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THE SOCIAL NETWORK is stranger than fiction (review)

Rating:  (Mediocre)

One of my favorite films is Stranger Than Fiction. It's about (spoiler alert) a man named Harold Crick and his wristwatch. Harold lives his life by that watch until one day when something extraordinary happens: he starts hearing a voice in his head, narrating his life. This voice knows everything about him, often before he does. It's frustrating at first, and becomes a nightmare when this narrator informs him of his own imminent death. Karen Eiffel is an author who writes masterpieces that always end in the death of her main character. In this case, Harold Crick. Now here's the question: if Karen Eiffel knew that killing her fictional character, Harold Crick, would result in the death of a real living person, would she finish the book? More importantly, does she have the right?

As a film, The Social Network is mesmerizing and thrilling; I can't get it out of my head. It claims to be the story behind the founding of Facebook, a company that was Mark Zuckerberg's drunken dorm room idea seven years ago and is now the largest social networking site in the world, with more than 500 million active users and $2 billion in revenue. It's a great story too; it's just not the truth--not even close.

Usually moviegoers try to pick out inaccuracies in docu-dramas. When watching The Social Network, I suggest you try to find the facts. Aaron Sorkin (writer), David Fincher (director), and Ben Mezrich (author) have twisted this tale so tight that the most accurate thing about it are the names. 

Truthiness

The "true" story follows the controversial first year of Facebook. It covers all the hot topics: accusations that Mark Zuckerberg stole the idea from some other Harvard students, Sean Parker (creator of Napster) and his crazy parties, Zuckerberg's move to fire his original COO Eduardo Savarin, and Zuckerberg's antisocial behavior. Stuffed in every crack are embellishments, omissions, and fabrications. 

Eduardo Savarin, who is played wonderfully by Andrew Garfield, is painted as a victim who is completely screwed over, but that just isn't the case. Eduardo Savarin was not the "only" friend of Mark Zuckerberg, as the film claims. In reality, the two didn't know each other that well. The film shows some of Savarin's weaknesses, but fails to mention a time when he hacked the site to promote a competing product and how his freezing of funds lead to Zuckerberg's parents having to take out loans to keep Facebook's servers going. His initial investment in The Facebook was $15,000, not $19,000. His stake in the company was not diluted to .03%, as the film claims. It was diluted to 10%. Savarin still owns 5% of Facebook, worth $1.1 billion--not bad for a guy who got "screwed." 

The biggest injustices are done to Mark Zuckerberg, who will have to live with the reputation The Social Network will give him. Jesse Eisenberg plays him with an unflinching arrogance that few could pull off. In the first scene of the film, Zuckerberg loses his girlfriend Erica Albright (no such person exists) and much of his actions in the film could be attributed to him wanting to get her back. In real life, Zuckerberg has had the same girlfriend for eight years--well before the events of the movie. He also had no desire to be in Harvard clubs, or if he did, there's no evidence to support it. Both of these motivations were conjured to make Zuckerberg into the character these filmmakers wanted him to be.

Why?

Why did Mark Zuckerberg create Facebook? What motivates him? I still don't know, and neither do Sorkin or Fincher. The Social Network is a film about a man that nobody understands. Sorkin and Fincher try to turn him into a villain at times and an arrogant ass at others, but when they try to explain his motives, they are forced to lie. 

In the cop drama Dragnet, the writers would tell real stories and change the names to "protect the innocent." The Social Network is the polar opposite. Everyone's real name is used and their actions have all been rewritten to suit the whims of storytellers.

And so I ask: why does this movie exist? If its creators have no interest in understanding the real Mark Zuckerberg or accurately telling his story, why use his name at all? I walked into the theater expecting to review a movie. The fact that I'm instead reviewing history is a testament to just how entangled The Social Network is in its own fiction. 

(To learn more about the inaccuracies, head herehere, and here. To watch an interview with the real Mark Zuckerberg here. Finally, I delve into a few other inaccurate biographical movies here.)

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