Like many people, I was actively resistant to the idea of watching a movie telling the story of Facebook. Smarmy frat-house brats high-fiving as they hunch around a computer screen with a few "brewskis" - becoming billionaires en route - sounded like a recipe for the most teeth-grindingly awful movie ever: Porky's for Dorks, if you will. I went reluctantly.
Thank God I did though. I should have had more faith in David Fincher - he's a smart enough film maker to realise that this movie would only ever work if it focused on the genuinely extraordinary, which in this case means the birth of a new way of interacting, and the personalities that brought it into existence. This would be more than enough material to make an interesting film, but Aaron (West Wing) Sorkin's script also brings in issues of class, the generational divide, intelligence, money and the new economy. What results is a riveting, fast-paced film about the excitement of new ideas, the intoxicating rush of the succesful dot com, and the almighty high of billions of dollars, all channelled through something which all of us are familiar with and can relate to. Nothing less, then, than that rarest of beasts, a film which successfully addresses The Times In Which We Live.
The film's (already famous) opening scene shows Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) being dumped by his girlfriend, and from this we immediately learn several key things - Zuckerberg is possessed of an unapologetic, almost Asperger's-level intelligence; and he is terrible at human interaction. Zuckerberg takes revenge on his ex online, by setting up a website enabling fellow Harvard students to rate female students by attractiveness, and while this stunt earns him an academic suspension, it also brings him to the attention of his peers, some of whom have ideas for websites of their own. And so begins the story of Facebook; Zuckerberg's vision, but possibly not his idea.
All the performances are remarkable, though the three main male leads - Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield, and Justin Timberlake - are nothing short of outstanding. Doubtless the real story was duller, more ragged and more painful, but in focusing on the emotional truth of the story Fincher and Sorkin have created a brilliant and entertaining fable for our times. Shame that women barely figure in it at all, apart from as heartless bitches or sex objects, but you can't have everything. Recommended.