that is GOING to cause a stir, no matter what! The partly true, partly fictional story of the Harvard University based creators of the social networking site Facebook (which you’d be hard-pressed to find someone NOT on it now!) sees Jesse Eisenberg playing the role of Mark Zuckerberg, the main geek-brained creator of the infamous networking website. Eisenberg does a fantastic job playing Mark as he is able to deliver all his lines with such a straight face and blank attitude that it’s both believable and ironic in equal measures – believable because Eisenberg delivers all the computer jargon with such conviction you’d think he graduated from MIT, and ironic in the way that someone with such a lack of social interaction skills and emotional depth could create the world’s largest and most famous social networking site. But that’s the irony of the situation to begin with, really – the fact that The Social Network starts with a five minute scene of Mark basically ruining a date by gradually insulting his date more and more because his mind obviously operates on different levels from normal humans goes to show just how socially awkward and emotionally blind Eisenberg’s Mark is. Also, as a side note, that first scene of the film where the awkwardly sarcastic Mark and his date Erica Albright (Rooney Mara) are sat around a table was probably the hardest part of the film to write! From this early point, it’s clearly established that Mark is not just socially blind, but more a borderline Asperger’s patient, which is again why it’s ironic he managed to create Facebook.

Whilst Eisenberg does an amazing job as the sarcastically smarter-than-thou Mark, it’s Andrew Garfield who truly shines through as Mark’s roommate and co-founder of Facebook, Eduardo Saverin. Garfield is genuinely an amazing actor in The Social Network, providing the other half of the entire story that makes up the script of the film. Saverin is the more socially aware, richer go-getter of the two founders which is what starts to provide Eisenberg’s Mark with the conflicts he faces, as for someone so socially unaware, he’s friends with someone who is more popular, has more money and can intellectually keep up with Mark. The scene where Garfield truly steals the show is at the point where Saverin is given further contracts to sign and realises exactly what his shares in Facebook are after a corporate investment and, even though you don’t feel as much of a connection to this jealous and somewhat spiteful portrayal of Eduardo Saverin, you can’t help but feel bad for how shunned and cast out he gets.

This is not to say that Saverin was the “bad guy” in any of this, and that’s part of the beauty of The Social Network – there are no clearly defined “good” or “bad” characters. Each of the characters is right or wrong about different things in equal measures – at the point where Saverin wants to monetise Facebook through advertising, Eisenberg’s Mark doesn’t want to. He wants to “not stop the party before 11” as the parallel goes. BUT, as it now turns out, Facebook ended up charging for advertising on their spaces and that is now why Facebook is worth so much money, and has made billionaires of Saverin and Zuckerberg. So in the end, neither of them are exactly right or wrong, which is what makes their characters so compelling throughout the entire film.

Justin Timberlake is a bit questionable in the role of Sean Parker, and I’m having a hard time making my mind up about him. On the one hand, I think Timberlake is doing a good job for himself in becoming a legitimate actor as well as singer, and I think the Social Network will work well for him as a stepping stone to further good roles. However, his particular role in this film I found a little hard to accept as it progressed. At the start of the film, Timberlake obviously does a good job of becoming the Napster Mastermind Sean Parker – a cocky rich guy who dropped out of school, managed to screw around in the Music industry and has gotten plenty of fame and fortune because of it. Let’s face it; of course Justin Timberlake would be good at playing that role… But as the film went on, and the character of Sean Parker had to become gradually more genuine and less of a “mogul” type, Timberlake became a little less believable in his character, and that’s where he started to falter. So to begin with, Timberlake’s character works well and drives the storyline, but towards the end he starts to become less of a steering wheel and more of a regular cog in the works. But he still makes for an interesting character, and I think that Timberlake might actually have some kind of possible career in film ahead of him.

One aspect of The Social Network that was interesting, and in fact of many of Fincher’s films, is the way in which the story is told. The Social Network isn’t exactly told in a series of flashbacks as the film actually starts back before Zuckerberg created Facebook or even his first attempt at an internet-wide practical joke of Facemash, but more with cut-aways to the legal proceedings that followed after Facebook became something bigger than any of its creators. At the end of the film, the storylines catch up to each other and come to one, single conclusion as the story of the creation of Facebook meets with the courtroom drama that ensued after it. In this way, the delivery of the information that drives the story is evenly spread out, and in some places even comical with the way that it is cut together to tell the story of certain incidents in Facebook’s creation. What is also interesting about this form of storytelling is that it keeps you guessing as to how they all got to that point – at one part towards the end, you get the sense that Saverin and Zuckerberg are almost at a point of an understanding again before everything gets far worse, but the point is that it keeps you guessing at times, and that’s what gives The Social Network’s story its edge.

I should also say that the film’s soundtrack is worth a mention at this point. The soundtrack to The Social Network has been written and put together entirely by Nine Inch Nails front man Trent Reznor and legendary rock producer Atticus Ross, so it would definitely make for an interesting listen if you know your music history AND enjoy using Facebook as well, considering that two veritable legends of modern rock music have come together to create this soundtrack.

One thing that The Social Network does make very clear is, ironically enough, the dangers of using Facebook. It’s actually quoted in the film “It’s addictive. I’m on it like, 5 times a day!” and about how “the internet isn’t writing in pencil, it’s in pen” and it’s repeatedly referenced at how just using Facebook is all about putting all of your personal details up on a public forum for anyone you know to access. It’s been recently stated by Eric Schmidt, boss of Google.com, about how the dangers of using Facebook and other social networking sites won’t be apparent for a while, but will still be there all the same. Schmidt anticipates that the current generation of Facebook users won’t be worried about identity theft, but more about how to escape the online identity they’ve been creating for themselves all this time. He states “Young people may one day have to change their names in order to escape their previous online activity” and that could end up being very true, and The Social Network does a good job of beginning to subliminally imply this.

Ultimately, there is very little to fault The Social Network on, except for one small part where in one scene they have Prince Albert played by someone who is CLEARLY American and looks nothing like Prince Albert at all. That detail aside, The Social Network is an awesome film with great characters and brilliant casting all round, and I think it has easily made its way into my Top Films of the Year. It will also be interesting to see how Fincher tackles the re-make of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo next year with Rooney Mara from this film becoming Lisbeth Salander. I’m giving The Social Network 8 out of 10 for sheer impressiveness and intelligence, and I think everyone should make an effort to catch it in cinemas!

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LISTED Film Previews – October ’10

Finally, we come back round to the Halloween films of the year – my favourite time of year for film releases! This is mainly because you’ll always see different production companies competing against each other for the Halloween High-Hitter of the Year. Obviously, in recent years, its been all of the Saw movies, because this has now been built up into a franchise in the same way that Nightmare on Elm Street or Friday The 13th was – to the extent that little kids were dressing up in clawed gloves and burnt faces at such a young age that they couldn’t possibly be old enough to thave seen the films. And that is what Saw is managing to do now – become a franchise and make an icon of itself. Don’t get me wrong, this is great for their business, but I think this year there’s going to be some stiff competition from a film thats generating hype all of its own….

Also, just as a note, more and more people have been leaving great comments on some posts, bringing up some very valid points and its a shame if these dont get read. So next time you’re reading one of these, check for comments about points you might have wanted to hear more of, because they might just be there. Now, time for the film feast for you greedy lot out there!

THE SOCIAL NETWORK (12A) (Dir. David Fincher)

Ever wondered how much trouble goes into creating a social networking site? The Social Network follows the fictional story of Mark Zuckerberg (played by Jesse Eisenberg) and how he and a group of his friends came together to create the networking and photo sharing site Facebook. However, things start to turn ugly when arguements with his friend and co-founder of the site Eduardo Saverin (Andrew Garfield) compromise the website, his funds and everything he owns. The trailers for this film look pretty great, and it looks like there’s a surprisingly high amount of drama in The Social Network – which will provide a very welcome retreat from the Hollywood remakes! Definitely worth watching if you use Facebook yourself (so, everyone then?), or even if it’s to see Andrew Garfield’s performance before the Spider-Man reboot starts production. Released October 15th.

RED (12A) (Dir. Robert Schwentke)

Based on the DC comics series, Bruce Willis plays a retired black-ops agent whose peaceful situation is compromised when a new, high-tech assassin threatens his life. As a last resort, Frank Moses (Willis) reassembles his former black-ops team to break into the CIA. Considering that Bruce Willis did this after Cop Out (which was of a similar style to Red and pretty successful for Willis too) and that this also stars Morgan Freeman, a slightly barmy John Malkovich and a sniper-rifle toting Helen Mirren, you can pretty much bet that the mix of smart comedy and high-octane action is going to work pretty well for bringing in the audiences. It’s definitely worked for Willis so far, at least! Released October 22nd.

SAW VII 3D (18) (Dir. Kevin Greutert)

Although the Saw franchise has probably gone on way longer than it rightly should have by now, the latest instalment in the series is not only in 3D but also sees the return of original Saw victim Carey Elwes as Lawrence Gordon. Whilst a deadly battle rages between those who want to take up the mantle Jigsaw left behind, a group of his survivors gather and seek support from fellow survivor and self-help guru Bobby Dagen (Sean Patrick Flannery). But Dagen’s own motives are so dark and destructive they may start an entirely new wave of terror. Advertised as the last Saw (even though VIII has been green lit), it’s likely that the 3D effects will go down well amongst the loyal fan base, but personally this is not what my money is on for the Halloween success of the year… Released October 29th.

PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 2 (18) (Dir. Tod Williams)

The sequel to the biggest low-budget phenomenon of recent years is finally seeing the light of day. Or not, as the early trailers suggest… Not much is known about the storyline, but what the trailers have revealed is a lot more frightening goings-on in a new house with cameras in every room, with a dog and a baby taking up residence in the house as well. With the director of the original on board as a producer, Paranormal Activity 2 is set to scare the living snot out of audiences all over the world! Released October 29th.

LISTED Film Previews – August/September ’09

Another month, another set of previews for you to stick your dirty great eyes out at! A few pretty good looking ones this month (you’ll probably know which ones because I’ve written more about them than the others!), so if you get the chance to check any of them out I’d definitely recommend you do! Anyway, here you go:

FUNNY PEOPLE (15) (Dir. Judd Apatow)

The director of such comedies as Anchorman and Knocked Up brings us a slightly more sentimental offering this time, as this follows the story of Adam Sandler’s character George Simmons, a seasoned comedian who learns of his terminal, inoperable blood disease. He later does a show at a comedy club with a struggling new comedian Ira (Seth Rogen) who has yet to figure out his persona, and the two form a genuine friendship as George hires Ira to be his opening act. People that enjoyed previous films with either of these two actors should make an effort to see this if they want something a bit deeper and meaningful. Released August 28th.

H2 (18) (Dir. Rob Zombie)

Starting off mere hours after the end of the first Halloween re-imagining, Rob Zombie is bringing inhuman serial killer Michael Myers back to the big screen for a second helping of horror for Laurie Strode (Scout Taylor-Compton) on Halloween. I’m normally all for decent Horror films (even if they’re re-imaginings) but a lot of ground was covered on the first one, which doesn’t leave much space for this second film to measure up. Definitely see it if you’re a horror buff or haven’t seen the originals, though! Released August 28th.

FAME (PG) (Dir. Kevin Tancharoen)

This updated remake of the original 1980’s musical and series follows the lives and dramas of students at the New York Academy of Performing Arts, and looks like it has a carefully selected and talented cast. It looks set to re-invigorate the original feel of Fame with a uniquely modern and urban twist in the performances. Nostalgic fans and female divas should watch and take notes – guys may want to bring a magazine, though! Released September 25th.

GAMER (18) (Dir. Mark Neveldine & Brian Taylor)

Set in a distant future where people are controlled by other people in mass-scale, online multiplayer games, Gerard Butler’s star player character Kable seeks to regain his independence. Crank meets World Of Warcraft? Quite possibly, but it may be a hollow way to waste a Saturday night! Released September 4th.

ADVENTURELAND (15) (Dir. Greg Mottola)

Set in the summer of 1987, recent college graduate James Brennan (Jesse Eisenberg) plans for a European summer tour before going to an Ivy League School, but instead has to take a summer job in order to pay his expenses for the trip. After taking what he thinks is the worst job in the world working in the nearby decrepit amusement park Adventureland, it turns out to be the best time of his life as he encounters unforgettable learning experiences about life, love and trust from his fellow under-paid workers. Co-starring Twilight’s Kristen Stewart as love interest Emily Lewin, this new film from the director of Superbad had expectations for more teenage hilarities, but what instead unravels is a rather touching story of youthful misadventures that makes for a very entertaining and grounded comedy film. Released 11th September.

As Published in Listed Magazine Issue 21 and on www.listedmagazine.com

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