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SOCIAL NETWORK, THE

SYNOPSIS:
In 2003, brilliant but socially awkward Harvard student Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) conceives a way to replicate social networking on campus - via the internet. With his well off friend Eduardo Saverin (Andrew Garfield) providing some modest working capital, Zuckerberg and his small team develops the website into what soon looks like major web success and soon, Napster founder Sean Parker (Justin Timberlake) takes Facebook to Silicon Valley's venture capitalists. But the Winklevoss twins (Armie Hammer), who tried to engage Zuckerberg for their own project, feel he betrayed them and stole their idea - and sue him for ownership.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
If you're a heavy user of Facebook you may be familiar with some of the background to how the website was born; even so, you'd find this dramatisation a fascinating and engaging insight into the conflicts and characters who stumbled onto one of the internet's biggest and coolest milestones. If you are not on Facebook, you'll find this a drama of Shakespearean proportions, with the key protagonists all flawed and found wanting. And still very much alive.

But first, is it all true? Well, as the press notes point out, Facebook's origins are highly disputed; indeed, the legal depositions which we dip in and out of are a key part of the movie, as different people tell their own versions. But it is based on the heavily researched Ben Mezrich book and writer Aaron Sorkin did some additional digging - he had to, since all the key figures in the story are sworn to secrecy. And if the film portrays the main face of Facebook Mark Zuckerberg as an unsympathetic, arrogantly intelligent, self loathing fool who is lucky to have a single friend, Zuckerberg is unlikely to sue: he's too rich to care, or to want to go through what would be involved.

But the movie, even if it isn't 100% accurate, certainly rings true, inasmuch as the disputes are over ownership AFTER the idea had become cool and huge. As they say, success has many fathers ... But the most engaging aspect of this screenplay (and it's a ripper job) is the relationship between Zuckerberg and his friend and Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin (Andrew Garfield).

Garfield is outstanding as the likeable, handsome and rich Harvard student with an honours in decency, while Zuckerberg ends up looking like a churlish and vindictive user. Being terribly clever has never excuse people from being decent. Jesse Eisenberg is superb; his personal baggage helps to balance out the Zuckerberg baggage, which is bulging with unpacked problems and heavy with self-generated grandeur that drives people crazy.

Another great performance is by Armie Hammer (not to be confused with the army knife from Switzerland) who plays the brothers Winklevoss, Cameron and Tyler. Likewise Justin Timberlake as Napster founder Sean Parker (another unlovely character), Rooney Mara as Erica, Zuckergerg's short-lived girlfriend and Max Minghella as Divya Narendra. In fact the entire cast is outstanding, from the stars to the smallest supports.

The film is wrapped in its extraordinary irony; the social outcast whose difficult character makes his own social network dysfunctional is the brains behind a social networking site that leap frogs from US college campuses to the entire universe. We can all be friends, without even knowing each other.

Review by Louise Keller:
Like Facebook to many of its users, David Fincher's enthralling movie about its origins is totally addictive. With its themes about status, winning and betrayal, Aaron Sorkin's brilliant screenplay weaves a complex and multi-layered mosaic, luring us into the ground-breaking, exciting and often ugly world of the creators of the billion dollar social network site. It's a bit like getting the scoop and the dirt behind the story, as we watch history unfold before our eyes. Filled with megabits of tension, the story flies at a rapid pace as innovation turns into brutal competiveness and ultimately disintegrates into a legal wrangle of mega proportions.

It all begins when nerdy, arrogant, super bright and obsessed Harvard student Mark Zuckerberg's (definitively played by Jesse Eisenberg) pushes the relationship between technology, social interaction and communication into unchartered territory. Hitting on girls and getting noticed is his initial motivation (fuelled by alcohol) when he is dumped by his girlfriend Erica (Rooney Mara) who astutely tells him he is not a nerd but an asshole. The rest of the film reinforces his status as both, although let it be said that things are not all straightforward and while anger may motivate him, he is a contradiction in terms. (It may give you a glimpse of where Zuckerberg is coming from, when his original concept compares women to farm animals before comparing them with each other.)

As the 'once in a generation' idea steamrolls with an investment of algorhythms and $1,000 cash from his best and only true friend Eduardo Saverin (Andrew Garfield is superb), there is no stopping it, following a crash of the Harvard website from an unprecendented number of hits. This is not the only relationship that turns bad. The 6 foot 5", 220 pounds 'and there's two of me' handsome, wealthy, twin champion rowers Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss (Armie Hammer, excellent) outline their exclusive social network site idea to the hacker-whizz, which Mark promptly pockets and comes up with what he thinks is a better one. (But 'Gentlemen of Harvard don't sue'; at first, anyway). Charismatic Justin Timberlake delivers a knockout performance as controversial, hedonistic Napster founder Sean Parker who prompts the final rift between Facebook partners Mark and Eduardo and takes Facebook to Moneysville.

There are many elements to this story and Sorkin has made it accessible by cleanly structuring the events around a deposition hearing, with all parties giving their version of what happened. The credible and the incongruous sit side by side, exemplified by the scenario involving a chicken and a scary, paranoid girlfriend. The film delivers plenty of everything with a collision of genres providing high drama, entertainment and humour. Truth? Well, truth is stranger than fiction and debates will rip as to the film's accuracy (based on Ben Mezrich's 14 page précis, The Accidental Billionaires and other extensive research) as well as the exposed nuances. The combative tone of the film clutches us in its grip. As for friendship? That's the irony. The creator of the 'cool' social network site that champions having friends, is bereft. He does get noticed however, which after all, is what he sets out to do.

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 2
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 0

AARON SORKIN INTERVIEW
By Andrew L. Urban

SOCIAL NETWORK, THE (M)
(US, 2010)

CAST: Jesse Eisenberg, Rooney Mara, Andrew Garfield, Armie Hammer, Justin Timberlake, Max Minghella, Bryan Barter, Dustin Fitzsimmons, Joseph Mazzello, Patrick Mapel, Brenda Song, Malese Jow

PRODUCER: Scott Rudin, Dana Brunetti, Cean Chaffin, Michael De Luca

DIRECTOR: David Fincher

SCRIPT: Aaron Sorkin (book The Accidental Billionaires by Ben Mezrich)

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Jeff Cronenweth

EDITOR: Kirk Baxter, Angus Wall

MUSIC: Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Donald Graham Burt

RUNNING TIME: 120 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Sony

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: October 28, 2010







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