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THE SOCIAL NETWORK Kicks Off 2010 NYFF

 

Future generations will be in a better position to determine whether the introduction of social networking technology in the first decade of the 20th century was a blessing or a curse. Certainly for the entrepreneurs who created new ways for us to communicate with one another, it has been both. Such is the case for the multi-billionaire Mark Zuckerberg, who founded the internet phenomenon Facebook, but who has lost as much as he has gained in terms of the trust and love of his friends and family.

This cautionary tale of our times is being brought to the screen by iconoclastic director David Fincher in THE SOCIAL NETWORK, which opens the 48th edition of the New York Film Festival on Friday evening. Drawing on a razor-sharp script by television and theater legend Aaron Sorkin, the film has been a major point of controversy in the blogosphere for several months for its play-by-play story of the meteoric rise and acrimonious fall of the twenty-somethings who created the internet sensation.

 

The film features a terrific ensemble cast led by Jesse Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield and Justin Tamberlake, with stellar support from Brenda Song, Max Minghella, Rooney Mara and Arnie Hammer. Sorkin's script is inspired by the celebrated 2009 nonfiction book THE ACCIDENTAL BILLIONAIRES by Ben Mezrich, a tome that pulls no punches when it comes to outlying the greed, betrayals and wrong-headed philosophies of its twenty-something "geniuses". Tellingly, none of the Facebook staff, including founder Mark Zuckerberg, were involved with the project, although one of the co-founders, Eduardo Saverin, was a consultant on the non-fiction book.

Casting began in early August 2009, with Eisenberg the first to be signed in September 2009. For the 27-year-old actor, whose stock has been rising in such recent films as THE SQUID AND THE WHALE, ZOMBIELAND and ADVENTURELAND, this is his first true leading role in a major Hollywood production. Garfield, who can currently be seen on screen in the UK drama NEVER LET ME GO, will make waves next year as the new Spiderman. For Timberlake, who has been gaining acting chops for a few years now, this film could seal the deal for his getting bigger acting roles in the future. Major filming on the project began in October 2009 in Cambridge, Massachussets, with most scenes filmed on the campuses of two of the state's most famous prep schools, Phillips Academy and Milton Academy (made to fill in for Harvard, which refused to lend its campus to the filming).

 

For fans of the work of the Oscar-nominated director David Fincher (FIGHT CLUB, ZODIAC, THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON), the film is creating major excitement. Fincher has a reputation as a control freak with obsessive attention to the detail, but also as a commanding stylist who has brought an individual flavor uniquely his own to his filmography. Always controversial and rather unapproachable, he is the kind of intense artist whose work speaks for itself.

In true internet fashion, the film's highly protected script was leaked online in July 2009. In November 2009, producer Kevin Spacey defended the film from critics who complained that it showed an unflattering portrait of all involved as part of the filmmakers' leftist political agendas. The film's main protoganist has stated that he is not happy with the bits and pieces he has seen of the film, but that he has not seen the full film to judge its accuracy. Others who were part of the initial Facebook developments, including co-founder Dustin Moskovitz, has also called the film a rewriting of the past and a pretty aggressive attack on Zuckerberg.

 

Audiences will be able to weigh in shortly when the film is released by Columbia Pictures on October 1. However, the New York Film Festival has world premiere bragging rights this weekend and this is the start of what is another marathon film appreciation that continues through October 10. We will cover it all.......For more information on the New York Film Festival and other programs by the Film Society of Lincoln Center, visit: www.filmlinc.com

Sandy Mandelberger, Film New York Editor

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The Ultimate Guide to the New York Film, Video and New Media Scene.

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