In the risk-averse world of Hollywood, there are two ways to make a surefire hit: aim your film at boys of 12 or under (blue aliens, Transformers, gross-out comedies, and Toy Story/Shrek sequels look to be doing brisk business in 2010), and second, aim your film at girls of 12 or under. (Good-looking vampires, apparently, are big. This will be news to anyone who thinks an operation called Team Jacob should be pitted against Team Esau.)
Over the pond, the A Team remake as Jiu-Jitsu’d into second place by The Karate Kid remake in its opening weekend This rather suggests that those with black belts in movie producing aren’t going broke by aiming young. Moguls behind more grown-up fare like Sex and the City 2 might end up hawking DVDs in Abu Dhabi if their run continues.
In the near future, 20 year-olds will likely laugh haughtily and spit popcorn into the faces of any older cinemagoers as they snivel: “How did they expect anyone to go see it if it wasn’t Casablanca 3-D?”
Therefore, putting on challenging mainstream movies for the discerning adult this summer was always going to be tricky.
Try this for a pitch to buck the trend – it’s about an internet start-up where the geeks involved fall out. Oh, and there are no big name movie stars involved. Only young actors like Andrew Garfield, Quincy Jones’ daughter Rashida and the bloke out of Zombieland who isn’t Woody Harrelson.
Multiplexes – brace yourselves for the stampede.
Except that the internet start-up involved is Facebook.
The director of said film (The Social Network) is David Fincher, who tends to work with big stars whether in Madonna’s most celebrated music videos like Vogue and Express Yourself or shooting Brad Pitt’s most famous recent roles in Se7en, Fight Club and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.
It’s based on Ben Mezrich’s novel The Accidental Billionaires: The Founding of Facebook, A Tale of Sex, Money, Genius and Betrayal. That title alone makes the whole flick sound a good deal more juicy than, say, the life and times of Bill Gates twiddling around with the new Windows operating system or Steve Jobs and Jonathan Ive arguing over fonts.
Mezrich wrote the engrossing book, Bringing Down the House, essentially a rollicking Vegas heist tale about six students rolling into Nevada with a technique for killing at Blackjack and six brass necks. It’s an engrossing book, even if the film, 21, with Kevin Spacey behind it – he’s also co-producing this – rather disappointed.
There is an obvious reason why hopes are higher for this venture. The screenplay is by Aaron Sorkin, the man behind the golden series of The West Wing, A Few Good Men and the underrated US series Sports Night. Sorkin even had a page on Facebook for a while where he patiently answered readers’ questions until they became unwieldy.
Sorkin is always interesting, even when his vehicles stall like the one series of Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. He was last seen wading into the Newsweek vs Glee’s Ryan Murphy spat.
There is one other unlikely bit of star wattage attached. The Napster guru who fell out with Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg (played by Zombieland lead Jesse Eisenberg) will be brought to life on screen by … Justin Timberlake. The head of a free music-sharing service played by a multi-platinum, major label, recording act – someone’s having a laugh. The man himself, Sean Parker isn’t. He’s already been complaining about the casting. It could we worse, Sean – Fincher could have chosen Metallica’s Lars Ulrich.
The trailer is, to be honest, unlikely to be giving James Cameron sleepless nights (especially if he watches it – he’ll be out like a light.) And Eisenberg and Timberlake are not big names, outside of Scrabble and music.
Nonetheless, a clinical, visual stylist like Fincher matched with a warm wordsmith like Sorkin could produce a decent movie. And everyone has an opinion about Facebook and its very relaxed attitude to privacy.
It remains to be seen whether or not that aspect of Zuckerberg’s ideology makes it into The Social Network. And if he’s unhappy with his portrayal, how much is he in a position to complain?
By the end of the year (its US release is October 1st) we’ll discover if more than 929 people manage to “like” the idea of a Facebook movie.