Wednesday, 20 October 2010

The start of The Social Network

The Social Network begins with two people sitting at a table, talking. A student's girlfriend is breaking up with him. Nothing remarkable in that, but from this first second the film grabs you. It starts at a sprint, with unbelievably energetic dialogue. It's a standard camera set-up, brilliant writing, and two actors working all their socks off. It becomes almost hypnotic. One of these students is Mark Zuckerberg, who then goes back to his room to write an internet program comparing girls. It's the start of the 'creation myth' of Facebook, a story of 'friendship, betrayal, and lust for power'. Zuckerberg is the social outcast who creates a new way to socialise, where people don't have to be near each other and their attributes are reduced to lists. The website is like the construction of an empire. In the rise to power the emperor betrays his friends and accepts the help of villains. And what stands out in all of this, obviously, is the writing.

By this point I might just sound like some sort of crazed Sorkin fanatic, but when it's this good it can't be helped. There aren't enough superlatives to describe it - rapid, witty, exciting and - most importantly - never dull. It's just people talking in rooms but it never loses it's energy or sense of progression. One scene bounces into the next, flying between depositions, bars, coding, parties. It's funny, but by the time you've laughed it's already moved on. It's in the rhythm of the words and the inflections of the acting. Jesse Eisenberg plays Zuckerberg like a fizzling robot, firing off the lines with dry emotionless aggression. Andrew Garfield plays the good guy left behind. Justin Timberlake is the sly but suave antagonist who gains the confidence of the king. Most of these characters are completely horrible but, somehow, completely watchable. There's so much going on it's difficult to remember a lot of it. I could have watched it again straight after leaving the cinema. It makes you realise how good a script can be, how a director can hand the reigns over to the actors and the words. Inspirational stuff.

It's like watching the best West Wing for the first time. Classic Sorkin, and classic everything else.

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