‘Social Network’ raises questions as debut nears

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NEW YORK–They’re everywhere here: on the sides of buses and along the walls of subway stations, posters for the upcoming film “The Social Network” bearing little else than the three words “PUNK, BILLIONAIRE, GENIUS” and a partial headshot of lead actor Jesse Eisenberg. Likewise, buzz about the David Fincher-directed film about the contested origins of Facebook, based on Ben Mezrich’s book “The Accidental Billionaires,” has been growing now that its hyped premiere at the New York Film Festival is less than a month away. Its wide theatrical release is on October 1.

This week, at least in the mainstream press, the narrative has taken a turn for the speculative: Will the film actually be both a box-office hit and an awards contender? Will Facebook’s chilliness toward the movie, which it did not sanction and has characterized as “fiction,” affect its performance–or will a strong performance at the box office affect the public’s perception of Facebook?

Igniting all these questions is the fact that “The Social Network” is apparently not just good, but excellent. The sole long-form review of the film comes from Film Comment, a publication operated by NYFF parent Film Society of Lincoln Center. Critic Scott Foundas characterized “The Social Network” as a “portrait of a self-made outsider marking his territory in the WASP jungle” akin to F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic “The Great Gatsby,” and speculated that it may come to be considered a microcosm of the Digital Age in the same way that “Gatsby” encapsulates the Jazz Age.

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