THE SOCIAL NETWORK
THERE is almost nobody I can think of that will not be absorbed by Seven director David Fincher and writer Aaron Sorkin’s scarily well-made and well-acted film about the founding of Facebook. The social networking empire the then-undergraduate Mark Zuckerberg dreamt up at Harvard in 2004 now fills a firm niche in all of our lives. All of us among the 500m people worldwide that use Facebook, that is.
Here we see the agony and ecstasy of the birth of the world’s most successful social networking website. Brilliantly, it’s not remotely romanticised. Much of the action takes place in a deposition room, where Zuckerberg, played by a quivering, vulnerable, moody Jessie Eisenberg, is being sued by his former best friend and Facebook CFO Eduardo Savarin (deliciously depicted by Brit Andrew Garfield), and two Olympic rowers, Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss (both played by Armie Hammer), who claim he stole their idea. How Zuckerberg ends up in that room is explored from each character’s perspective. As the counterpoint to Zuckerberg and his manic focus – which has nothing to do with money and everything to do with dark social desire and a sheer love of programming – Savarin seems the only one with a functioning soul.
Meanwhile, Justin Timberlake is a shock-hit as Sean Parker, founder of Napster and mesmeric mentor to Zuckerberg. With his penchant for college girls and Victoria’s Secret models, he seduces the ever-dorky Zuckerberg with scary ease.
Despite, or rather because, of its brilliance, The Social Network leaves you with an uneasy feeling that Facebook came from a place that’s just as dark as it is energetic and creative. Zuckerberg, the film suggests, was motivated by anger and loneliness. He wanted to be in a Harvard final club (an elite male-only members’ club); he wanted social power and acceptance. What better way to stockpile power than to make everyone – including the sorority girls he could never pull – puppets in his cyber-show? This is a superb way to see how we, too, became part of his global network.
THE despicable character in Hollywood’s latest cartoon blockbuster is a villainous grotesque named Gru. Voiced with an indeterminate European slant by Steve Carrell, and resembling a Tim Burton creation (but for very young kids), this super-baddie’s plan is to steal the moon with the aid of his army of minions and three young orphan girls whose innocence he intends to exploit for his own dastardly ends. But no one’s completely despicable, as Gru discovers when the girls start to win him over.
Despicable Me is pitched squarely at a very young audience and is all the better for it – as with last year’s Up, its strengths lie in its simple charm rather than the world-weary, wink-to-the-adults irony that’s bogged down some animated films. It’s not especially original, but the action’s exciting, the gags are funny and it looks terrific.
CANALETTO AND HIS RIVALS
The National Gallery
IN the 18th century, young aristos at the end of the Grand Tour through the great cities of Europe would arrive at the most beautiful of them all, Venice. Naturally, they’d want to bring back a souvenir of this wondrous place, so artists would paint them Venetian cityscapes. Pre-eminent in this field art-meets-tourist-tat was Canaletto, and no museum in the world is complete without one of his ultra-detailed visions of gondolas, canals and classical architecture.
I’ve always found these much of a muchness, but in bringing many of his works together – along with those of his contemporaries, for comparison’s sake – this exhibition highlights the variations in his vision. One marvels at the clarity and fine detail, and the quality of light Canaletto achieved. Works by other artists, including his nephew and pupil (some of whose works are direct copies of Canaletto originals) are less transfixing, and as you’d predict, the multiple views of one city are eventually rather repetitive.