Number two on the 2009 Black List, winner of the Golden Globe for best film (drama category) and front runner for the Best Picture Oscar; featuring a much admired performance from Jesse Eisenberg, the direction of David Fincher (you know: Seven, Fight Club, Zodiac) and a script by Aaron Sorkin (The West Wing, yeah?): it’s the movie of the moment. I watched it on a plane. This is not the best way to appreciate any film but I couldn’t get motivated to go and see it at the cinema, and it was there. Anyway.
I had already read an article by someone who was acquainted with Mark Zuckerberg at Harvard (sorry I haven’t got the link), saying that the film’s portrayal of Zuckerberg as an angry, intense, geek loner was simply wrong – apparently he was quite outgoing and had plenty of friends. This was of concern: why would a film in which the main character’s personality plays such a strong role make it so different from that of the guy he’s based on? Wait, not even “based on” – The Social Network (as the Awl article linked below points out) was not “inspired by” the story of Facebook – it purports actually to be the story of Facebook. Watching the film I couldn’t shake off this worry. The spectacular opening (seriously, read the script for the opening scene, it is amazing) breakup scene was completely made up – Sorkin has invented a romantic history for Zuckerberg that fits the type of character he wanted him to be, so Zuckerberg’s real girlfriend is left out entirely. Why would he do this? I suppose they might have thought that the story would be more entertaining if Zuckerberg was a less sympathetic character, or that viewers would find a computer programmer who is socially awkward and romantically unsuccessful easier to comprehend than one who is able to relate to other people. Mmm. Aaron Sorkin’s degree was in Musical Theatre. It adds up.
What was the point then? I guess it was interesting and fun to learn something about what it might be like to be starting up an exciting new company in Silicon Valley. Those chats with Justin Timberlake were entertaining. The rowing twins were irritating as hell, a sort of comic relief act brought in every 10 minutes so we could laugh at the dumb angry rich guys. But they didn’t need the Facebook story to do any of that. Sorkin could have written his own story, but I guess the advantage of basing it all on Facebook is that they got masses of free publicity. I don’t like it.