David Fincher's "The Social Network," known casually as "The Facebook Movie," is going to be nominated for Oscars.
The only question is, which ones?
I haven't seen the movie yet — nobody outside its production has — but I have read Aaron Sorkin's 162-page script, which tells a fascinating story with the necessary ingredients to translate into one of the year's best films.
With ten Best Picture nominees again this year and no clear-cut front-runners in sight, it's likely that the Columbia film will find itself in the Oscar conversation during the increasingly long awards season.
Based on Ben Mezrich's book "The Accidental Billionaires: The Founding of Facebook, a Tale of Sex, Money, Genius and Betrayal," the story charts Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg's transformation from a happy, 19-year-old Harvard sophomore to a miserable 24-year-old internet billionaire who created an international phenomenon that became an unwieldy monster.
By all accounts, Zuckerberg's success went to his head and he became a bit of a brilliant jerk.
Jesse Eisenberg stars as Zuckerberg and Andrew Garfield ("Lions For Lambs") plays Facebook co-founder and original financier Eduardo Saverin, while Justin Timberlake co-stars as Napster founder Sean Parker, the dot-com rock star who Zuckerberg became infatuated with after Facebook was established. In an interview with MTV, Eisenberg described the trio's relationship in the film as a platonic love triangle.
As far as the project's Oscar pedigree is concerned, Fincher earned his first Best Director nomination two years ago for "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button." Hollywood didn't always consider his films as awards bait, but "Benjamin Button" proved that Fincher is more than just a genre master ("Seven," "Zodiac"); he's an elite filmmaker whose work deserves to be included on any short-list of awards contenders, even if "The Social Network" represents a major deviation from the themes of his earlier movies.
The picture's Oscar chances are bolstered by the presence of power producer Scott Rudin, who won a Best Picture statue in 2008 for "No Country for Old Men," and was previously nominated for the Academy's highest honor in 2003 for "The Hours." Rudin also exec produced Best Picture nominees "The Queen" and "There Will Be Blood," and will be competing against himself again this year, as he's also a producer on the Coen Brothers' "True Grit" and an exec producer on Peter Weir's "The Way Back."
On the other hand, for all his A-list status, Sorkin has actually never been nominated for an Oscar, despite landing three Golden Globe nominations for his work on "A Few Good Men," "The American President" and "Charlie Wilson's War," which is interesting considering the Golden Globes only nominate five scripts a year, while the Oscars honor ten screenplays — five original and five adapted.
And interestingly enough, Sorkin has described himself as computer ignorant, and reportedly had little to no knowledge of Facebook when he got the gig.
But "The Social Network's" best chance at an Oscar nomination comes from an unlikely source — Timberlake.
The former N'Sync sensation happens to be an immensely talented actor who is frequently written off as little more than stunt casting and isn't taken as seriously as he should be as a dramatic actor. He was arguably the best thing about Nick Cassavetes' "Alpha Dog" (it's a close call between him and Ben Foster's ferocious Jewish bully), his scenes with Christina Ricci in "Black Snake Moan" positively sizzled (to be fair, every scene with Ricci did) and he was the only actor to score a laugh in "The Love Guru." He's remarkably charismatic, both in concert and on "Saturday Night Live," and for the purposes of this argument, I'll completely forget about his disastrous turn in Richard Kelly's "Southland Tales."
Timberlake is poised to take his acting career to the next level with "The Social Network," as Sorkin's script provides him with a fantastic opportunity in the role of Sean Parker, a one-of-a-kind character who the popular blog ScriptShadow suggests could become "iconic" based on his depiction on the page. It's ironic that Timberlake will be playing the guy who is perhaps most responsible for the destruction of the music industry, the very business that made Timberlake a star in the first place.
While Best Picture nominees typically deal with "heavy" subject matter like say, the Holocaust ("The Reader," "Munich"), homosexuality ("Brokeback Mountain," Milk"), war ("The Hurt Locker," "Letters from Iwo Jima"), race ("Crash," "The Blind Side," "Precious") and true stories ("Capote," "The Queen"), but "The Social Network" is about a much more relatable subject — loneliness — something we all feel from time to time.
The script reads like a modern tragedy masquerading as a chronicle of one young man's rise to power, but ultimately, it's a story about greed, obsession and the fuzzy definition of happiness.
***SPOILER ALERT*** By the end of the film, Zuckerberg is filthy rich but all alone, having lost the friends who meant the most to him. The quietly powerful final scene finds him requesting the friendship of his ex-girlfriend on, you guessed it — Facebook. The scene features no dialogue yet it speaks volumes about romantic relationships as they pertain to today's increasingly technology-reliant youth culture, who spend hours cultivating social media-based "friendships." ***END SPOILER ALERT***
"The Social Network" has a brilliant director working outside of his comfort zone, a gifted writer working from well-researched source material, a veteran producer who knows how to play the Oscar game as well as anyone, a fantastic young cast and a timely premise that should resonate with audiences of all ages. Add up all of these elements and a Best Picture nomination would not be out of line. Time will tell.
A trailer could be attached to any of Columbia's summer releases, which include "The Karate Kid," "Grown Ups," "Salt" and "The Other Guys." The first two play to a much younger crowd, so expect it to debut with "Salt," unless Columbia finds a way to attach the trailer to prints of Christopher Nolan's "Inception" in July.
"The Social Network" is scheduled for release on October 15, 2010, but its date with Oscar will have to wait until February 27, 2011.