The Social Network: A Fictionalized History of Facebook

 

In Brief

While The Social Network was entertaining and a nostalgic ride back through Facebook’s history, the lie behind the truth leaves a bitter taste.

The Review

I distinctly remember that day in September 2004 when the way I viewed networking changed forever. I received a strange email from the university stating that students were now eligible to sign up for an account on www.facebook.com. At that point, I had no idea what Facebook was or what would make it so different from other social media like chatrooms and Myspace.

A few months ago, I went back through my Facebook wall to clear out some of the “junk” and realized that this was like taking a journey through the past six years or so. This made me realize just how revolutionary Facebook is. While we mostly use the site to “network” or keep in contact with friends, Facebook has also become a creature of its own – documenting our lives as we live them from photos to videos to correspondence.

The Social Network takes us on an interesting ride through the creation, establishment, and evolution of the Facebook’s early years. Jessie Eisenberg plays the loathed and loved Mark Zuckerberg, the controversial creator of the platform. Don’t expect anything new out of Eisenberg. In the very first scene, he is wearing a hoodie and acting his usual awkward self.

The film mostly uses a series of flashbacks to tell how Zuckerberg created the website and expanded it to become a worldwide institution. But the writers, Aaron Sorkin (screenplay) and Ben Mezrich (book) take great liberties with the material, fabricating whole swaths of the story for the sake of entertainment.

While the movie was entertaining, the lies behind it left a sour taste in my mouth. Is it unethical to portray a work as nonfiction, fact, biography when sections have been rewritten for dramatic effect without any historical backing? Plenty of films are guilty of altering historical events for the sake of entertainment (Inglorious Basterds
and Pearl Harber
for example). Others have changed bits for cinematic effect, while leaving the basis of the story intact (The Blind Side
and even 127 Hours).

The major difference between The Social Network and most other “based on actual events” films, is that writers Mezrich and Sorkin did not obtain permission or input from the real life Zuckerberg when taking liberties with his story on paper and film. I feel like this goes against the journalist creed to only write “all the news fit to print”. Instead, the book and screenplay are based on a series of conversations that Sorkin had with Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin, who was in a lawsuit with Zuckerberg at the time. Hardly a reliable source.

Is The Social Network worthy of a nomination? Sure, why not? We have expanded the category of Best Motion Picture to include ten films, and this one definitely deserves a place. What’s special about this film is the unique connection that viewers will have with the invention behind the film. Facebook users will find it mildly interesting to watch this fictionalized account of how the website started. My only hope is that viewers will see the fiction behind the fact.

Report Card

Acting

Directing

Writing

Soundtrack

B+

A

C

A

Final Grade: B+

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