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Movie Review: "The Social Network" impresses with socially relevant storyline

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“The Social Network”

Directed by: David Fincher
Starring: Jesse Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield, Justin Timberlake, Armie Hammer, Max Minghella, Rooney Mara, Rashida Jones
Rated: PG-13

When I was growing up in the 1960s, young guys wanted to be baseball players or rock stars. Later on, the next generation gravitated to dreams of being film directors or movie stars. Then came football or basketball players or rappers. Or, sad to say, drug dealers.

Lately the dream job that seems to be the holy grail is “professional computer geek.”

Bill Gates of Microsoft fame is one of the richest, and best known, people on earth. Steve Jobs of Apple is in that realm as well.

There are many who may not be household names like Gates and Jobs but are wealthy beyond their wildest dreams and well known in computer/Internet circles.

Two of them, Mark Zuckerberg and Sean Parker, are the focal point of director David Fincher's latest film, “The Social Network.”

It's the story of the humble beginnings of a Web site that now has half a billion regular users is one of the biggest time suckers on the World Wide Web.

Chances are you have a Facebook account; maybe you aren't an addict but you probably realize you sometimes spend a bit too much time there. However, the site has reunited people whose old friendships might never have rekindled if not for the ease Facebook allows users to find and make contact with one another.

Finding old friends is just one aspect of the site's addictive charm. You can meet friends of friends and new people who share your interests. On the down side, you can also stray blindly into someone who becomes a cyber-stalker and may not be the person he or she claims to be. But, for the most part, Facebook seems to be working fine and is a phenomenon that will go down in history as a seminal force in changing the world as we know it in the first decade of the 21st century.

Fincher has directed some very dark films, featuring some of the most intense characters of the past 15 years. After a misfire with his first feature, “Alien 3,” he got down to business with “Se7en,” “Fight Club” and “Zodiac.”

While there isn't an underbelly as dark as in his previous films, the characters in “The Social Network” are nonetheless intense.

It should be noted that while Zuckerberg and Parker are real people, the events depicted in the film are largely fictitious.

The opening scene is a stunner. Zuckerberg - played decidedly nerdish by Jesse Eisenberg - is a Harvard undergrad having a very hyper and nervous conversation over drinks with a coed who is obviously out of his league. After she gets angry and walks out, Mark goes back to the dorm, drinks a few more beers and hacks into various Harvard dorm Web sites. He downloads pictures of coeds and writes code to facilitate a Web site wherein users can rate the women based on their “hotness.” He's doing it illegally and out of spite. But very quickly his little experiment proves so popular it crashes Harvard's network servers.

Zuckerberg's roommate, Eduardo (Andrew Garfield) thinks the geek may be onto something and gives him some seed money to make what was then known as “The Facebook” into a commercial venture. Mark doesn't care about making money (ironically he became a billionaire in his mid 20s) but is obsessed with making his project a world wide wow. Also interested are Harvard rich kids Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss (both played by Armie Hammer.) They have a fairly lame Web site called The Harvard Connection and attempt to use Zuckerberg's skill as a programmer to punch it up a bit.

The movie is told in a series of flashbacks from depositions given by Mark as well as Eduardo and the Winklevoss brothers, who are all suing him for a piece of the Facebook revenues.

Zuckerberg's one ally in the entire complicated situation is Sean Parker (Justin Timberlake). Parker is as cocky and confident as Zuckerberg is awkward and nerdish. Parker had already had his success with the now legendary peer-to-peer music sharing site, Napster.

As much as anyone in recent history, Parker changed the entire music industry. The record companies fought him tooth and nail with the inability to see that digital files were the wave of the future. Digital downloads via iTunes, Amazon and other retailers now account for nearly 40 percent of music sales and subscription services - including a revamped Napster with 11 million songs – and let users stream music anywhere, anytime. Parker acts as mentor to Zuckerberg and an investor in the company.

You don't have to be a computer nerd to enjoy “The Social Network” - many critics are calling it the year's best film - but it helps to have at least a bit of knowledge of social phenomena like YouTube, Facebook and Napster. It's a dialogue-heavy film, but there's also a lot of subtle tension and intense emotions. If you've seen director Fincher's other movies, you already know he's rather adept at tension.[[In-content Ad]]

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