What can I tell you? The screening at Sony Backstage was packed. (Edgar Wright and Anna Kendrick were in my row, along with ex-Premiere scribe Fred Schruers, who is finishing up his Billy Joel book and writing a story on the movie for THR, and Snagfilms chief Rick Allen; also in the room were THR film editor Gregg Kilday and critic Kirk Honeycutt, Gregory Ellwood of Hitfix, a gaggle of Variety writers, MCN's David Poland and David Ansen of Newsweek.) Sony is screening the hell out of The Social Network because it risks being too smart for the room. They feel the need to get buzz going, but at this juncture, their marketing risks overhype and backlash. UPDATE: Here's THR, Variety and Todd McCarthy.
Luckily, The Social Network is a whip-sharp speed-ball of a movie that delivers a powerful origin myth. Jesse Eisenberg and writer Aaron Sorkin (the subject of a juicy must-read profile by Mark Harris in New York Magazine) are shoo-ins to land their first Oscar noms, and more are likely, including best picture, director, cinematography, editing and sound mixing and editing.
Rooney Mara (who Fincher later cast as Lisbeth Salander in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo), holds her own in a tiny role as Mark Zuckerberg's Boston U girlfriend. In the super-speedy opening scene, she's trying to keep up with her motormouth date; by the end she says talking to him is like being on a stairmaster and she dumps him. If he doesn't fare well with girls later in life, it won't be because he's a nerd, she tells him, but because he's an "asshole." In Sorkin's telling of the founding of Facebook (based on Ben Mezrich's book The Accidental Billionaires), that starts everything. This geeks' success story is often light and comedic. Fincher throws in drugs and sex and Palo Alto fantasies--and Napster founder Sean Parker (a suave and smarmy Justin Timberlake) as The Devil--to keep things fun.
Technologically, the movie is almost too digital. Fincher, who likes to fuss with his intermediates, can't help but add digital breath when Zuckerberg and his soon-to-be-ex-partner Eduardo Saverin (Andrew Garfield, later cast as Spider-Man) are standing outside in the cold, or slow and fuzzy digital snow flakes. In one disco scene between Zuckerberg and Parker, we clearly hear their dialogue through a pounding wall of sound, an astonishing mixing feat. When the camera leaves Zuckerberg's deposition conference rooms--which work well as the film's narrative spine--and claustrophobic shots of glowing heads wired into laptops, it cuts to two magnificent Harvard twins, Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss (borrowing a seamless head-replacement device from Benjamin Button, Armie Hammer plays both), rowing. The movie snickers at these Olympian embodiments of the old world; they play by gentlemens' club rules, sweat when they exercise and tune into nature. Zuckerberg wears flip flops in the snow and a bathrobe to a business meeting, and can barely communicate with others.
Remarkably, the movie makes us care about the youngest billionaire in the world. Even if Zuckerberg is an asshole, he's still a hero. He fascinates us, because he is part of who we are now.
[Photo of Aaron Sorkin, Jesse Eisenberg, Justin Timberlake and Andrew Garfield courtesy New York Magazine.]