Every major critic compared David Fincher’s The Social Network to Orson Welles and his Citizen Kane, but the fact is the film is much more like the work of Joseph L. Mankiewicz and his all-time great called All About Eve. A word to Fincher would remind him that Citizen Kane won nothing much from the Oscar people, whereas All About Eve swept every category.
Mark Zuckerberg is no Charles Foster Kane. He could be Eve Harrington, or more likely he could be Margo Channing. Yes, we are in for a bumpy ride when David Fincher uses pedestrian directing style to tell his story, unlike Orson’s attempt to use every device he found in the studio candy shop. Mankiewicz always preferred sharp acting and stiletto words as his weapons of choice.
Mankiewicz said in his later years that he retired from film making because movie characters couldn’t string together two simple sentences. If he had been able to rise from his grave, he’d have jumped out to direct The Social Network, a film that showcases more witty dialogue than Maddie and David ever had on Moonlighting.
Zuckerberg does his best to alienate friends along the way to making 500,000,000 invasions of privacy, much like Kane who lost his closest Ivy League brethren to a world of mixed up values and sham Hearst News. On the other hand, Margo kept her intense circle of hangers-on close to her vest.
Told in the complex flashback style so favored by Mankiewicz, Fincher’s tale also parallels flashbacks of Citizen Kane, slowly spinning the web in which the main character is finally netted.
Mark Zuckerberg, like Charles Foster Kane and Eve Harrington, ultimately becomes his own worst enemy, bereft in a world where fake friends cannot be discerned from real ones.
At the end of All About Eve, the scheming villain of the piece wins the award she has always coveted, and Margo tells her to put the award where her heart ought to be, whereas in Citizen Kane, poor old Kane dies alone in his San Simeon-style bed with only a snow globe to hold onto. What end best suits Mark Zuckerberg? According to David Fincher, he has only his silicone wish list, pushing the right button to ask permission to find a friend.
Read William Russo’s book on Joseph L. Mankiewicz, entitled A Thinker’s Damn: Audie Murphy, Vietnam, and the Making of The Quiet American.