It's really tough to sue for libel in the United States if you're a public figure. There's a lot you gotta prove (including "actual malice" on the part of the person you're suing), and in most cases it's a non-starter. Which is good news for Sony, Scott Rudin, Aaron Sorkin, and David Fincher, since from the sound of things, Facebook probably has an itchy trigger finger regarding their Oscar front-runner The Social Network, which will premiere at the New York Film Festival before an October 1 release.

Unsurprisingly, Facebook is unhappy about the movie's evidently tendentious depiction of its founding as being fueled by conflict and betrayal, with founder Mark Zuckerberg portrayed by Jesse Eisenberg as an ambiguous, conflicted, prickly visionary. The company's execs have been shown the film, and have apparently reacted by spitting on the ground and favoring Scott Rudin with an angry look before stalking off in silence. It's not surprising. This might actually be the rare instance where any publicity is not good publicity. Already ubiquitous among the target audience, Facebook has nothing to gain from the release of The Social Network except a tarnished public image. And of course, if they issue a response or rebuttal to the film, it will only generate more publicity. Their current strategy appears to be quietly insisting that the movie's fiction when asked, which is probably the right move.

The New York Times article also clarifies something I had been wondering about: Rudin and Sony didn't acquire the rights to the story because the extensive public record -- including deposition transcripts of many of the main players -- made it unnecessary in the eyes of the lawyers.

Meanwhile, LA Weekly's Scott Foundas has turned in the first review of the film for Film Comment. You can already see why Facebook has reason to worry, since Foundas blithely states in the second paragraph (before even mentioning the movie itself) that the company "traces its origins back to an Ivy League social misfit's drunken act of revenge against a girl who spurned him." And Foundas, no shrinking violet when it comes to attacking Oscar bait he dislikes (he called Crash the worst movie of the year), raves about the film: "It is a movie of people typing in front of computer screens and talking in rooms that is as suspenseful as any more obvious thriller. But this is also social commentary so perceptive that it may be regarded by future generations the way we now look to Gatsby for its acute distillation of Jazz Age decadence." The review is a bit too spoilery for me to commend to you, but it's exciting. The Social Network seems like an excellent kick-off to Oscar season.