"Social Network" passes first test with Oscar voters

Mon Oct 4, 2010 5:50pm EDT
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By Borys Kit and Jay A. Fernandez

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - Columbia Pictures' fall hopeful "The Social Network" passed two crucial hurdles during the weekend.

The first was opening No. 1 at the domestic box office. The other was a smaller but no less telling test: pleasing an early audience of members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, who vote for the Academy Awards.

As general audiences sampled director David Fincher and screenwriter Aaron Sorkin's take on the origins of Facebook, a large group of Academy voters -- including actors Angie Dickinson and Robert Forster and "Little Miss Sunshine" producer Ron Yerxa -- settled into an 8 p.m. screening Saturday at the lush Samuel Goldwyn Theater at the Academy's Beverly Hills headquarters. The 1,012-seat theater was packed with members and their guests, many, but not all, playing on the back nine of life -- all of which made the screening notable.

Critics' takes on the film so far have been almost universally positive (some extremely so), with encouraging predictions about the movie's Oscar prospects. But while younger audiences were expected to show up to get a peek at the movie's zeitgeist-y content, a Hollywood-sign-size question mark has hung over the reactions from older voters unlikely to connect as readily to the material.

If Saturday's early look is any indication, the movie has made quite a few friends in that demographic, too."I love it," said one older person, who described the film as "a story of winning at all costs and its consequences."

A woman in her 80s echoed the sentiment. "It broke my heart," she said. "It's a story of friendship and betrayal."

Their connection to the material seemed to bypass the real-life historical context of Facebook's creation and instead centered on the tragic universality of the shattered friendship at its center.

"If you haven't been betrayed, you haven't lived, they say," another viewer said.   Continued...