Andy Bockelman: ‘Social Network’ connects with all users

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Andy Bockelman is a member of the Denver Film Critics Society, and his movie reviews appear in Explore Steamboat and the Craig Daily Press.

“The Social Network”

3 out of 4 stars

121 minutes

Starring: Jesse Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield, Armie Hammer and Justin Timberlake.

Remember the dark ages of mass communication when “friending” someone meant actually talking to them and interfacing on a regular basis? It’s hard to believe those backward times were plaguing us less than a decade ago.

Speaking of something that’s hard to believe, let’s discuss “The Social Network,” the story behind this media breakthrough and the man who heralded a new dawn in human connections.

In fall 2003, Harvard sophomore Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) is struggling to stand out among his classmates. Sure, he got a 1600 on his SATs and he would be a shining star in whatever career he chooses, but at the country’s top college, he’s just one celestial body in a giant galaxy.

A breakup with his girlfriend (Rooney Mara) doesn’t do anything to improve his funk — until he holes up in his dorm room to do some world-class hacking. Surpassing the school’s computer security measures with ease, he creates a new website with a complex algorithm compliments of his equally brilliant friend Eduardo Saverin (Andrew Garfield).

The site gains so much attention from the student body, it even reaches the upper echelon of Harvard, namely twin brothers Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss (Armie Hammer), who want Mark to set up a similar venture for them.

But, Mark has a better idea. With funding from Eduardo, he creates thefacebook.com, an online get-together for the Harvard elite to chat and share information. The idea becomes so popular that it spreads to the rest of the Ivy League and eventually, colleges across the nation, making Mark and Eduardo filthy rich.

But, even with the world at his fingertips, the young computer genius isn’t without his problems, as the more Facebook expands, the more disputes he gets into with his business associate, threatening not only their partnership but their friendship, as well.

Playing the world’s youngest billionaire as he makes his fortune, Eisenberg projects an aura of the standard Internet mover and shaker with a vacant stare, a scattershot attention span and a never-changing dormitory chic attire consisting of hooded sweatshirts and plastic Adidas sandals. Spending much of his time in the movie in not one but two litigation scenarios, Zuckerberg looks like the last thing in the world he’d want is a friend.

Considering the way he treats his pals, it’s not hard to see why he and Saverin — well-played by Garfield — keep having blow-ups, especially once another computer entrepreneur comes between them. Justin Timberlake gives a terrific showing as Napster founder Sean Parker, whose approach to life is to hit it hard and don’t look back, a philosophy that soon begins to wreak havoc on everyone in the Facebook business.

As for the antagonists of this piece, Hammer is great in double duty as the Winklevoss twins, a rowing team duo who are used to pushing around people to get what they want.

Only the people upon whom these interpretations are based can really say how accurately they’re depicted, whether it’s Zuckerberg’s inability to socialize with people, Parker’s recklessness or the Winklevoss twins’ elitism. Screenwriter Aaron Sorkin may play fast and loose with the facts of the tell-all “The Accidental Billionaires,” but it seems quite appropriate when we’re talking about the Internet, where truth is and always has been subjective.

Director David Fincher shows us the dark side of Facebook, not only in the site’s creation but in how it has come to shape the American mindset. Besides taking a cue from the members-only attitude of Harvard’s final clubs, the film raises the questions of how much exclusivity is too much and whether broadcasting every element of your personal life is ever a good idea.

As Eduardo comes to learn, don’t ever list your relationship status as single when you have a girlfriend. Especially when she’s not afraid to burn your belongings.

With some heavy music by Nine Inch Nails front man Trent Reznor and collaborator Atticus Ross, Fincher overdramatizes things, but it still works in showing how much blood, sweat and tears have gone into making that blue and white design that you see every time you want to speak your mind to nobody in particular.

The computer lingo of “The Social Network” may stump most people in the audience, but the aftereffects of Facebook are something that everybody can understand. Maybe it’s a good thing, maybe not, but only you can decide whether you want to hit the Like button or Dislike button.

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