Fact or fiction? Facebook film the latest "truth" tale

Wed Sep 29, 2010 2:39pm EDT
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By Christine Kearney

NEW YORK (Reuters) - They say Hollywood never lets the truth get in the way of a good story and while a new movie about Facebook has left some critics wondering if its story is fact or fiction, audiences are unlikely to care.

"The Social Network," which hits U.S. cinemas on Friday, has been scoring early critical raves and even Oscar buzz, yet its claim on depicting the true story of the birth of the hugely popular social networking website is drawn from a book that was slammed for its reporting methods.

Just like Oliver Stone's "JFK" was criticized as taking liberties with historical facts in the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, "Social Network" by director David Fincher follows a long line of Hollywood films that have caused controversy for their creative depictions of real-life characters and for scenes of events that never happened.

But in an age where viewers demand reality TV, knowing it is often missing elements of the truth, audiences may care less about authenticity than ever before, film experts said.

"We blur the line between reality and fiction so much recently on television and in movies that screenwriters and authors taking liberties to dream up something dramatic and interesting is okay," said Deadline Hollywood columnist and film critic Pete Hammond.

"The Social Network" tells how Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg was transformed from a socially awkward, arrogant student at Harvard University with girl troubles to largely creating the social networking website that currently has more than 500 million members and is worth tens of billions.

Besides questions about the book on which it is based -- Ben Mezrich's "The Accidental Billionaires: The Founding of Facebook, A Tale of Sex, Money, Genius and Betrayal" -- stirring the debate is that Zuckerberg did not cooperate with the film.

"A lot of it is fiction," he told Oprah Winfrey last week on her TV talk show. "This is my life, so I know it is not that dramatic."   Continued...

<p>Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg walks through Facebook headquarters prior to unveiling the company's new location services feature called "Places" at a news conference in Palo Alto, California August 18, 2010. REUTERS/Robert Galbraith</p>