David Fincher’s “Facebook film” The Social Network is that unique kind of film that is unashamedly populist in tone, whilst still remaining intellectually and philosophically challenging. I suppose given that West Wing wunderscribe Aaron Sorkin is behind the screenplay, we shouldn’t be surprised. There are no explosions in this film. Apart from the CGI involved in cloning Armie Hammer as a twin, there are no special effects. The special effects in this film are the cutting, often amusing dialogue between the main characters, the keenly believable portrayals delivered by the young cast, and the sense that this film says really quite a bit about life for young and youngish folk in the noughties.
There are reports that Facebook creator/evangelist Mark Zuckerberg takes issue with the vast majority of the film’s depictions of real events, but that all in all, he kind of liked the film. That tells you a little something about the movie’s charm. I don’t think anybody is really under any illusion that this film tells the story of the genesis of Facebook with its foundations in absolute fact. This is “a story” of the creation of Facebook, with enough of the emotional and psychological look and feel of how things actually played out to make you buy into it. Jesse Eisenberg may or may not be anything much like Mark Zuckerberg, but he is utterly believable in the role as Facebook’s founder. You empathise with Jesse’s Zuckerberg, and yet you feel that he is of course a complete twat. Andrew Garfield portrays Zuckerberg’s ex-best friend Eduardo Saverin with the kind of honest earnestness that somehow feels just right. Armie Hammer, playing the Winklevoss twins with a little help from body-double Josh Pence, is a complete crack-up. And then, on top of all that, you have Justin Timberlake, of all people, doing frankly more than a decent job playing Sean Parker, founder of Napster before it was legal and today, a part-owner of Facebook. It’s an incredible collision of characters and personalities, proving perhaps once and for all that truth is actually much stranger than fiction.
The other thing this film does is celebrate entrepreneurship; it celebrates invention. The story of Facebook is not just a story of greed, it is a story of “building things”, as Zuckerberg has pointed out. Despite all of its flaws, ethical issues, and annoying ubiquity, Facebook has without a doubt become a lasting fixture on the social landscape of the 21st Century. Zuckerberg might be a billionaire brat, but he’s a billionaire brat who has changed the world and – for the most part at least, and for most people – just a little bit for the better.