The Social Network makes friends at Golden Globes

The Social Network, hailed by critics as a modern-day Citizen Kane, won four prizes including best movie drama at the ceremony, which opens the awards season.

The makers of The Social Network issued a public apology - of sorts - to Mark Zuckerberg last night, as their film about the founder of Facebook won top honours at the Golden Globe Awards.

The Social Network, hailed by critics as a modern-day Citizen Kane, won four prizes including best movie drama at the ceremony, which opens the Hollywood awards season.

The film portrays Zuckerberg as a virtually autistic tech nerd who steals the idea for Facebook and then betrays his friends in the quest for billion-dollar success, but its makers told a different story as they basked in the praise of the Hollywood Foreign Writers Association, which votes for the Golden Globes.

“Mark Zuckerberg, if you’re watching, Rooney Mara’s character makes a prediction at the beginning of the movie,” said David Fincher, accepting the Best Director award. Mara plays Zuckerberg’s ex-girlfriend, who predicts girls will hate him, not because he is rich and successful, but “because you're an asshole".

Fincher went on: ”She was wrong. You turned out to be a great entrepreneur, a visionary and an incredible altruist.”

Scott Rudin, the film’s producer, extended the rapprochement further, thanking Zuckerberg for allowing them to use his life story “as a metaphor to tell a story about communication and the way we relate to each other”.

The Social Network - which also won best screenplay for Aaron Sorkin and best score - beat out Black Swan, The Fighter, The King’s Speech and Inception for the top award for a drama. In the comedy/musical category, top honours went to The Kids Are All Right, about a lesbian couple whose children go in search of their sperm donor father.

The glittering awards ceremony is traditionally scoured for clues as to the likely contenders at the Oscars, although for most of the last decade the Golden Globes have actually been a poor predictor of eventual Oscar winners. For each of the last two years, there has also been the grizzly attraction of waiting to see if Globes host Ricky Gervais will go too far in insulting Hollywood’s most precious stars. This year, the British comedian raised a collective gasp with a none-too-oblique reference to the persistent, and persistently denied, rumours surrounding the sexuality of Tom Cruise and John Travolta.

Referring to I Love You Philip Morris, the un-nominated movie starring Jim Carrey and Ewan McGregor, Gervais said: “Two heterosexual characters pretending to be gay - so the complete opposite of some famous Scientologists, then." To the shocked crowd, he added: “My lawyers helped me with the wording of that joke.”

It was the Twittersphere’s favourite moment of the night, and more than a few commentators wondered if it was more than coincidence that the Church of Scientology, to which Cruise and Travolta are adherents, had taken advertising time in one of the commercial breaks.

In fact, Gervais was on blistering form throughout. “Welcome to a night of partying and heavy drinking,” he began. “Or as Charlie Sheen calls it: breakfast.”

Also joking was Michael Douglas, who emerged to a rapturous reception to present the award for best movie drama. Douglas, who beat off throat cancer last year, said: “There’s got to be an easier way to get a standing ovation.”

Best actor and actress gongs went to Paul Giamatti, a surprise winner in the Canadian film Barney's Version, Annette Bening in The Kids Are All Right, Natalie Portman in the ballet thriller Black Swan and Britain’s Colin Firth, playing George VI in The King’s Speech. Firth, who portrayed the wartime king’s efforts to overcome a terrible stammer, expressed gratitude that he was enjoying continued acclaim in powerful roles that were seeing him gracefully into middle age. The Golden Globe award, he said, “is all that stands between me and a Harley-Davidson”.

Earlier in the evening, Helen Mirren had praised The King’s Speech as a film “inseminated in Australia” thanks to the imagination of co-star Geoffrey Rush, and “gestated in Britain by the British Film Council, which incidentally, tragically no longer exists”. The BFC, which subsidised British film industry, was a controversial early casualty of the Coalition’s austerity programme.

The Golden Globes also recognised the best of American television, where last night HBO’s Prohibition-era drama series Boardwalk Empire and the musical sensation Glee were the big winners.